It’s common to be told all the foods not to eat during pregnancy, but what are the best foods to eat for a healthy pregnancy and baby?
Pregnancy is an exciting, albeit overwhelming, time in life. As North American’s we often use pregnancy as an excuse to eat as much junk as we want, because after all – “you’re eating for two”. While there are increased caloric needs during pregnancy, it is also one of the most important times to have a healthy and nutrient-dense diet.
A nutrient-packed diet can help support Mama through the challenges of pregnancy, while also ensuring the growing babe has everything needed to be healthy and strong. Below are my top 7 foods to eat during pregnancy.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens are an excellent source of many nutrients required for pregnancy. Folate, which derives from the latin word foliage, is essential for baby even before mama realizes she’s pregnant. Adequate folate lowers the risk of neural tube defects, facial clefts, and congenital heart disease, among other birth abnormalities. Additionally, dark leafy green are rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron – which are all necessary for a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Wild, Oily Fish
Wild, oily fish are high in brain-building omega-3 fatty acids, most notably DHA. DHA is crucial not only for baby’s brain and eye development; it also supports maternal cognitive health. Deficiency in DHA has been strongly linked with postnatal depression. Fish also provide significant amounts of Vitamin D, which is needed to utilize calcium and build strong teeth and bones, in addition to supporting the immune system. Lastly, fish provide high-quality, easy-to-digest protein that baby needs to synthesize the DNA in each and every cell of their body.
Nuts and Seeds
Each nut or seed (excluding peanuts) has their own set of benefits. In general, however, nuts and seeds are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fats which act as carriers for fat soluble nutrients like Vitamins A, E, D and K, ensuring mama and baby are absorbing the nutrients they require. These healthy fats also promote healthy hormone levels for mama. Nuts and seeds provide protein, which aids in balancing blood sugar levels, and are rich in various minerals, including selenium and zinc which support an efficient immune system.
Root vegetables tend to be high in dietary fibre which helps Mama avoid constipation and encourages the elimination of excess estrogen through the bowel. Fibre also slows digestion, which assists in keeping blood sugar levels stable decreasing cravings and the risk of gestational diabetes.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and tempeh are rich in probiotics that help maintain healthy levels of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, urethra and vagina, Probiotics are the “good: bacteria in the body that aid digestion, manufacture nutrients including B vitamins, and support healthy immunity. During vaginal birth, bacteria from the vaginal canal are introduced to baby. These bacteria then colonize in baby’s intestines, assisting in the development of a strong immune system.
Iron is commonly deficient in pregnant women due to baby drawing on maternal iron stores. Iron is necessary for the development of baby’s brain, blood, and promoting a healthy birth weight. Some foods that are rich in iron include: black beans, chickpeas, lentils, beets, bananas, animal proteins and parsley.
Healthy fats promote satiety, stable blood sugar levels and good energy levels for mama during pregnancy. Coconut oil, specifically, contains high amounts of lauric acid, which may support breast milk production as human milk is also high in this short chain fatty acid. Coconut oil is also a gentle anti-microbial that can help boost immunity, and for some women can alleviate constipation.
Now, there can be no more excuses, check out this delectable Slow Cooker Salmon recipe that makes it as simple as possible to eat these beneficial foods while pregnant.
What were your favourite healthy foods during pregnancy? Let me know in the comments below.