Pregnancy requires lots of extra nutrients – for both Mom and baby! Here are Pregnancy Super Foods that are must haves for Expectant Mothers.
Being pregnant is a wonderful feeling; you have this feeling of awe, of a life growing inside you. You are treated like a queen, you are exempted from several chores and best of all – you are able to eat anything you like!
However, while you don’t have to count calories during this stage, it is important to keep a check on everything that’s going into your body – after all, it’s affecting another person too! For proper health and development of your baby and to maintain your own health, you need to ensure you’re having all the nutrients you need. The body’s demand for many nutrients increase during pregnancy. Here are some of the most prominent nutrients that pregnant women need to focus on:
- Protein – 70-100 g per day
- Folic acid – 600-800 mcg per day
- Iron – 27 mg per day
- Calcium – 1,000 mg per day, in two doses of 500 mg
- Vitamin C – 85 mg per day
- Vitamin D – 600 IU per day
- DHA – 200-300 mg per day
- Iodine – 290 mcg per day
- Zinc – 11 mg per day
Ideally, you can follow your regular diet in the first trimester, ensuring that all these nutrient requirements are met. In the second trimester, increase the calorie intake by 350 calories a day, and by 450 calories a day in the third trimester. Of course, you should be getting your extra calories from healthy sources and not junk food! To help you plan your diet, here are 16 pregnancy super foods that expectant mothers should include in their daily diet.
16 Pregnancy Super Foods for Expectant Mothers
Eggs are a super food that form a complete package of nutrients that are needed in pregnancy. The egg white contains a good deal of protein and amino acids, and are incredibly filling. They also contain healthy fats like Omega-3 fats that help in your baby’s brain development.
Eggs are a great source of protein and amino acids for you and baby-to-be. Also, eggs provide omega-3 fats that babies need to help develop their brain and enhance their vision. What’s more, eggs are among the few foods that offer Vitamin D, a nutrient that’s essential for strong bones and teeth in the baby. Vitamin D also decreases the risk for preeclampsia and low birth weight in babies.
Another important nutrient in eggs is choline, which is present in the yolk. Choline is crucial for brain development and to decrease the risk of neural tube defects and spinal abnormalities like spina bifida.
2. Lean Meat
Since protein is one of the most important things to include in a pregnancy diet, it is worth your while to get it from a source which is easily absorbed into the body. Protein from lean meat like chicken or turkey is ideal, since it’s low on fat, but high in protein.
Lean meat is also very satisfying, and prevents overeating or snacking. It also helps stabilize blood sugar levels, an important aspect when it comes to lowering the risk of gestational diabetes.
Besides protein, lean meat is an excellent source of iron. During pregnancy, blood volume increases in the body, and an iron-rich diet helps supply enough red blood cells to the baby and for your body. A deficiency in iron during pregnancy can be dangerous, as it can lead to anemia which can lead to a low birth weight in the newborn.
We know that protein is essential in pregnancy, but if you are vegetarian or can’t stomach non vegetarian food for some reason, lentils are a great alternative. Lentils or legumes have a whole lot of fiber, which is essential to increase satiety and improve digestion.
Besides fiber, lentils have a host of nutrients in them, like iron, zinc, Vitamin B and most importantly folate, or Vitamin B9. Folate is crucial for the growth of the fetus, and can protect against serious birth defects like spina bifida.
Broccoli is becoming increasingly popular in Indian kitchens, and it’s a great vegetable to include in your diet during pregnancy. Broccoli helps to improve your immunity, something that is very important in these pandemic times.
Like other dark green vegetables, broccoli is truly a superfood, and has nutrients like calcium, potassium, iron as well as Vitamins A, B, C and K. This is a great vegetable to add to iron-rich foods since it’ll help increase the absorption of iron.
5. Sweet Potatoes
If you’re craving fries during your pregnancy, don’t worry – you can make a healthier alternative using sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are rich in many nutrients like potassium, copper and Vitamin C, but their super power is Vitamin A – one sweet potato has more than 400% of your RDA of Vitamin A!
Sweet potatoes also contain beta carotene which is then converted to Vitamin A. Vitamin A is vital for the development of baby’s eyes and bones, particularly in the early stages of pregnancy.
6. Dried Fruit
You’ve probably heard elders telling you to eat more dry fruits and they’re right! All dry fruits have their own set of special benefits, but in general, they’re a compact way of getting a whole lot of nutrients in one go. They are also a great way to satisfy sweet cravings and for a quick boost of energy.
Prunes are excellent to keep your digestion running smoothly and to prevent constipation. They also help prevent conditions like preeclampsia that can be dangerous. Dates are also incredibly healthy, and help have an easier time during labor.
Just like dried fruit, nuts are also little powerhouses of nutrients – and they also make for a satisfyingly crunchy snack! Nuts are included in many traditional recipes for expectant mothers, like laddus, and for good reason! Unless you have an allergy, in which case you should stay away from nuts.
All nuts have their own benefits, especially healthy fats. They also contain potassium, magnesium, zinc, folate and Vitamin E. All these ensure that there are no nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy. They also reduce the risk of preterm birth and helps in the development of the baby’s nervous system.
8. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are an underestimated superfood, as they contain everything a pregnant woman needs. Pumpkin seeds contain 5 grams of protein in one serving along with Omega-3 fats which promote normal development of the fetus.
Pumpkin seeds also contain a good amount of magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and calcium which help in the growth of healthy bones. They also contain good amounts of zinc and iron.
Antioxidants are always a good thing for our bodies, especially when there’s a life growing inside! Figs are an excellent source of plant antioxidants that help fight free radical damage and ensure a smooth pregnancy. Figs are also an unlikely source of calcium, containing a whopping 1000 mg in one serving alone.
Figs are also packed with fiber, potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. Besides these, they also contain iron and Vitamin K, a nutrient vital for healthy bone formation and clotting of blood.
Avocados have been touted as a super food for a long time now, and it’s particularly good for pregnant women. The most well known feature of avocados is the healthy fats it contains. Omega-3 fats and folate in avocados help in proper brain development in the growing fetus.
Avocados also help the body absorb the other nutrients in your food. They increase satiety so you don’t overeat. Avocados have also been helpful in relieving common pregnancy troubles like morning sickness and leg cramps.
Many pregnant women have trouble consuming milk during pregnancy and if you’re one of them, yogurt or curd is a great alternative. There are many ways you can have yogurt, either in a savory or sweet format, adding the appropriate ingredients.
While yogurt is a great source of calcium and is perfect for lactose intolerant people, it is also a rich source of probiotics. Probiotics help maintain gut health and prevents pregnancy infections. They also prevent premature labor and aid in healthy development of the fetus.
12. Fatty Fish
If you enjoy fish, you’re in luck – it’s a great pregnancy superfood! However, you have to be sure you’re consuming fatty fish, so you get the benefits of DHA and Omega-3 fatty acids. These are nutrients that the body can’t produce on its own and needs from dietary sources.
Fatty fish can reduce the chance of depression, and DHA is crucial for the development of the baby’s eyes and brain. In fact, they have been proven to increase intelligence and motor skills in children. Opt for mercury-free fish to get all these benefits without the risk of a mercury overdose.
13. Whole Grains
People tend to associate eating whole grains with losing weight, but they’re much more than that! Whole grains ensure that you get all the benefit of the grain, including the fiber rich outer parts, rather than the processed and refined versions. This applies to everything, including flour, rice and pasta.
Oats are also a great choice for whole grains and make a good meal for expectant mothers who need something light that can be easily eaten. Whole grain foods contain lots of fiber to prevent constipation along with Vitamin B. Eating enough whole grains can also improve your mood and keep your energy up.
Berries are a superfood that are now increasingly being available in India too. Grab them when they’re in season to get the most out of them. Berries are chock full of antioxidants that have major benefits for both mother and the growing fetus.
Berries are also full of Vitamin C, potassium and fiber. They’re a good snack and perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth. They’re also really easy to have – add to cereal or oats, or simply turn into a healthy smoothie.
We’ve always been taught to eat our green leafy vegetables, and it’s time to relearn that lesson in pregnancy! Spinach is a good source of folic acid, a nutrient that every pregnant woman needs for the normal development of her fetus and to prevent birth defect.
Spinach is also rich in iron, and is a very versatile vegetable. It cooks easily, but be careful of overcooking as it can decrease the nutritional value. If eating spinach sounds difficult, you can turn it into a green smoothie or puree and add to curries or pasta.
Bananas are truly a blessing from Mother Nature – they’re easily available, economical and pack so much in terms of nutrients! Bananas are rich in potassium, a mineral that’s important in maintaining a healthy blood pressure and to prevent common pregnancy issues like bloating and swelling.
Bananas are also easier on the stomach when you’re feeling nauseated. They are an ideal snack, providing energy without too many calories. Ripe bananas can also be turned into healthy banana bread or pancakes.
Besides all these foods, be sure to drink lots of water. The blood volume in a pregnant woman’s body increases by 45%, which requires a lot more water than usual. Water is also required for the proper transportation of nutrients and in preventing dehydration, which can be dangerous.