A healthy pregnancy is what every woman wishes for, and fortunately enough, there are several foods you can eat to achieve that.
However, there are also some foods and drinks you need to avoid or limit so as to keep your child safe and healthy during the pregnancy period.
That being said, the thrust of this article, is to enlighten you on the best foods for a healthy pregnancy, as well as the foods you must avoid to prevent yourself and the baby from various health issues.
Let’s get started…
Legumes contain more of the special nutrients that your body needs during pregnancy, such as fiber, protein, iron, folate (B9), and calcium. These are foods like lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts.
Folate, a member of the B vitamins (B9), is very important to both the mother and the developing child, especially during the first three months.
When a pregnant woman has a very low content of folate, it may lead to neural tube defects and low birth weight. Not that alone, the child may also be susceptible to some infections and disease later in life.
An average legume plant has about 65 – 90% of the RDA, making it a healthy food for pregnant women.
While all the legumes contain a very high amount of fiber, some varieties are also rich in iron, magnesium, and potassium.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Vitamin A is very important to pregnant women as it helps in the growth and differentiation of some cells and tissues. It also aids healthy fetal development. Sweet potatoes are excellent sources of this vitamin A as they have a high content of beta-carotene, a plant compound that is converted into vitamin A in your body.
Medical experts recommend that pregnant women should increase their vitamin A intake by 10 – 40%, and that they must avoid taking animal-based sources of vitamin A in excess to avoid toxicity.
Going by this, beta-carotene is an ideal source for pregnant women to derive the vitamin A their body requires.
Sweet potatoes are very rich in beta-carotene, and when you cook 100 – 150 grams of this food, your body will be able to get the required amount of Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
Sweet potatoes also contain fiber, which may help keep hunger at bay, reduce blood sugar spikes, as well as aid your digestive system.
3. Dairy Products
During pregnancy, the female body requires extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of the growing fetus. Dairy products are excellent sources of these nutrients as they are fortified with two formidable high-quality protein (casein and whey), as well as a significant amount of calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin B, magnesium, and zinc.
However, we recommend Greek yogurt for pregnant women because it contains a relatively high amount of calcium compared to other dairy products. Some varieties of this yogurt also contain probiotic bacteria, which aids in the digestion process in humans.
Apart from being highly nutritious, Greek yogurt may also help reduce your risk of health conditions such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, vaginal infections, and allergies, but to mention a few.
The only people who are restricted from taking this dairy product are those with health issues like Lactose intolerance, Milk allergy, and Diabetics. Taking it can lead to hives, swelling, anaphylaxis, and other related disorders.
4. Broccoli and Dark, Leafy Greens
These sets of foods yet are another important food for pregnant women. They contain virtually all the nutrients that women need during pregnancy, such as fiber, vitamin (C, K, and A), calcium, iron, folate, and potassium. They also contain high-quality oxidants as well as plant compounds that aid the immune system and digestion.
Again, Broccoli and Dark, Leafy Greens are capable of preventing constipation, which is a very common problem among pregnant women. Special thanks to the antioxidants they contain.
It is worthy to note that these vegetables may also reduce the risk of low birth weight in pregnant women.
Eggs are highly nutritious food as they contain virtually all the nutrients you need. A large egg contains 77 calories and a sizeable amount of protein and fat. It is also packed with several vitamins and minerals.
Eggs are an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient for brain development and other processes in your body.
According to a survey conducted in the US, More than 90% of people consumed less than the recommended amount of choline, which is not ideal enough.
Having a low intake of choline during pregnancy may expose your developing child with the risk of neural tube defects and possibly lead to decreased brain function in the fetus.
An average egg packs about 113 mg of choline, which is almost 25% of the RDI for pregnant women (450 mg).
6. Whole Grains
Consuming whole grains supply pregnant women with increased calorie requirements, especially during the second and third 3 months of pregnancy.
Unlike refined grains, whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, and plant compounds.
Oats and quinoa also contain a certain level of protein, which the body needs during pregnancy.
Whole grains are also excellent sources for nutrients like B vitamins, fiber, and magnesium, which most pregnant women lack in their diets.
7. Fish Liver Oil
Fish liver oil is derived from the oily liver of fish (Cod in most cases). The oil contains a high level of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which aids the fetal brain and eye development.
Fish liver oil is also a great source for Vitamin D as it contains a high level of it. The importance of Vitamin D to pregnant women cannot be overemphasized as it helps reduce the risk of preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous complication that causes high blood pressure, swelling of the hands and feet, protein in the urine, and other related symptoms.
The earlier a pregnant woman consumes cod liver oil, the better because it will result in higher birth weight and the child will also have a lower risk of disease later in life.
A tablespoon of fish liver oil supplies the body with the recommended daily intake of omega-3, vitamin D, and vitamin A.
However, pregnant women are advised never to consume more than one serving per day as it can affect the fetus when taken excessively. It can also have blood-thinning effects.
Foods to avoid in pregnancy & Why Should you avoid them?
Here are some of the foods you need to avoid as a pregnant woman:
1. Liver and other foods containing vitamin A
Why? The liver contains an excessive amount of vitamin A, which may harm your baby.
2. Raw or undercooked meat
Why? Raw meat contains some tiny parasite (toxoplasmosis) that can harm your developing baby.
Why? They may contain listeria, which is linked with severe infections like listeriosis.
4. Unpasteurized milk and dairy products
Why? You might be exposing your child to issues like toxoplasmosis, listeriosis, and Campylobacter.
5. Fish like shark, swordfish, and marlin
Why? They are rich in mercury, which could affect your baby’s nervous system.
6. Raw eggs* or undercooked eggs
Why? They may trigger salmonella, which leads to food poisoning that can harm the baby and affect your health as well.
7. Alcoholic drinks
Why? It can harm both you and your baby
Why? It is linked with miscarriage and low birth weight.
9. Certain cheeses
Why? They could also contain listeria, which is harmful to your baby.
Having a healthy pregnancy is very possible if you can consume the right combination of foods regularly and also avoid the unhealthy ones.
Wishing you a safe delivery!