Important foods to eat during pregnancy

Dairy products

During pregnancy, you need to consume extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of the growing fetus .

Dairy products contain two types of high quality protein: casein and whey. Dairy is the best dietary source of calcium, and provides high amounts of phosphorus, various B-vitamins, magnesium and zinc.

Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is particularly beneficial for pregnant women.

It contains more calcium than any other dairy product. Some varieties also contain probiotic bacteria, which support digestive health .

People who are lactose intolerant may also be able to tolerate yogurt, especially probiotic yogurt .

Taking probiotic supplements during pregnancy may reduce the risk of complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, vaginal infections and allergies .

BOTTOM LINE:Dairy products, especially yogurt, are a great choice for pregnant women. Dairy products help meet increased protein and calcium needs. Probiotics may also help reduce the risk of complications.

Legumes

This group of food includes lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans and peanuts.

Legumes are excellent plant-based sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate (B9) and calcium, all of which the body needs more of during pregnancy.

Folate is one of the B-vitamins (B9). It is very important for the health of the mother and fetus, especially during the first trimester.

However, most pregnant women are not consuming nearly enough folate .

This has been linked with an increased risk of neural tube defects and low birth weight. Insufficient folate intake may also cause the child to be more prone to infections and disease later in life .

Legumes contain high amounts of folate. One cup of lentils, chickpeas or black beans may provide from 65–90% of the RDA .

Furthermore, legumes are generally very high in fiber. Some varieties are also high in iron, magnesium and potassium.

BOTTOM LINE:Legumes are great sources of folate, fiber and many other nutrients. Folate is a very important nutrient during pregnancy, and may reduce the risk of some birth defects and diseases.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables that are rich in fibervitamins, and mineralsimprove digestion and help prevent constipation. The major nutrients present in this food group are folic acidpotassium, beta carotene, and vitamin C. You should target eating at least five [8] portions of different fruits and vegetables. Ensure that they have been washed thoroughly and that the vegetables are not overcooked in order to gain maximum nutritional value from them.

Avocados – During pregnancy, the baby’s nervous system and brain development need a good amount of folic acid. Mothers who are folic acid-deficient before conception or during early pregnancy are at a greater risk of delivering a baby with neural tube defects, such as  spina bifida. [9Avocados are rich in folic acid, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Vitamin B6-rich foods aid in morning sickness. However, avocados do have a high fat content, so if you are overweight, keep a watch on its intake.

Carrots and Broccoli– Carrots and broccoli are a good source of fiber, vitamin A, carotenoids, and vitamin C. Carrots are rich in alkaline elements, which rejuvenate the blood and balance the acid alkalinity in the body. These nutrients are also important for the development of baby bones, eyes, and tooth buds that are developing under the gums. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are good detoxifiers and protect the baby from certain cancers during infancy and later as well.

Eggs

Eggs are the ultimate health food, because they contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need.

A large egg contains 77 calories, as well as high-quality protein and fat. It also contains many vitamins and minerals.

Eggs are a great source of choline. Choline is essential for many processes in the body, including brain development and health .

A dietary survey in the US showed that over 90% of people consumed less than the recommended amount of choline .

Low choline intake during pregnancy may increase the risk of neural tube defects and possibly lead to decreased brain function .

A single whole egg contains roughly 113 mg of choline, which is about 25% of the recommended daily intake for pregnant women (450 mg) .

BOTTOM LINE:Whole eggs are incredibly nutritious and a great way to increase overall nutrient intake. They also contain choline, an essential nutrient for brain health and development.

Lean meat

Beef, pork and chicken are excellent sources of high-quality protein.

Furthermore, beef and pork are also rich in iron, choline and other B-vitamins — all of which are needed in higher amounts during pregnancy.

Iron is an essential mineral that is used by red blood cells as a part of hemoglobin. It is important for delivering oxygen to all cells in the body.

Pregnant women need more iron, since their blood volume is increasing. This is particularly important during the third trimester.

Low levels of iron during early and mid-pregnancy may cause iron deficiency anemia, which doubles the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight .

It may be hard to cover iron needs with diet alone, especially since many pregnant women develop an aversion to meat .

However, for those who can, eating red meat regularly may help increase the amount of iron acquired from the diet.

Eating foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as oranges or bell peppers, may also help increase absorption of iron from meals.

BOTTOM LINE:Lean meat is a good source of high-quality protein. Beef and pork are also rich in iron, choline and B-vitamins, all of which are important nutrients during pregnancy.

 Fish liver oil

Fish liver oil is made from the oily liver of fish, most often cod.

The oil is very rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are essential for fetal brain and eye development .

Fish liver oil is also very high in vitamin D, which many people do not get enough of. It may be highly beneficial for those who don’t regularly eat seafood or supplement with omega-3 or vitamin D.

Low vitamin D intake has been linked with an increased risk of preeclampsia. This potentially dangerous complication is characterized by high blood pressure, swelling of the hands and feet, and protein in the urine .

Consuming cod liver oil during early pregnancy has been linked with higher birth weight and a lower risk of disease later in the baby’s life .

A single serving (one tablespoon) of fish liver oil provides more than the recommended daily intake of omega-3, vitamin D and vitamin A.

However, it is not recommended to consume more than one serving (one tablespoon) per day, because too much preformed vitamin A can be dangerous for the fetus. High levels of omega-3 may also have blood-thinning effects .

BOTTOM LINE:A single serving of fish liver oil provides more than the required amount of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin A. Fish liver oil may be particularly important for women who don’t eat seafood.

Water

During pregnancy, blood volume increases by up to 1.5 liters. Therefore, it is important to stay properly hydrated (60).

The fetus usually gets everything it needs, but if you don’t watch your water intake, you may become dehydrated.

Symptoms of mild dehydration include headaches, anxiety, tiredness, bad mood and reduced memory .

Furthermore, increasing water intake may help relieve constipation and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections, which are common during pregnancy .

General guidelines recommend drinking about 2 liters of water per day, but the amount you really need varies by individual.

As an estimate, you should be drinking about 1–2 liters each day. Just keep in mind that you also get water from other foods and beverages, such as fruit, vegetables, coffee and tea.

As a rule of thumb, you should always drink water when you’re thirsty, and drink until you’ve quenched your thirst.

BOTTOM LINE:Drinking water is important because of the increased blood volume during pregnancy. Adequate hydration may also help prevent constipation and urinary tract infections.

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