10 Nutrient-Dense Foods for Pregnant Women
When pregnant, you will need to boost your nutrient intake to help support your growing baby. Most expert guidelines recommend eating between 300 and 500 more calories when pregnant. But where you get your calories from is just as important. Eating nutrient-dense foods that have passed safety assessments is important to ensure you and your baby are healthy. To help you make wise food choices, here are 10 nutritious foods you should definitely consider.
Eggs are a rich source of almost every nutrient you need, most notably high-quality protein. We suggest choosing omega-3 enriched eggs, as traditional eggs don’t contain enough omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for normal fetal development. An article published in the Official Publication of The College of Family Physicians of Canada warns about the dangers of salmonella poisoning from undercooked and unpasteurized eggs. So, make sure to cook your eggs thoroughly before consumption.
Milk and dairy products are one of the best foods you could be eating during pregnancy as made evident in a study published in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition. Yogurt may be your best dairy choice as it is higher in calcium than other dairy products, easily digestible even if you are lactose intolerant, and contains probiotic bacteria which are great for your intestinal health. Probiotics were also found to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, excess weight gain, and other pregnancy complications. Meeting your pregnancy calcium needs is crucial for your baby’s and your own bone health.
Most women don’t consume enough iron before and especially during their pregnancy. This is why doctors often recommend pregnant women take iron supplements. However, research shows that this may not be needed in most cases, and can even be harmful. That’s why it’s best to ensure you are getting enough iron from safe food sources such as lentils. Lentils are also one of the best sources of folic acid, a B vitamin whose deficiency during pregnancy can cause a dangerous birth defect called neural tube defect. Just one cup of lentils will help you meet 90% of your daily requirement for folic acid. Other than that, lentils are high in vitamin A, fiber, protein, and choline all of which are important nutrients for normal fetal development.
Many pregnant women avoid eating fish during pregnancy because fish contains mercury, a metal known to cause birth defects. As explained by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, fish is also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important for your baby’s brain development during gestation and breastfeeding. The only reliable source of omega-3s happens to be fish so guidelines recommend eating two servings of fish per week while pregnant. If you are afraid of mercury poisoning, choose shrimp, salmon, and pollock as they’re low in mercury and avoid shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tuna.
Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, mulberries, and cranberries are rich in vitamin C which is a nutrient known to improve iron absorption. Vitamin C deficiency during pregnancy also increases your risk of swelling, preeclampsia, and low birth weight. Eating berries is also the perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth when pregnant. Berries are a low glycemic index food, meaning that they won’t cause a spike in your blood glucose levels – a risk factor for gestational diabetes.
6. Whole grains
To prevent your risk of gestational diabetes, eating only whole grain foods is the way to go. Rye bread, whole grain pasta, and oatmeal are examples of whole grain foods known to keep blood sugar levels stable. During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that block the action of insulin in a mother’s body and this increases her chance of developing gestational diabetes. Eating foods that increase your demand for insulin can make this problem worse. So, make sure to avoid refined grains, white pastry, and foods containing refined sugar.
7. Leafy greens
Higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, in general, was associated with favorable birth size in one study. While increasing your intake of colorful fruits and veggies is a sure way to improve your pregnancy outcomes, we suggest taking particular note of leafy greens like kale, chard, romaine lettuce, and spinach. These foods are rich in vitamin A, folic acid, magnesium, and riboflavin – all which are important nutrients for your and your baby’s health. They are also rich in fiber which can prevent constipation which many pregnant women suffer from.
8. Lean cuts of meat
When choosing your meat wisely, you’ll get enough protein, iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid to support your growing baby. Lean cuts of meat are a healthier option than cured meat and fatty meat as both are associated with pregnancy complications including brain tumors. However, keep your meat intake at moderate levels, preferably less than 500 grams per week for optimal health and fetal development.
Bananas are rich in essential nutrients like potassium and calcium and one medium banana provides around 100 calories. These nutrients help support your heart health and improve your health and weight loss following pregnancy. Because they’re easy on the stomach, women experiencing pregnancy nausea may find bananas help them survive the day. Bananas are also rich in vitamin B6 which not only reduces morning sickness but also supports you baby’s nervous system development.
Almonds, walnuts, and cashew nuts will provide you with plenty of healthy fats for your baby’s brain development. The higher fat content in nuts also curbs your appetite while the fiber content of most nuts improves your digestion. However, because nuts are so high in fat, make sure to limit your intake to 1 ounce daily. Most experts suggest avoiding peanuts during pregnancy, especially if you are prone to food allergies.
Because your nutrient needs become higher when pregnant, it is important to consume nutrient-dense foods proven to support your own health and that of the fetus. Some nutritional deficiencies are known to lead to birth defects while certain food groups increase the risk of pregnancy complications. While your doctor will monitor your health carefully during all stages of your pregnancy, it is always a good idea to do your own research on pregnancy foods to improve your pregnancy outcomes.