Nutrition plays a key role in the development of your baby’s organs, bones, and brain — and in your personal health as a mom-to-be. So it’s important to make every bite count. While almost any natural or unprocessed food is a healthy addition to your diet, some foods are virtual powerhouses or “superfoods” — packing amazing amounts of nutrients into just a few bites.
Superfoods for pregnancy
Physicians and nutritionists all have their own list of superfoods. Here are 13 power-packed favorites1 to put on your shopping list:
- Broccoli — One of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet, broccoli is high in folate, calcium, vitamins, beta-carotene, potassium, iron, magnesium, and fiber. Broccoli also contains Lutein, an important nutrient for eye health.
- Berries — From blueberries to strawberries, berries provide antioxidants, carbohydrates, and vitamin C to help the absorption of iron, potassium, folate, fiber, and fluids.
- Beans or legumes — Chickpeas, black beans, soybeans, and other legumes provide a good strong source of soluble fiber. One cup of kidney beans can boost your dietary iron, protein, potassium, and thiamin.
- Spinach and other leafy greens — Kale, spinach, collards, turnip, and other greens provide folate, vitamins C and A, iron, and Lutein. One cup of cooked spinach also boosts your zinc intake by almost 2 mg.
- Whole grains and oatmeal — The whole grains in brown or wild rice, steel cut or rolled oats, and other grain choices are fortified with iron and are packed with fiber and complex carbohydrates. They are also fortified with folic acid. Oatmeal helps lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and helps moderate blood sugar levels.
- Skim milk — This excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus provides several vitamins you and your baby need, as well as protein and vitamins A and B.
- Low-fat yogurt — With calcium levels comparable to milk, yogurt not only provides protein, calcium, and vitamin D, but also active cultures that can help your digestive system health.
- Salmon and other fish — Salmon is one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which help with the development of vision and brain function in your baby. Other fish choices that are low in mercury are perch, trout, and cod.
- Lean meat — Lean cuts of red meat are the best source of readily available iron. The protein in meat helps your body repair and replace muscle tissue. Red meat also contains vitamins B6 and B12, and zinc.
- DHA-enriched eggs — Eggs are a good source of high-quality protein. In addition, eggs that are also high in Omega-3 fatty acids are available. Farmers can feed hens a high Omega-3 diet, and the nutrients are passed on to the eggs. DHA Omega-3 fatty acids are good for brain development and eye formation.
- Almonds and other nuts — Almonds are loaded with important minerals, vitamin E, and fiber. Walnuts offer brain-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids — the good fats. Because nuts are high in fat and calories they should be eaten in moderation.
- Papaya, mango, and other tropical fruits — These fruits are good sources of vitamin C, beta-carotene, magnesium, and potassium.
- Water — Your blood volume doubles during pregnancy, so drinking enough water during this time is even more important. You should be drinking eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day during pregnancy.
The pregnancy superfood list doesn't necessarily end here: Tofu, tomatoes, kiwi, cranberries, avocados, sweet potatoes, and even dark chocolate (in moderation) are superfoods. No matter what your food choices, be sure to include those rich in folate, Omega-3 fatty acids, Lutein, protein, vitamin C, and iron to support your baby's development and for your health.
1Adapted from Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy: The Complete Guide to Eating Before, During and After Your Pregnancy, 2e, Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., 2002. 43-44.
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