A wholesome and varied diet is important for everyone, but if you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant it’s absolutely vital for your own physical fitness and the optimum growth and development of your baby. Studies also suggest that what you eat during pregnancy will directly influence your child’s future eating habits, so you’ll want to make the right choices. Which is why first time mums in particular often want to know what are the best superfoods to eat while pregnant. Below we explore some essential nutrients for expectant mums and six superfoods that are absolutely ideal during pregnancy and beyond.
Essential nutrients during pregnancy
According to the NHS, vitamins C & D, folic acid, iron and calcium are all crucial for pregnant women.
Vitamin D – the NHS advises consuming 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily throughout your pregnancy. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium in your baby’s body and is essential for healthy bones and teeth.
Folic Acid – the NHS recommends a daily intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid from the moment that you begin trying to conceive until you are 12 weeks pregnant. Folic acid can help prevent birth defects including spina bifida and cleft lip. A deficiency in folic acid may also lead to serious complications such as pre-eclampsia.
Vitamin C – this vitamin is required on a daily basis to help protect and keep your baby’s cells healthy.
Iron – pregnant women require extra iron for their growing baby and placenta, especially during the second and third trimesters. A shortage of iron can lead to anaemia, which is associated with premature birth, low birth weight and infant mortality.
Calcium – this is critical for baby’s bones and teeth. If you don’t secure sufficient calcium from your diet, then your baby will obtain it from your bones, which can store up health problems for your future.
Top 6 superfoods for mums to be
Expectant mums can give their little one the best start in life with the help of these seven superfoods for pregnancy:
Baobab powder is made from the fruit of the baobab, which is rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron and contains up to 10 times more vitamin C than oranges. African women enjoy baobab fruit pulp throughout both the entire term of their pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding. Babaob powder boasts the delicious flavour combination of grapefruit, vanilla and pear and can be used to enhance a wide selection of drinks, desserts and snacks.
Apricots are extremely high in folic acid and provide expectant mums with a reliable source of iron, magnesium and dietary fibre. Dried apricots make an ideal snack between meals and are perfect in breakfast cereals, desserts, raw chocolate, cakes and trail mix.
Bananas are packed with potassium, which helps to reduce fluid retention and maintain a healthy fluid balance during pregnancy. They also contain large quantities of vitamin B6, which is required for formation of red blood cells, antibodies and neurotransmitters and for the development of baby’s brain and central nervous system. Recent research indicates that vitamin B6 can also help relieve the symptoms of morning sickness. Dried banana chips can be enjoyed as a healthy snack straight from the bag or combined with nuts and other dried fruits.
Spirulina powder provides powerful protection against iron-deficiency anaemia as well as much needed protein during pregnancy. In addition to iron and protein, spirulina powder also contains vitamin E, vitamin B complex, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and beta carotene, a natural source of vitamin A*, which is important for your baby’s embryonic growth and helps with infection resistance and fat metabolism. Spirulina powder can be stirred into water, drinks, liquid meals and a variety of raw food snacks.
Sunflower seeds contain more folic acid than spinach or Brussels sprouts and are brimming with vitamin E, magnesium, selenium and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids in particular, are crucial for both the neurological and visual development of your baby. Sunflower seeds are a perfect snack between meals and can be sprinkled liberally over breakfast cereals and salads or added to trail mix and other raw food snacks.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent premature birth, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia, increase the birth weight of your baby and even reduce the risk of post natal depression. Omega-3 is important for the production of breast milk and studies reveal that it can also decrease your baby’s risk of allergy. Yet pregnant women often lack enough omega-3 because their developing baby uses all of their supply of this essential fatty acid for the development of their central nervous system. Omega-3 can be purchased in the form of a handy supplement and is abundant in fish, fish oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. Coconut oil is known to actively stimulate the absorption of omega-3, so switching to this fragrant oil for cooking during pregnancy and beyond can prove extremely beneficial.