23 pregnancy superfoods and their health benefits
Packed with nutrients to help boost your baby's development (not to mention ease uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms), here are the best superfoods to eat while you're pregnant...
Your pregnancy diet is a great way to make sure you're getting all the vitamins and minerals you need for you and your baby ?
Meals and snacks packed with fruit, veggies, protein and carbohydrates will also help keep your energy levels up, stave away uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms (like fluid retention and constipation), and help your baby develop and grow.
Most of us know by now what a nutritious diet looks like - but did you know some foods, classed as 'superfoods', can have extra benefits in pregnancy?
In this piece, we'll cover all the basics, and we'll introduce you to some of the most popular pregnancy superfoods - and how they can help while you're expecting.
The basic pregnancy superfood groups...
1. Fruit and Veg
Though you'll still need some supplements (like folic acid and Vitamin D), getting your vitamins and minerals from fruits and veggies is just as important for your baby's development. Try to go for 5 portions a day, if you can.
Fish, eggs, cheese and meat are all good sources of protein. Aim for 2 portions of protein a day.
Milk and cheese are great sources of calcium, which is vital for bone development in babies. Try to go for low-fat product where poss - and if you don't react well to milk, look for soy or nut-based milks that contain calcium.
Bread, pasta and potatoes give you energy - and you'll need increasing amounts of energy as you approach your due date!
Drinking lots of water will keep you hydrated, maintain energy levels and help prevent constipation and cystitis. They say drink 8 glasses a day - but with your new pregnancy bladder, we'd say do as much of that as you can manage ?
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Common pregnancy superfoods worth adding to your diet...
6. Dried Apricots
Easy to snack on and great for topping up iron stores: one handful gives you 10% of your daily iron requirement.
They also contain folic acid, potassium, calcium and magnesium. They will also help keep your bowel from becoming sluggish as your pregnancy progresses.
7. Fortified Cereal
There's lots of cereals to choose from, but some are fortified with extra nutrients and vitamins, like iron. A bowl of wholewheat cereal with milk is a fantastic pick-me-up if you get an energy slump during the day, too.
Also, one bowl a day can provide up to 100mcg (micrograms) of folic acid.
Rich in potassium, bananas are good for reducing fluid retention and maintaining a healthy fluid balance. They also contain tryptophan which helps to promote sleep. A great starchy, energy-boosting snack.
Low-fat versions contain as much calcium as their full-fat counterparts. A fantastic source of this vital nutrient if you don't like to drink milk.
For non-meat eaters, this is an excellent source of protein that is also rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin K - essential for normal blood clotting, particularly after the birth.
11. Sweet Potato
Yummy sweet potatoes are a good source of energy, and packed with calcium, vitamin C and betacarotene - a vegetable source of vitamin A, vital for skin and eye development.
(You may have read that vitamin A's a no-no during pregnancy, as it IS true that you shouldn't take pregnancy multivitamins or supplements containing vitamin A.
This is because too much can have a negative impact on your baby's eye development. The Vitamin A you get through normal amounts of food is fine.)
Why you shouldn't take multivitamins containing Vitamin A
12. Wholemeal Bread
A simple way to stock up on carbohydrates, wholemeal bread is also a good source of iron, calcium, B vitamins and some is now also fortified with folic acid.
Full of vitamin C (good for healthy skin and immunity), beta-carotene, folic acid and potassium. If you eat them after an iron-rich meal, their vitamin C will help boost iron absorption too.
In fact, most types of berries are full of lots of nutritional benefits, so make sure to stock up ???
Contains plenty of calcium, magnesium (essential for bone development) and folic acid. Steam rather than boil to help preserve the nutrients.
Another good vegetable source of protein that is also rich in calcium, magnesium, zinc and folic acid.
Even better: houmous is made from chickpeas! Add pepper and carrot dippers and/or breadsticks for a delicious snack.
Eggs provide iron, protein and vitamin B12, which is essential for the healthy growth of cells in your body.
Make sure they're well-cooked if you're out and about, but if you'd like to enjoy runny or soft-boiled eggs at home, simply ensure they're:
- British Lion stamped
- following proper storage instructions
- following 'best before' guidelines - although it's OK to eat them a couple of days after the BB date.
Eggs and pregnancy - everything you need to know
17. Oils and Fats
Some (like flaxseed, vegetable and walnut oil) are great sources of essential fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6, vital for cell function, brain and eye development.
What else contains Omega-3s? Your guide for pregnancy
18. Sunflower Seeds
A more-ish snack that provides an instant source of both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, as well as magnesium, vitamins A, B, D, E and K, calcium, iron, potassium and zinc.
Tuna is a brilliant source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, but is also rich in selenium, an antioxidant mineral that protects against cancer.
Don't eat more than 3 portions a week though, as tuna contains some mercury which may harm your baby's nervous system.
How much tuna can you eat during pregnancy exactly? Here's the official advice
20. Cabbage or Spring Greens
Both offer a great supply of folic acid (one portion provides 25% of your daily requirement), plus iron, potassium and vitamins C, E and A. Lightly steam to keep the goodness in.
Almonds contain lots of protein, and just a 1/4 of a cup contains 1/3 of your daily Vitamin E dose. A little bit of almond butter on some wholemeal toast might make a lovely brekkie or snack.
If you're not fussed on cereal or toast, why not try a warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast? Just one serving contains loads of magnesium.
Did you know quinoa contains more protein than any other grain? A yummy addition to a salad for all, but also a fab dietary addition for vegans, who avoid more obvious protein sources (fish, meat, eggs and cheese).
It's also thought that quinoa helps keep blood sugar levels in check, which may work for you if you have gestational diabetes.
Guidance and recipe ideas for women with gestational diabetes
Images: Getty Images
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