Best Foods for Pregnant Women

table filled with sliced pineapples
Best foods for pregnant women: Pineapple

Choosing the best foods for pregnant women is essential because, during pregnancy, the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of all nutrients increases approximately 10% concerning adult women, except for folates, iron, calcium, and vitamin B1 and B6, which raises much more.

best foods for pregnant women
best foods for pregnant women: Salads
  • Folates: Folate needs before and after conception, double concerning adult women. Legumes, green leafy vegetables, and nuts are the best sources of folates. Meat, fish, and milk are low in this nutrient. Maternal folate deficiency produces the following negative consequences for the fetus:
    • During the weeks before conception and in the first trimester of pregnancy, there is a greater risk of various malformations such as spina bifida and cleft palate.
    • In the third trimester, it is associated with a greater risk of premature detachment of the placenta.
    • Throughout the pregnancy, there is an increased risk of premature birth or low birthweight.
    • Iron: There is an increased need for this mineral, although there is no need for routine use of supplements, which can cause side effects such as stomachache and constipation. Iron-rich foods are sufficient to meet the increase.

Best Foods for Pregnant Women

best vegetables to eat during pregnancy
Best foods for pregnant women: Vegetables

Fruit: Pregnant women should increase consumption of all types of fruits, preferably from organic crops, particularly the following:

  • Apples and plums, which help prevent constipation.
  • Pineapple, either whole or as juice: this helps avoid the heartburn typical of pregnancy
  • Citrus fruits prevent colds and increase iron absorption.
  • Grapes and figs are rich in iron.

Vegetables are a basic need for any pregnancy meal plan; here are the best vegetables to eat during pregnancy:

  • Salads (well washed) provide fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Avocado is rich in iron and vitamin E.
  • Spinach is rich in iron and provitamin A.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower provide calcium.
  • Legumes are the best source of folates and one of the best sources of iron.

Foods to Avoid When Pregnant

Cured meats: Many studies reveal that cured meats are among the top foods to avoid when pregnant. Eating cured meat during pregnancy (ham, sausages, bacon, etc.) increases the risk of tumors of the nervous system, such as brain cancer in the newborn.

filled bowl of spinach on a table
Best foods for pregnant women: Spinach
  • Experimental evidence
    • Investigators conducted at the University of Southern California with experimental animals show that when sodium nitrite and other nitrosamine precursors are administered to gestating females, there is a very high incidence of brain cancer in the young.
  • Statistical evidence:
    • According to the study cited in the preceding paragraph, the risk to the newborn of brain cancer is more than double if the mother has eaten cured meats during pregnancy than if she has not. Ingesting high vitamin C and E levels, which are found primarily in fruits and oil-bearing nuts, partially protect against cured meats’ carcinogenic effect.
    • Other studies show that pregnant women who eat one or more hot dogs per week have a 230% greater risk of brain cancer in the child than those who do not.

The carcinogenic effect of the nitrites used in curing and preserving meat is well known. What is somewhat surprising is that this effect can manifest in the offspring of pregnant women who eat them.

pregnant woman eating a bowl of green leafy vegetables
best foods for pregnant women: Avoid meats and fish

Pesticide contamination: Organochlorine pesticides such as DDT, PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyl), and dioxins that are found in contaminated foods pass through the placental barrier from the mother to the fetus. Pesticides are highly toxic to the fetus, producing, among other consequences, alterations in brain development. These are manifested during infancy as behavioral problems and memory loss.

Meats, fish, dairy products, and fruits from sprayed crops are the primary dietary source of pesticides.

Toxic drugs: The toxic substances found in alcoholic beverages, tobacco, opiates, coca, marijuana or hashish, and even coffee pass from the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta to the fetus.

The harm these substances do to the developing fetus manifests in low birth weight and failure to thrive. But the effect does not end there; it persists for years. Nicotine from tobacco and other drugs also pass to the mother’s milk and negatively affect the child.

The consumption of toxic drugs during pregnancy and nursing is considered a form of child abuse and constitutes a grave threat to children’s health.

Vitamins for Pregnant Women

two stalks of broccoli
Best foods for pregnant women: Broccoli rich in folates

Although consuming the best foods for pregnant women is essential, so is taking the right vitamins and supplements. The administration of vitamin and mineral supplements during pregnancy is a common practice in developed countries; however, it is often unnecessary if following a pregnancy meal plan and eating the right foods on the pregnancy food chart.

The use of supplements is no substitute for following a healthful diet. However, the following supplements may be justified:

  • Folates: during the weeks leading up to conception
  • Iron: during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy
  • Multivitamin and mineral supplements: during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy in these conditions:
    • Women whose diet is inadequate
    • High-risk pregnancies, such as the ones involving twins, and fetuses of women who smoke, drink, or use drugs

RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) For Nutrients

 Adult WomenPregnant WomenNursing Mothers
Protein (g)506065
Vitamin A (µg RE)8008001300
Vitamin D (µg)51010
Vitamin E (mg a-TE)81012
Vitamin K (µg)656565
Vitamin C (mg)607095
Vitamin B1 (mg)1.11.51.6
Vitamin B2 (mg)1.31,61.8
Niacin (mg NE)151720
Vitamin B6 (mg)1.62.22.1
Folates (µg)180400280
Vitamin B12 (µg)22.22.1
Calcium (µg)80012001200
Phosphorus (µg)80012001200
Magnesium (mg)280320355
Iron (mg)153015
Zinc (mg)121519
Iodine (µg)150175200
Selenium (µg)556575

REFERENCES

George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power. Trans. Annette Melgosa. Vol. 2. Chai Wan: Editorial Safeliz, 2005. 384, 385. Print. [best foods for pregnant women]