Your pregnancy diet is one of the most important factors when it comes to your unborn baby’s health and development. A fetus must receive a steady supply of nutrients in order to maintain an optimum growth rate and establish a healthy metabolism.

Without this supply, the baby could miss crucial developmental milestones or develop health concerns that would otherwise not have been an issue.

Alternatively, if an expectant mother binges on junk food and empty calories, her likelihood of developing gestational diabetes increases, as does the chance she will require a C-section. Overeating can also put the fetus at risk by increasing the odds that the baby will develop conditions like low blood sugar, heart disease and respiratory issues.

This is why it is imperative for women to be aware of the guidelines for a healthy pregnancy diet. By incorporating more wholesome, nourishing ingredients, and eliminating the foods that are least beneficial (like those loaded with trans fats and cholesterol), moms can ensure their precious bundles of joy enter the world in the best possible condition.

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But what foods are the healthiest? And what benefits do they bring for your baby?

We’ve compiled a list of seven super-fortifying foods every mother-to-be can incorporate into their pregnancy diet. We’ve also shared the unique health benefits associated with each.

Adding these items to your grocery list is an excellent (and simple) way to enhance the nutritional value of your pregnancy diet and ensure your baby is receiving all of the essential vitamins and minerals they require.

  1. Artichoke

    Did you know that artichoke hearts are jam-packed with fibre? With 10 grams in a single artichoke, these small green clusters are one of the most fibre-rich vegetables in the world— making them the perfect addition to your pregnancy diet. Fibre is essential to maintaining healthy prenatal blood sugar levels, and it has also been proven to reduce the likelihood of preeclampsia— a condition that claims the lives of approximately 76,000 pregnant women (worldwide) per year.

  2. Lentils

    Lentils are an excellent source of iron, protein, and magnesium. The need for these nutrients increase in expectant mothers. Magnesium, in particular, is needed to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, prevent early contractions, and lessen the severity of symptoms associated with morning sickness.

    Lentils are also extremely versatile, making them an easy addition to any pregnancy diet. Simply add them to your favorite soup recipe, toss a handful into your morning omelette, or use them as a meat alternative in pasta sauces.

  3. Blackberries

    Don’t underestimate these small berries— they pack a huge nutritional punch. Blackberries contain 29 milligrams of calcium, 162 milligrams of potassium and 22 milligrams of phosphorus per 100 gram serving— the latter of which is particularly important. Phosphorus prevents blood clotting, contributes to a healthy heart rate, and aids in the production of DNA.

    Many women experience fatigue when phosphorus levels are low. If you find yourself more sluggish than usual during your pregnancy, incorporating more phosphorus-rich foods in your meal plan can be a great way to re-energize. Fish, poultry, dried fruit and whole grains are also loaded with this essential mineral.

  4. Chia Seeds

    Chia seeds have been labelled a super food by nutritionists and health care professionals. These tiny edible seeds are gathered from the Salvia hispanica plant (a relative of the mint plant) and are primarily found in Central America.

    Just 100 grams of chia seeds contains 136 percent of the daily recommended intake of fibre. They are also chock-full of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron.

    During the later stages of pregnancy, specifically, it is critical for expecting mothers to ingest enough calcium, since this is when her baby’s bones begin to form and strengthen. Chia seeds actually contain more calcium per gram than milk and most other dairy products. Thus, they are a great alternative for vegans or moms who are looking for dairy alternatives.

  5. Edamame

    Edamame are soy beans that haven’t fully matured. They are typically prepared by boiling the beans in water or steaming them to make them softer.

    These beans contain high amounts of antioxidants, vitamin K, and folate— all of which are beneficial for expectant moms and their babies.

    Folate, in particular, is one of the most valuable pregnancy nutrients and is a core component of prenatal vitamins. It is linked to the healthy development of the brain and spinal cord in fetuses, and plays a role in preventing conditions like Spina Bifeda, as well as birth defects, including cleft pallette.

    In general, expecting mothers should consume at least 400 milligrams of folic acid per day. Women with a family history of specific medical conditions may require more.

    Just one cup of edamame contains half of the recommended daily dose of folate, so it is an excellent way to ensure you are getting enough of this ultra-important vitamin.

  6. Garlic

    Garlic has been used as a medicinal treatment for thousands of years. In fact, one of the forefathers of modern medicine, Hippocrates, who practiced medicine in 300 BC, used garlic to relieve symptoms of fatigue, digestive issues, and sores on the skin.

    Today, garlic is one of the most recommended foods for pregnant women. It has been scientifically linked to healthier birth weights in babies, is known to prevent heart attacks, and is a powerful immune booster. Many women consume garlic because it is a natural way to lower their chances of catching the flu or a cold while pregnant.

    As a general rule of thumb, pregnant women should consume 400 milligrams of garlic supplements three times per day, or four cloves of fresh garlic. But it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional first before adding supplements to your pregnancy diet.

  7. Grapefruit

    If you’re tired of getting your vitamin C from orange juice, or are looking for an excellent source of beta-carotene (an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and slow the growth of tumors), grapefruit is a smart choice.

    This subtropical citrus fruit also comes with a wide range of benefits for expectant mothers. It is full of fibre, which helps with digestion, and is also ideal for weight management— great for when you’re trying to curb the consequences of those random, gotta-have-it cravings.

    It is important to note, however, that the efficacy of some medications can be impacted by the consumption of grapefruit. Specifically medications that are used to treat kidney problems, liver disease, and diabetes.

    For this reason, it is imperative that anyone who is pregnant (or who may become pregnant) consult with a physician before making grapefruit a regular part of diet.

When establishing your pregnancy diet we also advise keeping the below guidelines in mind:

  • Pregnant women should consume approximately 1800 calories during their first trimester, 2,000 per day during their second, and about 2,400 in their final trimester.
  • Many physicians recommend eating 12 ounces of fish or shellfish per week.
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee, and drinks with high sugar content like sodas.
  • Try not to skip breakfast, even if you aren’t normally a breakfast eater. Eating breakfast can help you maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy and ensures you start your day feeling more energized.
  • Stay away from foods made with unpasteurized milk, as they are more prone to contamination from food-borne illnesses (like listeria, E.coli, and salmonella). Many soft cheeses, including Brie, are made with unpasteurized milk, as are some yogurts and other dairy products. If you’re uncertain about a particular item, always do a little research before consuming.

Research shows that many women do not have sufficient iron in their diet to meet their daily needs. This is also true during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters when dietary iron requirements can increase to as much as 30mg per day. For more information on the importance of iron in pregnancy click here.