Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is always a good idea, but it's even more important when you're pregnant. Healthy eating helps your baby get the nutrition they need to develop, as the American Pregnancy Association (APA) explains. It's also important for your oral health, since you're more at risk for certain oral issues during pregnancy. Here are seven healthy foods to eat when pregnant.
During pregnancy, it's a good idea to eat a wide variety of vegetables. Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, are natural sources of folate, which helps prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine, such as anencephaly and spina bifida, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, since vegetables are high in fiber and water, they can help to clean your teeth, as the American Dental Association (ADA) explains.
The APA recommends eating two to four servings of fruit per day during pregnancy. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, are a great source of folate, while cantaloupe and bananas contain vitamin B6, which the APA notes can help reduce morning sickness. If you're looking for a hefty dose of vitamin B1 to boost your energy, grab some berries. Fruits are also great for your dental health because they, like vegetables, contain a lot of water and fiber, according to the ADA.
3. Low-Fat Dairy
The APA states that low-fat dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, are good choices during pregnancy since they are rich in calcium. Your baby needs calcium so they can grow strong bones and teeth, and it also helps their heart, muscles and nerves develop, as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes. The ADA reports that calcium also helps strengthen your tooth enamel. If you don't get enough calcium from your diet, your body will pull it from your bones for your baby's development.
4. Lean Meats
Eating iron-rich lean meats, such as poultry and lean beef, is also beneficial during pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Iron helps your body make more blood and carry oxygen to your baby, so pregnant women need about twice the amount of iron they normally require. Added bonus: Lean meats are also good sources of protein and phosphorous, which the ADA notes can help protect your tooth enamel.
Soon-to-be moms can benefit from adding fish to their diets. Saltwater fish and seafood contain iodine, which is a mineral that many women don't get enough of during their pregnancy, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Iodine plays an important role in brain development, and babies who don't get enough of this mineral may be born with brain damage or intellectual disabilities. During pregnancy, it's best to stick to fish with low mercury levels, such as salmon, shrimp and catfish, as the ACOG explains.
Beans, peas, lentils and other legumes are good sources of B vitamins, folate and protein, as the APA explains. While protein is important throughout your pregnancy, babies have higher protein needs past the first trimester.
7. Whole Grains
Whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat bread, are also important. The APA reports that these carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy during pregnancy. They also have many nutrients, including iron and fiber. Some breads and cereals are fortified with added nutrients, too, such as folate.
Why a Healthy Diet Is Important During Pregnancy
A healthy diet doesn't just help your baby develop; it also supports your own health, including your oral health. The CDC cautions that women may be more susceptible to cavities and gum disease during pregnancy. This is a concern, because severe gum disease has been linked to low birth weight and other poor pregnancy outcomes.
The foods you eat also have a direct impact on your oral health. For example, the ADA explains that the high sugar content in sweets, such as cookies and candies, can contribute to the development of cavities. Crunchy foods, such as chips, often get stuck in your teeth, which can also lead to cavities.
Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is beneficial for both you and your baby. If you have any questions about what foods to eat when pregnant, talk to your OB-GYN or dentist.