We are so excited to feature a post today detailing the 10 Most Nutritious Foods for Pregnancy & Postpartum from our resident pregnancy exercise and nutrition expert, Katie Dudley. We believe that part of preparing for a healthy, natural birth is preparing our bodies with optimal nutrition. Katie’s list is something every pregnant woman should read.
During our first few visits to our care provider, we often receive a long list of foods to avoid, but we rarely discuss the foods that we SHOULD consume to support a more safe and comfortable pregnancy. In preparation for baby we hear even less about what we should eat once baby has arrived and our body is healing to provide nourishment for our breastfeeding child.
The following is a list of foods that help to combat many of the common pregnancy symptoms and well as provide you with better care for postpartum healing. Incorporating these foods on a regular basis will help to crowd out the less nutritious foods that may contribute to common ailments in pregnancy and postpartum.
Bananas contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that are perfect for many common pregnancy symptoms. Early on in pregnancy, bananas are a great source for alleviating nausea and morning sickness. They travel well, so keeping a banana on hand in your purse or bag is easy.
This can come in handy for any muscle cramps and also regulating blood sugar during the day. Bananas are a great prebiotic food that aid in digestion and nutrient absorption for baby’s development. Another digestive benefit is they can help mom with symptoms of constipation and diarrhea that can occur throughout pregnancy. Later on in pregnancy, many of the nutrients found in bananas assist in reducing swelling and high blood pressure.
Another excellent prebiotic food that promotes healthy digestion and nutrient absorption, berries are among the highest foods in antioxidants. Berries are considered superfoods as one of the best anti-inflammatory foods you can consume. They contain a high amount of fiber for regularity and satiety, but are low in sugars, helping keep mom’s blood sugar stable. They are the fruit of choice for mom’s who at a higher risk for gestational diabetes. High in vitamin C, berries give your immune system a boost to keep mom and baby well. Even better, they are a great natural source of folate, which your body can readily convert for baby’s development.
Bone broth can be an excellent source of protein and fat to enhance mom’s immune function and provides essential amino acids for growing baby. Essential minerals that aid in brain and nerve functioning are also found in fresh bone broth. With its rich nutritional content, bone broth is great way to reduce symptoms of morning sickness. This is particularly helpful when it is difficult to get foods in. The vitamins and minerals in homemade broth make a perfect food for both pregnancy and postpartum as they aid in the growth of nails, skin, hair and connective tissues. This serves as an important function as they help mom’s body grow with baby as well as recover once baby is here. These same nutrients also condition the digestive tract and keep things working smoothly.
Dark Chocolate (Real)
Yes! Dark Chocolate. Real dark chocolate (not the processed, sugary kind) has some of the highest levels of antioxidants of any foods. It is higher than berries, red wine, and high quality dark chocolate (70% or more cacoa) made from raw cacao, is quite the nutritious food and is a perfect option for those sweet pregnancy cravings. A surprising source of fiber, dark chocolate can even contribute to good digestion.
High in minerals like iron, magnesium, cooper, zinc, selenium, potassium, and manganese cacao keeps mom energized for baby’s growth and development. The varieties of minerals also improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Quality dark chocolate can also be a nutritious pick me up for mom with a small amount of natural caffeine. With less caffeine than a cup of coffee, be aware of consuming this late at night and when breastfeeding.
Found in cultures around the world throughout history, cultured and fermented foods like real yogurt (read ingredients), sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kefir, pickled vegetables, coconut yogurt, organic buttermilk, organic sour cream and probiotics are a healthy way to incorporate healthy bacteria into mom’s system. A balance of bacteria in the body is necessary for many bodily functions like making B vitamins, good digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function and mood.
The bacterial flora in mom’s body is especially important for the baby as he passes through the birth canal and takes on the flora from mom. This is also true during breastfeeding. Recent studies have even shown that the bacteria are also found in the placenta and may help prevent preterm births. There is current evidence that if mom and baby have a healthy balance of flora, there is also less chance of colic, thrush, digestive upsets, and allergies. Consuming cultured foods is particularly beneficial to moms that have GBS, have been on antibiotics or have a history of taking them.
This nutrient dense, superfood will keep mom satiated and energized throughout the day. Eggs are an excellent whole foods source of protein during pregnancy and postpartum. Eating a sufficient amount of protein in a balanced diet protects mom from various health concerns like gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.
High quality eggs are also a source of healthy fats, that are important in baby’s brain development as well as help to lower mom’s risk of postpartum depression. In addition to healthy fats and protein, pregnant and nursing moms can get many of their essential vitamins and minerals from eggs like iron, calcium, and vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins and minerals are important in supporting a healthy pregnancy as well as postpartum healing and recovery.
Dark leafy green vegetables are the ultimate superfoods full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants perfect for mom and baby. With a recommended 9-11 servings of vegetables and fruit a day, incorporating several servings of greens provides an excellent source of natural folate for baby’s development that your body can easily convert. They are full of fiber to keep mom full and her digestive system running smoothly.
Nutrient dense dark greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, swiss chard, and arugula are a non-dairy source of calcium and full of immune boosting minerals. These help to prevent many pregnancy related complications like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and anemia. Incorporating green vegetables throughout the day keeps moms energy levels stable without raising her blood sugar. If you have difficulty getting greens in at multiple meals, add them to a smoothie, mix them in a stir fry, add them to eggs, or have a side salad.
Healthy fats play an essential role in baby’s growth and development. They are particularly important in eye and brain development or as Dr. Sears would say, â€œGrowing a little fatheadâ€. Ours brains consist of almost sixty percent fat and it is important that enough fat is provided for proper brain function. According to several studies from the Harvard School of Public Health, they found that pregnant women who eat a diet rich in healthy fats reduce their chances of allergies and developmental delays.
Consuming a variety of healthy fats is crucial for mom and baby throughout pregnancy and postpartum. During pregnancy they will help mom to stabilize her blood sugar, improve digestion, and regulate blood pressure. With less sleep and a more demanding schedule, moms need all the help they can get. Eating various healthy fats like a moderate amount of cold water fish, avocados, flaxseed, flax oil, chia seed, olive oil, coconut oil, organic grassed meat, and nuts assist mom in absorbing the nutrients her body needs for sustained energy as well as postpartum healing.
Mushrooms are often overlooked for their nutritional benefits, but they are actually packed with essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, they are one of the few food sources of Vitamin D. This comes in handy during those winter months when it is more difficult to get appropriate levels of vitamin D from being outdoors. In combination with the antioxidants, D can boost mom’s immune system as well, keeping risk of infections lower.
Sufficient levels of vitamin D will also support baby’s bone and teeth development. Recent research has been shown that proper levels of vitamin D in women reduce chances of postpartum depression. With an abundance of B vitamins, mushrooms can alleviate symptoms of morning sickness and increase mom’s energy levels. Mushrooms are also an iron rich food, helping with the increased blood volume during pregnancy.
Onions & Garlic
Part of the allium family, not only do they help our meals taste great, but onions and garlic are some of nature’s greatest medicines. They both are excellent anti inflammatory foods as well as support your immune system and balanced cholesterol. Rich in antioxidants, garlic and onions protect moms from various health conditions during pregnancy like pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure by promoting healthy circulation.
By increasing circulation, these properties reduce pregnancy related swelling. Raw garlic also contains antibacterial and antimicrobial properties which may assist in keeping illness and infections away. This can be beneficial for pregnant and breastfeeding moms avoiding unnecessary medications. Check out our free pregnancy nutritional e-book for more information and ideas for recipes.
Katie Dudley, HHC, CPT, CES, PES is passionate about natural health and wellness. She enjoys educating and empowering others to take control of their own health. She believes women can have an amazing pregnancy and birth. Katie earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from the University of Georgia with a focus in Child and Family Development and Educational Psychology. Following her love of fitness and nutrition, a trainer since 2005, she is a Certified Corrective Exercise and Performance Enhancement Specialist and a Board Certified Holistic Health Coach. Katie currently has a private Holistic Health Coaching Practice, Cornerstone Integrative Fitness and Wellness, where she works with women and families all over the country. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her family.
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