Most of us know by now what a nutritious diet looks like and we’re aware that a well-balanced diet is just as important for a healthy pregnancy as being active. And of course, we’ve all heard of the familiar term superfoods. But do you know which superfoods are best for you and your baby and why?
The term “Superfood” is still fairly new and there are no legal definitions classifying any food as a superfood, but there’s a common agreement amongst nutritionists that superfoods can be defined as the group of foods with a very high nutritional density. In other words, they provide a substantial amount of nutrients and few calories.
Superfoods contain a high volume of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants and studies have demonstrated that they can prevent many common diseases, decrease inflammation, improve immunity, promote healthy skin, nails and hair, as well as increase energy levels. Now tell me you couldn’t do with a bit of an energy lift right now?
Of course, it’s important to include these superfoods as part of a daily healthy, balanced diet. You can’t just eat a couple of superfoods a day and think you’ll feel the benefits. Include them in your meals and snacks whenever you can – why not think of it as a new “super diet”?
Let’s take a look at some of the superfoods that are best for you and your baby. We’ve picked seven that are easy to come by. We’ll explain their health benefits and show how you can effortlessly incorporate them into your daily menu.
Berries are tiny nutrient powerhouses! They pack a huge phytochemical punch which can help fight oxidative stress and cell damage. There’s research out there that shows one of the causes of pre-eclampsia is oxidative stress, so eating berries instead of other naughty sweet snacks could help you avoid this nasty condition. Plus berries are great for the development of your baby’s brain.
What you might not know is berries contain less sugar than most other fruits and, as we all know, keeping blood sugar levels in control is a must in pregnancy.
Of course, just munching on a punnet of berries is yummy and any berry can transform green salads in an instant (try adding blueberries or lingonberries next time you’re making one). But our favourite is this 1-minute berry ice-cream by Jamie Oliver. It’s actually using natural yoghurt (also a superfood) so it’s much healthier than real ice-cream. It’s quick and super easy to make and believe us, it is delicious!
2. Bean and Lentils (Legumes)
Some of the longest living cultures in the world credit their records to their daily consumption of legumes. And we know why. Beans are seriously versatile and an excellent form of protein and fibre, as well as being rich in B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium. Then you have the lentil - just one cup will give you an additional 15 grams of protein (you need an extra 10g a day during pregnancy). Legumes are also a great way of getting your daily critical requirement of folate (one cup of cooked lentils meets half of your daily folate requirement).
You’ll probably know a couple of lentil recipes, so why not try cooking with garbazo or black beans for a change – both are a good source of magnesium which is good for healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
This black bean chilli from the BBC Good Food collection only takes 30 minutes to cook and makes an interesting alternative to meat!
Or there’s this completely yummy black bean and rice dish
This nifty green vegetable is packed with nutrients – such as calcium, magnesium (essential for your baby’s bone development) and folic acid. It contains vitamin C, helps your body absorb iron when eaten with iron-rich foods, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta, is high in fibre and also full of those important disease fighting antioxidants. It’s always best to eat broccoli steamed rather than boiled, to preserve the nutrients, or why not eat it raw, like in this Broccoli and sesame salad. Sesame seeds are an added bonus, as they’re rich in essential pregnancy nutrients that help build your baby’s bones and teeth.
Eggs are an excellent alternative protein source to meat, as they contain all the essential amino acids your body needs when you’re pregnant. They fall into our top superfood group as they also contain iron and vitamin B12, which is essential for cell growth. Better still they’re extremely versatile – who doesn’t know how to cook an egg? On those days when you just can’t be bothered to cook up a storm why not settle for an omelette. You could try adding a new filling each time – here’s a list of some of our favourites: spinach, asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, shredded cheddar, sour cream, bacon, thinly sliced steak, smoked salmon, bell peppers or tomatoes, caramelized onions, fresh herbs, even tasty leftovers from last night's dinner. Check out this eating well website – there are 50 tasty omelette recipes to choose from.
Did you know that leeks are the vegetable equivalent of a super multivitamin-mineral tablet? They are a non-dairy source of calcium (55 milligrams per cup), which is essential for the development of your baby's bones. Calcium may also help you overcome some of the more common symptoms of pregnancy, such as irritability, insomnia and back and leg pains. Just one serving of leeks contains almost 60 micrograms of folate and 0.2 milligrams of vitamin B6 (about 10 percent of your RDA), which is necessary for your body to metabolize energy from the carbohydrates, fats and proteins in your diet. There's also evidence that vitamin B6 can help with morning sickness. What's more, they’re a good source of Vitamin K, which is needed for proper blood-clot formation and healthy bone growth; plus manganese helps support your baby’s skeletal development.
Olive Magazine has a whole heap of fabulous leek recipes but we like this leek fondue linguine the best!
6. Fish and Omega 3’s
Wild caught fish and seafood is full of protein and loaded with trace minerals like iodine, selenium, and zinc, all hard-to-find nutrients that are important during pregnancy.
However, it’s important to know that mercury and other contaminants collect in fish. Even so, nutritionists recommend you eat about 12 ounces of fish two or three times a week. It’s safer to stick to smaller seafood, such as wild salmon, sardines, and trout, but if you really fancy larger fish, like seabass or tuna, then stick to 6oz a week.
Several fish are fantastic sources of omega-3 fatty acids which are special fats that help to fight inflammation and support your baby’s brain, eye and nervous system development. There has been One study in the USA that has found pregnant women who consumed omega-3’s during the last trimester of pregnancy boosted their child’s sensory, cognitive and motor development.
Salmon and sardines contain healthy amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. This easy to cook honey garlic and salmon recipe is just to die for, it’s simple to make and better still only uses one pan!
Fossil records show that the date palm has existed for at least 50 million years. They have been a staple food in the Middle East and Indus Valley for thousands of years, where pregnant women have been eating them for their fibre, selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, to keep their bones healthy and nervous system in order. Researchers have discovered that dates can help prepare your body for labour – a recent study reported that that mums-to-be who ate 6 dates a day in the last month or so of pregnancy had shorter labours and intact membranes when they went into hospital.
Now we know dates might not instantly spring to mind when planning your menu, so we’ve done the hard work for you. Try adding one or two to a smoothie – we know you’ll get hooked. Or if you feel like a more savoury feast this beef or lamb tagine sounds delicious
We hope you’ve enjoyed our recommended top 7 superfoods that are good for you and your baby. They are by no means the only foods that can keep you healthy and help with your baby’s development, but if you eat these regularly, you’ll be making a great start. We think we’ve shown that, as well as being good for you, there are some delicious ways of including superfoods in your daily diet.
Happy Cooking mums-to-be!