You may have found yourself wondering about the benefits of eating organic while pregnant. After all it seems to be something lots of experts talk about and we all know that it’s important to make the right food choices to help your baby develop and grow throughout your pregnancy.
Well wonder no more because we’re about to tell you all about organic food for pregnant mothers.
Firstly, let’s take a very quick look at what it means to be organic.
Organic is a system of farming and food production that aims to produce high quality food using a set of standards that comply with strict EU guidelines to sustain soil, ecosystems and people. All companies involved in growing, processing or selling organic products are inspected at least once a year. This means that when you see the organic symbol you know you can trust that your food and drink has been made in a way that is not only better for animals and the environment, but for you and your baby too.
So now we know what it means to be organic we can turn to the benefits of eating organic while pregnant.
Benefits of eating organic while pregnant
In truth there is very little nutritional benefit to eating organic. However organic fruit and veg can have more phenolic compounds, which some believe can help prevent cardiovascular disease, and cancer. They also have lower levels of pesticides (in fact organic farmers are only allowed to use 15 types of pesticides out of the 320 types available, so they usually control pests and crop disease by using natural farming methods such as crop rotations and developing nutrient-rich soil instead). Pesticides have been linked to Parkinson’s Disease and Type 2 Diabetes and exposure to too many pesticides in pregnancy has been associated with childhood leukaemia and lymphoma.
Another benefit of eating organic fruit and veg is that they contain no additives or preservatives (linked to ADHD). They also have higher levels of antioxidants and less cadmium (which can cause cancer and harm your kidneys).
One study has found that by consuming less cadmium and organochlorine pesticides mothers who eat organic reduce their chances of giving birth to boys with hypospadias (a birth defect which means they are born with the opening of their urethra on the underside of their penis instead of the tip) by 58%. It also lessens their risk of giving birth to a boy with cryptorchidism (an undescended testicle).
There is also evidence that eating organic can lower the rate of preeclampsia. Although it is not known exactly why this reduces the risk of this fairly common condition (it might again be because of reduced exposure to pesticides or changes in the gut flora).
Organic meat and diary on the other hand contain about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic meat (mainly because organic cattle eat more natural grass-based diets). They have less saturated fat, are higher in some key micronutrients (such as iron) and are antibiotic free (there is a risk that the animals we eat will become immune to the antibiotics regularly fed to them, which could result in you becoming ill after eating improperly cooked meat that contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria).
Finally it’s worth noting that organic food for pregnant mothers is also associated with a healthier pre-pregnancy BMI and lower incidence of gestational diabetes. That study concluded that intake of organic food during pregnancy is linked to several blood biomarkers and health-related characteristics. This might partly be because women who eat organic tend to have slightly different eating habits, eating more vegetarian foods including soya, vegetables, fruits, and legumes and less animal products including dairy and meat.
The Downsides of Eating Organic
Whilst it’s clear to see that there are many benefits of eating organic while pregnant, organic food can be up to double the price of conventional foods. Plus without preservatives it has a much shorter shelf life. And guess what, organic food doesn’t always taste better. A study by the National Library of Medicine found that most organic foods didn’t actually taste any better than non-organic food.
What if you can’t access the benefits of eating organic while pregnant?
If you know you’ll struggle to get hold of organic food then please don’t worry. As long as your food meets recommended standards from a trusted source, you’ll be able to remove most of the harmful pesticides by thoroughly washing your fruit and veg. Alternatively, why not try growing organic food in your garden or window box.
This is a fun and inexpensive hobby – plus think of the great satisfaction you’ll get knowing you’re doing the best you can to keep you and your growing baby healthy.
Quick and Easy Organic Meals throughout the Day
It’s easy to buy almost all foods organic these days. And there are oodles of fab organic recipes out there, just waiting to be tried. Here’s a delicious recipe for every meal of the day to get you started.
Breakfast Courgette Omelette
This simple recipe from kitchen nine takes less than 15 mins to rustle up and is a great way to start the day.
- 90g (about 1 small) courgette, sliced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 organic eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 basil leaves, finely shredded
- ¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon finely grated parmesan
- Black pepper
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat. In a small non-stick frying pan, sauté courgette in olive oil until golden.
- Add eggs and basil to frying pan. Run fork lightly through mixture until eggs begin to set. Sprinkle lemon zest, parmesan and black pepper over eggs.
- Omelette is cooked when golden underneath and just set on top. Place under grill for 30 secs if needed.
Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup for Lunch
For many pregnant women, lunch is the time when morning sickness is at its worse, despite the term “morning” sickness. If this is the case, look for meals that contain citrus and ginger, which are renowned for helping to relieve nausea and vomiting. This is one of our favourite organic lunchtime recipes from Bellamy’s Organic
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 350g diced chicken breast
- 1 finely chopped garlic clove
- 1 cm grated ginger
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 cups reduced-salt chicken stock
- 125g tin sweetcorn kernels
- 1 free range egg, whisked
- 1 squeeze of lemon juice
- Parsley to garnish
- In a deep frying pan or a saucepan, cook chicken, ginger, and garlic in the oil for 4-5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix cornflour and soy sauce before adding to the cooked chicken mix.
- Add chicken stock and bring mixture to the boil.
- Reduce heat, then simmer for 6-8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- Slowly pour in the whisked egg and lemon juice and stir to create thin egg strands.
- Serve in two deep bowls with parsley for garnish.
Goan Fish Curry with Fragrant Rice Supper
Apart from the light and delicious pollock (a good fish for pregnant women as it’s mercury free) the hero of this dish is tamarind. This delicate little fruit is used extensively in Indian cuisine. It’s sharp and yet sweet and sour, making it the perfect accompaniment to fish. Better still it has several health benefits in pregnancy – read all about them in The Times of India.
- 200g basmati rice
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 star anise
- oil for frying
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
- ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tbsp curry leaves
- 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 400g tin coconut milk
- 150g French beans, topped and tailed
- 300g diced pollock
Prep time: 10 min
Cooking time: 30 min
- Put a saucepan with 500ml of salted water on to boil. Wash the rice in a sieve under cold running water. Lightly crush the cardamom pods, just enough to reveal the seeds. When boiling, add the rice to the water along with the cardamom and the star anise. Stir once, cover loosely and cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Allow it to sit, tightly covered, for a further 10 minutes off the heat.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in another saucepan. Cook the onion for about 8 minutes, until softened and starting to colour. Add the garlic, ginger, spices, tomatoes and tamarind. Cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring continuously to avoid the spices sticking.
- Add the coconut milk, French beans and 100ml of water. Bring to a simmer and season with salt. Cook gently for 10 minutes.
- Season the fish well with salt. Add the fish into the pan once the beans have cooked. Simmer gently for 2 minutes before removing from the heat. Pop the lid on and let the curry sit for 5 minutes while you deal with the rice.
- Fluff up the rice with a fork and drain away any remaining water. Pick out the cardamom pods and star anise if you want; if not, just eat around them.
- Taste your curry and adjust the seasoning with a little more salt if needed. If you'd like it a little sourer, you can add more tamarind. Serve the curry with the rice and garnish with coriander.
If you have any other delicious and easy to cook recipes, using organic food for pregnant mothers, please share them here.