What does ‘superfood’ mean?
Any food item that is not processed and provides a high amount of nutrient which contributes to health and well-being is considered as a super food. Superfoods may be rich in single or multiple nutrients such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, etc. and have a low calorie content. A superfood helps us to stay healthy, prevents chronic diseases and prolongs life.
Need of superfoods in pregnancy
A balanced diet during pregnancy should include 20% proteins, 30% fats and 50% carbohydrates. Requirement of minerals like iron, calcium, etc. and vitamins like vitamin B and D also increases in pregnant and lactating women. Inclusion of superfoods in the diet helps in fulfilling the increased energy and nutritional demands of pregnancy.
Nutritional status of the mother during pregnancy and lactation plays a key role in the health of the baby and influences their risk of developing diseases in the future. Thus consumption of superfoods during pregnancy and lactation aids in the growth and development of the baby.
What are superfoods for pregnancy?
Different superfoods apt for pregnancy are as follows:
1. Egg is the richest source of protein, which is crucial for the over-all development of the baby. Egg contains various minerals like iron, selenium, etc. Along with choline (similar to vitamin), egg also contains omega-3 fatty acids that helps in brain development of the baby. Cholesterol and vitamin E present in eggs also help in the healthy growth of the baby.
2. Yogurt, milk, cheese, paneer and other dairy products have a high calcium content, which is essential for the development and growth of the bones and teeth of the baby. Yogurt is one of the most important pregnancy superfoods, as it is also a probiotic. Healthy bacteria in yogurt prevent infections in the mother and decrease the risk of various allergies in the baby.
Milk is also a rich source of phosphorus, vitamin D and proteins required for the baby’s growth.
3. Lentils, beans, pulses, cereals and whole grains are the healthiest superfoods for pregnancy as they are densely packed with proteins. In addition, they are rich in elements of vitamin B complex, such as folates and folic acid. Hence, these can be labeled as B complex superfoods. Both folates and folic acid are chief components in the formation and development of a healthy nervous system in the baby. Deficiency of these elements commonly causes defects in the nervous system and spine (neural tube defect, spin-bifida, etc.) of the baby.
Lentils and beans also contain minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, etc. to a significant extent.
Lentils, beans and pulses are a great source of plant protein, and the fiber content in them helps fight constipation which is common in pregnancy.
Cereals with milk meet the criteria of superfood protein boost in diet during pregnancy.
4. Fishes likes shellfish, sardine and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, iodine, vitamin D, zinc, etc. Iodine is essential for the thyroid development in the baby and omega-3 fatty acid is good for the brain. Fishes are good superfoods for pregnancy as they provide different minerals that promote development of a healthy baby.
5. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and fenugreek contain high amounts of folic acid, iron, vitamin K, calcium, and various other minerals necessary for the formation of hemoglobin in the baby’s blood.
6. Colorful fruits and vegetables like bell peppers, pumpkin, orange, kiwi, avocado, figs, berries, broccoli, sweet potato, etc. are rich in carotenes (vitamin A). These are essential for healthy eyes. They also contain good amounts of vitamins like vitamin B, folates, vitamin C, etc. Vitamin C is important in the formation of collagen present in the muscles, ligaments, bones and blood vessels. High fiber in fruits also helps in relieving constipation in the mother during pregnancy.
7. Dry fruits like walnut, almond, fig, etc. are rich in mono saturated fats that are good for the brain. Crushed almond and walnut are excellent superfood powders useful during pregnancy, as they are densely packed with proteins, minerals (calcium, iron and magnesium) and vitamin E. Figs contain manganese that is not commonly found in other fruits. High fiber in fig also helps in constipation during pregnancy.
8. Meat is a rich source of proteins, choline and iron. Meat consumed by the mother during pregnancy helps in the overall growth of the baby. Iron in the meat is completely absorbed in the body. In contrast iron from plant sources (leafy vegetables, grains, nuts etc.) needs vitamin C for complete absorption.
Nutrition plays an important role in a healthy pregnancy. Keeping a check on your diet and lifestyle is extremely essential for a healthy baby.
Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.