10 (surprising!) Prenatal Power Foods
Foods that provide the nutrition you need for a healthy pregnancy.
Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
A paste made from sesame seeds, tahini contains all of sesame’s nutrients, including healthy oils called omega-6 fatty acids. A few tablespoons of tahini contain more than 6 grams of the fats, which are required for proper cell integrity and healthy nervous and immune system function.
Proper development of your milk glands, placenta and uterus is also dependent on having sufficient levels of healthy fats in your body. Tahini is also a good source of thiamin, phosphorus, copper and manganese, all key to your baby’s healthy development.
Tasty Tips Tahini is great on crackers, in hummus and other dips, or as an ingredient in salad dressing. It’s easy to make your own hummus: Drain a can of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) and cream them in a blender or food processor (add a little vegetable stock if they’re too dry). Add tahini, garlic, lime juice and cracked black pepper, to taste. The texture will get thicker and the flavors will blend better if you let the hummus chill in the fridge for an hour or more before eating.
Serving Size: 10 tablespoons fresh basil (whole leaves)
Basil is a pregnancy superfood. This fresh herb is a good source of protein, vitamin E, riboflavin, and niacin; plus, it’s a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
Basil is also packed with iron, vital for keeping your energy levels up; calcium, essential for strong bones and teeth; and folate, vital for many processes, including fetal cell growth and division. (One serving of basil has 20 micrograms of this B vitamin.) Whenever possible, choose fresh basil, because it contains more of these nutrients than dried basil.
Tasty Tips Enjoy the fresh, spicy leaves in a caprese salad. It’s super-easy to put together: Line your salad plate with buttery lettuce leaves (like Boston or Bibb lettuce). Then create a circle of alternating half-slices of tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves, fanning them on top of each other. Drizzle olive oil (and balsamic vinegar if you like) over the salad and add a sprinkling of salt—you need that iodine.
Serving Size: 1 fillet (5 ounces)
Herring contains 2 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) per 3 1∕2-ounce serving, giving it one of the highest concentrations of fish oil of any seafood. Plus, as a small, cold-water fish with low levels of such contaminants as mercury, it’s a no-brainer choice for pregnant women.
A high dietary intake (more than 2 grams a day) of DHA during pregnancy has been found to support brain development in the womb. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women with higher blood levels of fish oil had babies with better sleep patterns in the first 48 hours following delivery compared with women with lower levels.
Experts have hypothesized that an infant’s sleep reflects the maturity of his nervous system, so adding fish into your diet can help your baby’s brain mature and help you get much-needed sleep after labor.
Tasty Tips If you’ve ever tasted herring, it’s probably been pickled, the most popular way to eat it, or doused in cream. But you can also find fresh herring at your local fish store. The bones are soft and easy to remove. Fresh herring is great grilled or baked with acidic flavors like white wine and lemon.
Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
Sweet, sticky and packed with sugar, molasses is not the type of food you want to start spooning onto every dish. But molasses has a few hidden nutritional gems, including magnesium, manganese (1 tablespoon has 15 percent of your daily needs) and vitamin B6.
Manganese is an essential mineral that plays a role in normal bone development, and that’s important for your growing baby. Vitamin B6 plays a role in your sodium-phosphorus balance, which determines how much water you have in your body. And potassium is another mineral involved in water retention. Getting enough vitamin B6 and potassium may help shrink your swollen feet and ankles. Molasses has about 290 milligrams (8 percent of your daily needs) of potassium and 0.1 milligrams (7 percent of your RDA) of vitamin B6 per tablespoon.
Tasty Tips Blackstrap molasses is the healthiest choice. If possible, look for organic, unsulphured blackstrap molasses, which contains fewer contaminants. Try it as a sweetener in your oatmeal, smoothies or yogurt, and in breads and other baked goods or in ginger tea. Or, it makes a yummy barbecue sauce for pork or chicken.
For 90 more nutritious and delicious foods you should be eating while expecting, take a peek at the pages of The 100 Healthiest Foods To Eat During Pregnancy. $25, amazon.com.