3. DO LIMIT YOUR EXPOSURE TO PESTICIDES BY CHOOSING ORGANIC AND LOCALLY GROWN FOODS WHEN POSSIBLE
“The developing immune system is so much more sensitive than the adult’s,” says Rodney Dietert, Ph.D., professor of immunotoxicology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, whose research has linked prenatal pesticide exposure to later- in-life immune dysfunctions.
Other research has connected pesticides in the water supply to premature births and possibly birth defects. “We have a lot of evidence now that nitrates [chemicals used in fertilizer] and pesticides have the ability in very small doses to interact with the hor- monal milieu of the pregnancy,” says Paul Winchester, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Washing your produce helps, Winchester says, but may not be enough. The types of produce harboring the highest pesticide concentrations tend to be fruits and vegetables with thin skins, such as peaches, apples, bell peppers and strawberries. (For a list of the worst offenders, go to fitpregnancy.com/thedirtydozen.) Also know that foods imported from other countries, such as Mexico or Chile, may contain pesticides that are prohibited in the U.S.
4. DO GET YOUR OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
A diet rich in omega-3s can boost your baby’s brain and neurological development before birth, likely leading to better vision, memory and language comprehension in early childhood. It also may reduce your risk of post- partum depression. Flaxseed oil, walnuts and omega-3-fortified eggs are good sources of ALA, one of the three omega-3 fats, but fatty fish are the only reliable sources of the two more important omega-3s, EPA and DHA, according to Ricciotti. The National Institutes of Health recommend that pregnant and nursing women get at least 300 milligrams of DHA in their daily diet.
The trick is to choose fish that are high in omega-3s but low in mercury, which can harm a fetus’s nervous system. Varieties to avoid include swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish and, some experts now say, tuna, though canned light tuna is safer than albacore. Top picks include wild Alaskan salmon (fresh, frozen or canned), Atlantic mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies. Fish oil supplements are also safe. (For the best seafood choices during pregnancy, go to fitpregnancy.com/safeseafood.)
5. DO CHOOSE “DOUBLE DUTY” FOODS
“Nutrient-dense foods, such as yogurt, peanut butter, chicken, beef, eggs and dairy products, are those that are higher in protein, calcium and iron, all nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop properly,” says Rose Ann Hudson, R.D., L.D., co-author of Eating for Pregnancy: An Essential Guide to Nutrition With Recipes for the Whole Family (Marlowe & Company). Some other nutrient-dense foods: Lean pork, like beef, contains protein, along with B vitamins, iron and zinc; orange juice offers folate plus vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron from foods such as fiber-rich black beans and spinach; whole grains are filled with fiber, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.