Whole grains may just be the holy grail of pregnancy foods.“The many varieties of whole grains are supercharged with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that offer benefits for both mom and baby,” says San Diego-based dietitian Wendy Bazilian, Dr.PH., R.D., author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet (Rodale). Plus, their complex carbohydrates help keep energy levels up throughout the day, she adds.
Bulk bins and store shelves are now stocked with more whole-grain options than ever, making it easy to get at least half your daily grain servings from unrefined sources—the recommended ratio. While it’s easy to dismiss whole grains as nothing more than a side dish, these five simple to-prepare and flavor-packed recipes prove they can anchor a wide range of nourishing meals. So, go ahead and get your grain on!
A diminutive South American grain, amaranth has an earthy flavor and is naturally gluten-free. The seeds of the amaranth plant are rich in iron, a mineral that helps deliver oxygen to your baby for proper development. Amaranth can be cooked in liquid similar to other whole grains or—surprise!—popped like popcorn.
A relative of wheat, spelt has a pleasantly chewy texture and tastes both nutty and sweet. The ancient whole grain is packed with fiber—8 grams in each cooked cup—to help alleviate pregnancy constipation and stabilize blood sugar levels. Other nutritional notables include iron, magnesium and zinc
Related to rhubarb, buckwheat has a grassy flavor and tender texture. It has laudable amounts of fiber to help quell pregnancy cravings, and magnesium, a multipurpose mineral that supports your baby’s bone development, may reduce your risk for gestational diabetes and bolsters immune health for both of you. Used in the recipe below, kasha buckwheat is simply buckwheat kernels that have been roasted to intensify flavor.
Also called “Forbidden Rice,” tender Chinese black rice has a nutty, floral taste and a high level of the same anthocyanin antioxidant that gives blueberries their superfood status and dark hue. High intakes of antioxidants during pregnancy can help boost your immune system and may reduce the risk of type II diabetes, obesity and wheezing in your child.
Quick-cooking quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) has a light, nutty flavor, a slightly crunchy texture and comes in beige, red and black varieties. It’s a good source of folate, a B vitamin that, when taken before conception and in early pregnancy, helps protect against neural-tube defects such as spinal bifida. Plus, South American quinoa is one of the few grains that are complete proteins, containing all nine essential amino acids.