Go Exotic

Fruits from faraway lands not only are intriguing, they also offer a plethora of vital pregnancy nutrients (we're talking more than your average orange). Plus, they're easy to get all year long.


When I was pregnant with my third child, I developed a crush on Kiwano melon [pronounced kee-WAN-o]. I daydreamed about what it was like beneath its prickly yellow skin, but I couldn't commit: It was too expensive, too mysterious (I have 147 cookbooks and not one mentions Kiwano). But, after weeks of flirting with it every time I visited the market, I finally gave in. The melon and I have been an item ever since.

Ignoring the foreign intrigue of the produce aisle is impossible these days. Dragonfruit, cherimoyas [CHAIR-i-moy-a] and plantains beckon almost every month of the year. Better shipping, open trade and a more international population have created a ripe market for luscious imports from Asia, South America and the Caribbean. [Be sure to wash all fresh fruit and produce thoroughly before eating; countries outside the United States may not have the same pesticide regulations. Although washing cannot remove all traces of pesticides, it will reduce the amount of surface pesticides, along with dirt and bacteria to help reduce food-borne illnesses.]

Exceptional flavors and colors make exotics tempting, but for pregnant women, their health benefits also make them irresistible. Here's the evidence: Tropical fruit is loaded with antioxidants including vitamin C, it's low in calories and fat, and it's high in fiber.

Researchers have found that mothers with prenatal diets high in antioxidants have children with a lower risk for eczema and asthma. Studies show that vitamin C reduces the risk for premature rupture of membranes (guava, for example, offers a whopping 626 percent of the RDA of vitamin C, while oranges offer 150 percent). And a 2006 study found that women who consumed 26 grams of fiber daily had a decreased risk of gestational diabetes; a whole sapotes (marmalade plum) contains 6 fiber grams.

When you've never seen--much less eaten--a guava before, it can be intimidating. But cooking with guava and other fruits of the tropics is deliciously simple and works well in dishes spicy or subtle. Or just grab a piece and take a bite! Since summer is the peak of their season, now is the perfect time to give in to the temptation of the exotic, try something new and benefit from the burst of prenatal nutrients.

Go Exotic 5-day Meal Plan