Pregnancy which is also known as the period of gestation is the time when an offspring develops inside a woman. It is very important to eat a healthy diet during pregnancy as the pregnant has to nourish not only herself but also the growing embryo. A pregnant woman needs more calcium, folic acid, iron and protein than a woman who is not expecting as these are essential for the proper development of the embryo.
According to Ayurveda, there are 6 tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent) and one should eat all 6 but the emphasis should be on sweet, sour, and salty.
Following are some of the healthy dietary guidelines that can be followed during pregnancy:
- Fruits and vegetables should be taken in ample amount as these provide vitamins, minerals and fibre. A pregnant lady should eat a variety of fruit and vegetables per day as this helps in digestion and prevents constipation. Vegetables should be cooked in little water or can be eaten raw as these contain nutrients which are essential for the body.
- Grains and legumes are rich in nutrients like thiamin, riboflavin, folate and niacin. The growing foetus needs these for the proper development of the body parts. Proper intake of folate reduces the risk of having a baby with spina bifida. These nutrients provide energy for baby’s development and also help in the building of the placenta and other body parts.
- Lean Meats, Chicken, Seafood, Eggs, Cooked Dried Beans, Peas and Lentils, and Nuts and Seeds. These foods are the sources of protein, iron, zinc and other nutrients. Iron is important during pregnancy to prevent deficiency of iron and also to help with the proper development. Iron content present in lean meats, chicken and seafood are readily absorbed by the body. The liver is also a good source of iron but it should not be eaten more than 100gm in a week.
- Dairy products Pregnant women should focus on consuming calcium-rich diet. She should take at least four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day in order to ensure the consumption of 1000-1300 mg of calcium in diet during pregnancy.
- Starchy foods do not contain many calories and are an important source of vitamins and fibre. Examples of these are bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cornmeal, noodles, cereals, rice, pasta, maize, millet, oats, and yams. These foods should be included in every meal. One should focus on consuming wholemeal instead of processed (white) varieties.
- Essential fatty acid sources which include omega-3-fatty acids such as walnuts, avocado, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed, fatty fish, olive oil should be included in the diet which helps in the proper development of baby’s brain.
- Iodine intake- Pregnant women need to consume 220 micrograms of iodine per day to help ensure the proper development of baby’s brain and nervous system. One should consume a variety of dairy products like milk, cheese (especially cottage cheese), yoghurt as well as baked potatoes, cooked navy beans, and should consume only a limited amount of seafood such as cod, salmon, and shrimp.
- Vitamin C rich foods should be consumed every day as they help in better absorption of iron in the body such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, honeydew, papaya, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, tomatoes, and mustard greens. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C for pregnant women is 80-85 mg a day.
- Vitamin A rich foods should be included in the diet because it helps in the proper cell growth of the baby and also helps in the development of eyes, skin, blood, and immunity and resistance to infection. The sources are carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, spinach, water squash, turnip greens, beet greens, apricots, and cantaloupe.
- Pregnant women should drink 6-8 glasses of water every day as it contains fluoride, which helps your growing baby’s teeth develop strong enamel.
Moreover, to ensure the proper development of the foetus and also to reduce the risk associated with pregnancy, pregnant women should keep following things in mind:
- She should avoid consuming alcohol as it has been linked to premature delivery, intellectual disability, birth defects, and low birth weight babies.
- Should limit the consumption of caffeine to no more than 300 mg per day.
- Should avoid taking uncooked seafood and undercooked beef or poultry because it might be contaminated with bacterias.
- Fish which contains high levels of mercury like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish should be avoided as it leads to developmental delays and brain damage in babies.
- Avoid consuming unpasteurized milk as it may contain listeria. It leads to stillbirth, miscarriage, uterine infection and preterm delivery.