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All About Pregnancy

8 Power Foods for a Healthy Pregnancy

You already know about the do-not-eat list, but what about the foods that will power you through the rest of your pregnancy?

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Building a baby is hard work! Enter these eight foods that fuel your baby’s growth and development and are great for you, too. See how they help during pregnancy and how to serve them up so they pack the biggest nutritional punch.


Spinach

This green leafy vegetable is one of the best sources of folate, says Torey Armul, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It lowers the risk of birth defects in the brain and spine, and one cup of cooked spinach provides 6 mg of iron.

Maximize the benefits: Whether you enjoy raw spinach in a salad or cooked as a side, serve it with foods rich in vitamin C (like bell peppers or berries) to increase iron absorption, says Armul.


Sweet potatoes

Yams are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants known as carotenoids that can boost your immune system, notes Armul. “One sweet potato provides you with an entire day’s worth of vitamin A, which is good for your baby’s eye development,” she says. They’re also high in potassium, which can ease leg cramps.

Maximize the benefits: Your body absorbs carotenoids better when you pair them with a fatty food like nuts, says Armul. Try some chopped walnuts on top of your yam.


Broccoli

An excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, broccoli helps your baby’s bones, teeth, and blood cells grow, says Kristi King, RDN, a senior pediatric dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and a clinical instructor at Baylor College of Medicine. It's also rich in folate, calcium, and immune-boosting antioxidants.

Maximize the benefits: Serve it raw or lightly steamed, since overcooking it can destroy its antioxidant properties. And since this cruciferous veggie also contains carotenoids, pair it with a healthy fat like olive oil or sliced avocado, suggests King.


Fortified cereal

Cereal makes a nutritious on-the-go snack because it contains zinc, B vitamins, and iron, notes Armul.

Maximize the benefits: Adding milk to cereal gives you more protein, calcium, and vitamin D. But wait a couple of hours before drinking something caffeinated. “Coffee and tea can hinder iron absorption,” explains Armul.


Oatmeal

The fiber in oats keeps you feeling fuller longer and steadies blood sugar—a plus for if you’re at risk of developing gestational diabetes. Oats also contain zinc, B1, and chromium and have more protein than refined grains, notes Melissa Majumdar, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition.

Maximize the benefits: Oatmeal can become a complete meal when you add a spoonful or two of protein-rich peanut butter or Greek yogurt as well as fruit to your bowl. 


Eggs

Packed with protein, vitamin A, and all-important choline for fetal growth and brain development, eggs are a near-perfect food. “You’ll get more brain-boosting nutrients if the eggs contain omega-3s,” notes Majumdar.

Maximize the benefits: Research has shown that mixing eggs with vegetables can really boost your body’s ability to take in their antioxidants, explains Armul. Consider slicing a hardboiled egg in salads or adding peppers and spinach to scrambled eggs.


Beans

Turned off by meat? Substitute lentils and legumes instead. “They’re a great source of B vitamins, iron, zinc, choline, and magnesium,” says Majumdar. Magnesium aids fetal and maternal bone health and can help prevent muscle cramps.

Maximize the benefits: Beans are an incomplete protein, but serving them up with grains such as brown rice or quinoa can give you all the protein you and your baby need in one meal, explains Armul.


Yogurt

This dairy food contains magnesium, B vitamins, potassium, and calcium. But it’s the healthy bacteria known as probiotics that turn yogurt into a superfood. Probiotics can help your digestion and may even strengthen your baby’s immune system before birth, says Armul.

Maximize the benefits: Topped with nuts and fruit, protein-rich yogurt can become a complete meal. But don’t overdo it when it comes to dairy. The excess calcium can interfere with iron absorption, Armul explains.