Hey there! Has the popular ‘’pregnancy glow’’ started adorning your cheeks yet? Well, it will, very soon! During this time, you will start observing that your breasts are tender than earlier and you might have a headache, nausea, vomiting or heartburn too.
These symptoms are different with different women. Some symptoms may not appear at all and some may be very severe. In any case, it is quintessential to maintain a healthy diet to ensure a healthy you and a healthy baby.
Prior to getting pregnant, folate or folic acid seems like an unknown vitamin for most women. But when they get pregnant, it is one of the first vitamins that gets introduced into their pregnancy diet.
What is folate or folic acid and why it’s important?
You must be wondering why is it very important for pregnant women to have foods that are rich in folate. Folate or folic acid is vitamin B9. It is very important during the early stages of pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. This vitamin helps in the development of organs during the first few weeks of the baby's development inside the womb. Folate aids in the proper development of the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Birth defects like Spina-Bifida, also known as neural tube birth defects, are caused by underdeveloped brain and spinal cord and are primarily attributed to lack of folate.
For the expectant women, proper intake of folate reduces the risk of miscarriages, which is why you must be advised to take folate supplements while trying for pregnancy. Hence, this vitamin must be taken during the early stages of pregnancy when the development of the baby is crucial.
Foods and fruits rich in folate or folic acid
Apart from getting folate and folic acid from supplements that doctors can prescribe, there are many folate-rich foods that you can eat to ensure that you have enough intake of folate from your diet. The main sources of folate for any pregnant woman are vegetables, specifically green leafy vegetables, beans, root crops, seeds, and fruits.
Eggs and some juices like orange juice and tomato juice also contain folate. There are also many folate-fortified foods that you can eat to supplement your folate intake. Beans and seeds that are rich in folate or folic acid include black-eyed peas, kidney beans, great northern beans, lima beans, sunflower seeds, baked beans, green peas, and even peanuts. For vegetables and root crops, go for asparagus, broccoli, spinach, okra, iceberg lettuce, brussels sprouts, corn, cabbage, and potato.
Fruits that have high folate content are avocados and bananas. For more nourishment, choose vegetables and fresh fruits as much as possible rather than those canned and processed ones in which some nutrients are already lost or just contain empty calories in the form of sugar.
Your ideal folate-rich pregnancy diet
Here is a detailed list of folate-rich foods to be included in your diet.
1. Beans and lentils
Beans of all kind provide plenty of folic acids to support your baby’s development. Pinto beans, black-eyed peas, green peas, kidney beans, lentils all are rich in folic acid and a bowl of any type of these beans provides most of your daily folate requirements.
2. Dark leafy greens
The healthiest food on the planet is dark green leafy vegetables. A bowl of spinach, turnip greens, lettuce, etc. will immediately boost your folic acid levels.
One of the best detox food, broccoli is also rich in folic acid that you have in your first trimester. Along with folate, it has major antioxidants power to help prevent certain cancers and keeps digestion on track.
4. Nuts and seeds
Seeds like pumpkin, sesame, flax seeds, all provide a healthy dose of folic acid along with essential nutrients like vitamin A, E, omega 3 fatty acids. Peanuts are also a good source of folic acid. You can add a handful of seeds to your smoothies, cereal or have them roasted.
5. Citrus fruits/oranges
Along with the vitamin C, citrus fruits ranked the highest in folic acid. Oranges are an especially rich source of folic acid. 6.Cauliflower. You can combine cauliflower with other folic acid rich foods to enhance the nutrients value in your meal.
7. Cereal fortified with folate
Cereals are a great way to include folic acid in your diet. Most of the ready to eat cereals are fortified with folic acid.
As you are advised to include certain food items in your diet to maintain yours and fetus health, there are certain foods, which you should avoid too.
Foods to avoid during the first trimester
Ideally, you should be avoiding these foods during the course of your first trimester:
1. Supplements containing vitamin A
Do not take high-dosage of multivitamins or supplements that contain vitamin A.
Grandma’s Tip: While I do know you would have seen this in many Indian Saas-Bahu daily soaps, but I will repeat it again since I won’t be charged any GST for it: DON’T eat Raw Papaya, cabbage, eggplant, pineapple, or black grapes during your pregnancy! These are contractions-inducing foods and may cause cramps resulting in a miscarriage! So, bid bye-bye to these foods for some months, okay?
Seafood contains high amounts of mercury and methyl, which can severely damage the fetal brain development.
3. Unpasteurized milk
Unpasteurized milk has no nutritional value. Raw milk and its products account for a higher proportion of food-borne diseases. So, it’s better to avoid it.
5. Raw or undercooked eggs
You must not consume raw or undercooked eggs as they can lead to food poisoning due to the presence of harmful salmonella bacteria. It can weaken your immune system, which is not good for a healthy fetal development.
6. Alcohol, soda, caffeine
You should limit your intake of caffeine. Alcohol should be completely avoided during pregnancy.
7. Junk food
Your cravings might be on the higher side but junk food should be avoided as they can increase the risk of infections, stomach problem, food poisoning, and cause excess weight gain.
Be selective and cautious about what you eat during pregnancy. Your food defines yours as well as your child’s health. And most importantly, stay happy!