Birth defects are some of the terrifying health conditions plaguing our modern society. The cause of nearly 50% of congenital disorders remains unknown to medical experts. While this data might be extremely worrisome to an expectant mom, the silver lining is visible if the stats are looked at differently—causes of nearly half of all birth defects are known and can be prevented.
What you eat and drink during your pregnancy is the main source of nourishment for your baby. Hence, it is imperative for a mom-to-be to choose the right kind of foods that supply the essential nutrients for the baby's growth and development. It is a well researched and medically recognized fact that proper nutrition prior to conception and during pregnancy can prevent birth defects.
Birth defects are structural or functional abnormalities that are present at birth and cause physical or mental disabilities in the child. They are also one of the leading causes of death in children younger than one year. One of the most common instigators of congenital disorders is poor prenatal nutrition; a number of birth defects have been linked to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. There is no time more nutritionally demanding in a woman's life than her pregnancy and breastfeeding stages when the intake of nutrients is needed, not only to keep her body running, but also to nourish the rapidly growing baby. Proper nutrition makes a big difference—it prevents birth defects and builds a stronger brain and skeleton in the baby, setting it up for healthier weight later in life.
It is important to understand that healthy nutrition cannot be limited to a handful of nutrients. If you're on a diet of processed foods and are looking to make up by popping a multivitamin pill or eating a salad once in a while, you're missing the point completely and depriving yourself of the benefits of eating wholesome foods daily. Your diet during your pregnancy will need to increase your intake of vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein while minimizing processed foods. This article takes a look at some of the foods that offer valuable nutrients to moms and their developing babies and can help prevent birth defects.
Raspberries, blueberries or blackberries—pick your favorite and add them to your snacks, pancakes or on top of your cereal. They are packed with fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and folate, and will make a delicious addition to your meals.
14 Low-Fat Yogurt
Make a habit of including one cup of low-fat yogurt, preferably non-flavored, in your daily diet. You can add fruits to it or make it crunchy with whole grain cereal or granola. This is likely to give you more calcium than milk and is also high in protein.
13 Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an inexpensive way to enrich your diet with vitamin C, fiber, and folate. They are quite versatile, too. You can cook some extra ones and save them to snack on later.
Try replacing mayonnaise with avocado on your whole grain rolls for a delicious way to get your vitamin intake. They are loaded in vitamin B6, which helps ease morning sickness while developing the baby's tissues and brain. They're high in fat, though, and very filling, so eat them moderately unless you've been advised by your doctor to gain weight.
While the nutritionists might stress a lot on the importance of green vegetables during pregnancy, your stomach might not like the idea. There's good news for you if your stomach flips at the thought of veggies. Mangos contain a high amount of vitamin A and C, and can be a delicious addition to your salads, sweet and savory dishes. You can also blend them into soups and smoothies, or simply enjoy them as they are.
10 Dark, Leafy Greens
The synthetic form of folate, that helps prevent neural tube defects as well as abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord, is known as folic acid. Adding folic acid to your diet during pregnancy can decrease the risk of preterm delivery to a large extent. Spinach, chard, kale and other cooked greens are high in folic acid apart from containing vitamin A and calcium. They are easy to digest and contain the highest concentration of nutrients per serving. You can include them in your diet in a number of ways. You could toss your favorite leafy green into pasta or mix them in your soup. You could also color up your scrambled eggs by adding some green to it.
9 Lentils and Beans
Protein is a "builder nutrient" and is needed more during pregnancy as compared to other days. It helps build the important baby organs like the heart and brain. It is advisable to go for lean sources of protein during pregnancy so you must consider the type of meat you're including in your diet. You can opt for protein sources like lentils, beans, nuts, and tofu if your doctor advises you to swap the meat servings with other sources. Dried beans, peas, nuts, and lentils are natural sources of folic acid, and add the required fiber and protein to your diet.
8 Cereal and Whole Grains
Incorporating cereals and bread in your diet is a great way to enrich your body with folic acid. Go for the whole grain or multi-grain varieties of bread to get fiber and other nutrients from each serving. Oatmeal and millet make very good hot breakfasts. You can also try whole grain noodles or pasta instead of those made with refined wheat. As much as possible, replace the refined flour in your baked goods with whole wheat or rye flour. You can also add cooked barley and quinoa to your soups and waffle butter or simply use them for patties. If you have leftover whole grains, you can add chopped vegetables and a light dressing to make a delicious side salad.
7 Alcohol-Free Beverages
There is no safe quantity of alcohol during pregnancy. Not even a single drink is advisable when you're an expecting mom. You need to combine your healthy foods with beverages that hydrate you well. There is nothing like plain water for your dehydration issues. Drink lots of water and choose alcohol-free beverages if you do need to have something else while you're out. Make sure to avoid alcohol completely.
6 Oily Fish, Eggs, and Soy Products
Your intake of vitamin D during your pregnancy is likely to provide your baby with the vitamin for the initial months of its life. Not having enough vitamin D can cause a disease like rickets, which affects bone development in children. Your natural supply of vitamin D can be obtained through foods like oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon. It is also found in eggs, soy products, and some breakfast cereals. It is quite possible that the vitamin D from food is not sufficient. You need additional supplements of 10 micrograms per day while you're pregnant, also when you breastfeed. Vitamin D is also produced in the body when it is exposed to sunlight. Early mornings when the sun is low is usually best in order to avoid overexposure and sunburn. This would also depend on your body and skin type. You don't need to sunbathe for this, just a few minutes outside, like taking a five-minute stroll should be sufficient. You can have a word with your doctor for your vitamin D supply and go for what suits you best.
5 Dried Fruits and Nuts
You should be careful not to fall short of iron in your diet as this can cause you to get very tired and in extreme cases, lead to anemia. Green leafy vegetables, lean meat, peanuts, and dried fruits contain high amounts of iron. Unless you're allergic to peanut butter, it can be a delicious part of your diet as you can use it as a spread or a dip in a number of food dishes. If you're in the habit of eating cereal for breakfast, look for one that has iron content in it. If the iron level in your blood is relatively low, you must also check with your doctor about taking iron supplements.
4 Citrus Fruits
Vitamin C is an essential part of your diet during pregnancy. It is needed to keep your cells healthy, and both you and your baby need the vitamin daily. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen, which is a structural protein that forms the cartilage, bones, tendons and skin. Medical research has shown that deficiency of vitamin C in newborns can obstruct their mental development. Vitamin C also helps the body to absorb iron, and food that is rich in this vitamin should be a part of every meal you take. To gain all the vitamin C you need, focus on having a balanced diet that contains citrus fruits, and vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, and tomatoes.
3 Dairy Products
Calcium is vital for the appropriate development of your baby's bones and teeth. It ensures that the circulatory, nervous, and muscular systems in your body and that of your baby's function normally. Dairy products and fish with edible bones are rich in calcium. Dried fruits like figs and apricots, tofu, and green leafy vegetables like broccoli and watercress are also great sources of calcium. Most healthy expectant moms need at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day.
2 Pumpkin Seeds
Magnesium is one of those nutrients that are less spoken about. Magnesium and calcium are actually partners and need to be available in the body in the right proportions for it to function normally. Magnesium deficiencies can decrease a woman's chance of conceiving. If you're already pregnant and low on magnesium, you face the risk of having a miscarriage or go into premature labor. Preeclampsia is also associated with a magnesium deficiency and can be life threatening. You can boost your magnesium levels by incorporating pumpkin seeds, halibut, almonds, and spinach in your diet.
Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, is essential for the production of energy in your body. This vitamin promotes growth, healthy skin, and good vision. The intake of this vitamin is important for the development of your baby's bones, muscles, and nerves. Unfortunately, riboflavin cannot be stored by your body as it is a water-soluble vitamin. This means you need to get enough of this vitamin on a daily basis. Deficiency of vitamin B2 can cause preeclampsia and congenital heart diseases. It can also cause a cleft lip or a cleft palate in children. Turkey is a great source of riboflavin. To include riboflavin in your diet, it is necessary to eat plenty of food like spinach, asparagus, turkey, almonds, eggs, milk and other dairy products. Turkey is a great low-fat meat and it tastes great!