A FOOD GUIDE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN
By Sally Kuzemchak
…Unfortunately, all of the advice you hear – from friends, family, and yes, even total strangers – about what is and isn’t safe during pregnancy is enough to confuse anyone. “There are a lot of old wives’ tales out there,” says Elizabeth Ward, RD, of Reading, Massachusetts. So if you’re wondering what’s okay to eat (and whether you have to give your favorite foods the boot for nine months), check out our guide.
FOODS TO AVOID
Why are some foods off-limits when you’re pregnant – but fine if you’re not? First, changes to your immune system now make you more vulnerable to food-borne illnesses. What would’ve meant stomach upset before could mean serious complications now – from dehydration to miscarriage.
So to be safe, avoid the common culprits of food-borne illness:
EGGS: Because raw eggs may be tainted with salmonella, a bacterium that can cause fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, watch out for restaurant-made Caesar salad dressing, homemade eggnog, raw cookie dough, and soft scrambled or sunny-side up eggs – any dish in which the eggs (both yolk and white) are not cooked completely. “If eggs are cooked, the risk is gone,” adds Madeleine Sigman-Grant, PhD, maternal child health and nutrition extension specialist at the University of Nevada.
Stay away from juice (like cider) sold at farm stands; it may not have undergone pasteurization, a processing method that kills bacteria and toxins. Though the majority of milk and juices sold in stores today are pasteurized, there are still some brands on shelves that aren’t, so read labels.
SUSHI: With the exception of California rolls and other cooked items, sushi is not safe when you’re expecting, either, because it may contain illness-inducing parasites.
Other foods are unsafe due to possible contaminants that can harm the fetus:
Some Varieties of Fish: Fish, which boasts omega-3 fatty acids that help baby’s brain development, is a great meal choice right now. But some varieties should be shunned due to high levels of methyl-mercury, a pollutant that can affect baby’s nervous system. These include swordfish, shark, and tilefish – all big species that live longer, accumulating more mercury in their flesh. (You may want to avoid these fish entirely during your childbearing years because your body stores mercury for up to four years, Ward advises.)
In fact, most types of fish contain traces of mercury, so you’ll want to limit your weekly consumption of safer varieties too. According to the newest guidelines from the FDA, you can enjoy up to 12 ounces a week (roughly two meals) of lower-mercury fish such as salmon, catfish, pollack, shrimp, and canned light tuna. Of those 12 ounces, only 6 should come from canned “white” albacore tuna, which tends to contain more mercury than light tuna. If you’re eating fish caught in local waters, check online with your state’s department of health for advisories (if you can’t find any information, limit yourself to 6 ounces).
In our 14th issue we discoursed extensively on the dietary need of an expectant mother, in this issue we bring to you the concluding part of this article. read and digest to the fullest.
Some women unfortunately interpret this as gorging on as much food as they can stomach. While pregnant women are expected to gain a certain amount of weight during pregnancy, it can be dangerous to gain too much weight from eating too much food.
Eating for two does not mean increasing one’s food intake, but refers to improving the quality of one’s diet. What pregnant women must keep in mind is that the baby is not as big as a full grown adult, so his/her dietary consumption is greatly different.
Pregnancy is governed by several complex processes that require women to increase their body’s supply of vitamins and minerals in order to meet the demands of an expanding blood supply, the growth of maternal tissues, a developing fetus, loss of maternal tissues at birth and preparation for lactation.
Nutrient deficiency may lead to problems during pregnancy, and these can generally be averted or helped if the mother follows a sensible diet. Among these health issues are anemia, fluctuating blood pressure, preeclampsia, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and diabetes in pregnancy.
During pregnancy the basic principles of healthy eating remain the same – plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and lean sources of protein.
This is aided by the fact that during pregnancy, your body becomes more efficient at absorbing nutrients in the digestive system. Instead, the body doesn’t excrete nutrients to build up stores of vitamins and minerals. However, certain nutrients must be emphasized in the diet. These nutrients, such as folate (folic acid), calcium, vitamin D, iron, protein and essential fatty acids (EFAs), are essential for the baby’s growth and development.
Women need more folate, a B vitamin, during pregnancy to support their expanding blood volume and the growth of maternal and fetal tissues, and to decrease the risk to the fetus of neural tube defects (NTDs). NTDs are serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. Lack of folate also may increase the risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight and poor fetal growth. Among the best sources of folate are leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and dried beans and peas, while the synthetic form of folate found in supplements and fortified foods (such as cereals) is known as folic acid.
Pregnant and lactating women need calcium and vitamin D to maintain the integrity of their bones, while providing for the skeletal development of the fetus and the production of breast milk. Vitamin D increases intestinal absorption of calcium and is essential for the body to use calcium efficiently. Calcium helps the circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally. If there’s not enough calcium in the pregnant woman’s diet, the calcium the baby needs will be taken from the mother’s bones. The best sources of calcium and vitamin D are dairy products.
Additional iron is needed during pregnancy to increase the maternal red blood cell mass and to supply the growing fetus and placenta. The body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. During pregnancy the need for iron doubles, because the blood volume expands to accommodate changes in a woman’s body and the baby must make his or her entire blood supply. Lack of iron in the blood may result not only in fatigue and increased susceptibility to infections, but may also increase the risk of pre-term delivery and low birth weight. Iron can be found in abundantly in lean red meat, poultry and fish.
Protein is crucial for your baby’s growth, especially during the second and third trimesters. Getting enough protein is important for both mother and baby to build muscle and other tissues, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and low- or non-fat dairy products.
It is also important that pregnant women consume adequate amounts of essential fatty acids (EFAs) in their daily eating patterns for proper fetal neural and visual development.
Women are also encouraged by their doctors to keep track of what they are eating in a diary, to make sure that their diet encompasses all the required nutrients. Having a sensible diet coupled with mild exercise will help ensure that both mother and baby are healthy and happy.
Source: Women’s Health Issues