At no other time in your life is your diet more important than when you’re pregnant. Eating a wholesome, well-balanced diet which includes super nutritious pregnancy foods and herbal teas will provide you and your baby with all the right nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy and for baby’s optimal growth and development. Eating this way will also be beneficial for reducing the likelihood of a number of common pregnancy complaints including constipation, anemia, and fatigue. Your diet and health habits while pregnant, and later when breastfeeding, have a direct impact on you and your baby’s health, now and later in life.
Here are some of the top pregnancy teas and super foods women can include in their diets for a healthy pregnancy and for optimal growth and development of their baby.
Importance of water and keeping well hydrated:
Water is vital to good health, but is particularly important during pregnancy as your requirements increase. Expectant mums should make sure they stay well hydrated at all times by drinking at least 2 litres of water a day. You need plenty of water to flush toxins out of your kidneys and prevent urinary tract infections, as well as avoid constipation.
Keeping well hydrated will also support your dramatic increase in blood volume while pregnant. Water is needed for healthy blood production and flow, to carry important nutrients and oxygen to your growing baby. It’s also needed to replenish the amniotic fluid, which surrounds and protects your baby, and women are advised to drink around a cup every hour.
Keeping well hydrated will also help prevent fluid retention and promotes healthier skin. Women with severe morning sickness who are vomiting need to be careful not to become dehydrated. Sipping on water or an electrolyte drink like coconut water or sucking on homemade ice blocks will be beneficial.
Choose a PBA-free stainless steel or glass water bottle (Try our ECO glass Bodhi tea flask) to carry with you during the day.
Because their reproductive organs are still developing, unborn babies, infants and children are especially vulnerable to the effect of BPA. For this reason pregnant women should take care to avoid BPA contaminated products for their health and the health of their baby.
Best herbal teas for pregnancy:
Herbal teas enjoyed hot or iced are not only a wonderful way to stay hydrated during pregnancy they’re a great way to reap the fabulous health benefits herbs have to offer. Some of the best herbal teas for pregnant women include ginger, which is well-known for easing nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness along with supporting immune health (try our Bodhi Organic ZesTEA). Peppermint and chamomile tea can help ease morning sickness and digestive complaints. Chamomile is also a lovely calming herb that alleviates anxiety and helps you sleep (Try our Bodhi Organic SereniTEA).
Raspberry leaf is a widely-used herb in pregnancy, commonly taken in the last trimester. Raspberry leaf helps to strengthen,tone and relax the muscles used for delivery, preparing you for childbirth. Using raspberry leaf in the last stages of pregnancy is thought to help reduce the pain and duration of labour and birth. Another benefit of raspberry leaf is that it is extremely nourishing, a good source of a variety of essential nutrients such as vitamins A, B, C and E, and minerals iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Raspberry leaf can also help ease morning sickness for some women and can be taken after the birth to help promote and enrich breast milk production. (Try Bodhi Organic Mother’s Milk). Recommended dosage: Drink 1 - 2 cups of raspberry leaf tea a day during the second trimester and 3 - 4 cups a day during the third trimester.
If you’re a coffee drinker try to limit your intake to 1 a day and include some caffeine-free herbal teas instead. Green or white teas are good alternatives to coffee, with only low levels of caffeine and high levels of protective antioxidants. (Try Bodhi Organic ViridiTEA or LongeviTEA.) Consuming too much caffeine in pregnancy is not recommended as it could negatively impact you and your growing baby’s health, as it can interfere with iron and calcium absorption. A recent meta-analysis of 14 cohort studies found that miscarriage risk increased to 40% with maternal caffeine intakes of 350mg/day (around 3-4 cups coffee), and up to 72% with more than 700mg/day (around 7-8 cups coffee) of caffeine during pregnancy.
Easing digestive complaints:
Heartburn and indigestion are common in pregnancy. The reason expectant mums are more prone to these digestive complaints is due to the increase in pregnancy hormone progesterone, which relaxes the valve (sphincter) at the top of the stomach. This allows stomach acids to rise up into the oesophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest and throat. Indigestion is associated with having heartburn, bloating and wind (burping and flatulence). Later on in pregnancy your baby will press up under your diaphragm, which can trigger heartburn and indigestion. Try eating smaller meals more often, and don’t eat late at night before bed. Avoid any offending foods like spicy meals, citrus fruits, coffee or fried foods. Sipping on certain herbal teas can offer relief. Chamomile, peppermint, liquorice, and ginger can help prevent heartburn. Slippery elm is also really useful for easing heartburn in pregnancy. Simply add 1 heaped teaspoon to 1⁄4 cup water, or you can add a couple of teaspoons to a hot cup of water and sip it like a tea. Slippery elm coats the oesophagus, soothing it and providing relief from heartburn. Slippery elm is also an excellent source of fibre, which is beneficial if you’re suffering from constipation. Take slippery elm away from any medications or vitamin supplements as it may inhibit their absorption. Dosage 2 - 6g/day.
Super pregnancy foods:
Some of the top super pregnancy foods expectant mums should include in their diet are berries, which are one of the best sources of protective antioxidants and vitamin C to support immune health and baby’s growth. Seaweed is rich in iodine to help support baby’s developing brain.
Women’s immune systems are weakened while pregnant, so garlic and ginger are great additions to the diet to help protect against colds and flu and other infections. Avocadoes are an excellent source of vitamin E and healthy fats, which are essential for supporting your baby’s nervous system, as well as beta-carotene for eye development and good vision.
Broccoli and other brassica veggies like cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and kale are excellent sources of vitamin C, which your baby needs for collagen production. It provides you with lots of beta-carotene for baby’s eye development and healthy eyesight, along with good doses of folic acid and sulphur compounds that is needed for healthy liver detoxification.
Eat wholesome natural foods:
A majority of your diet should be made up of wholesome, unprocessed foods, that are naturally rich in nutrients and fibre. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables with a variety of types and colours. Eat the rainbow. Limit any heavily processed or refined foods that are high in salt, sugars and bad fats, that are low in nutrients. Swap ‘white’ refined grains (white bread, pasta, rice, crackers) and processed sugary breakfast cereals for healthy wholegrain varieties (grainy breads, wholemeal pasta and crackers, brown rice, buckwheat, amaranth, whole oats and natural muesli). Including plenty of fibre-rich wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes in the diet is the best way to help prevent constipation in pregnancy, together with drinking plenty of water. If you are still having issues foods such as dates and prunes which have a natural laxative effect can also be helpful.
Buy organic produce and teas:
All mums-to-be want their babies to have the very best start in life, and one important way they can do this is by eating healthy, clean organic foods that are free from toxins such as pesticides and herbicides, genetically modified ingredients, and other chemical additives and preservatives. Choosing to eat organic produce and drink organic tea is a great way to ensure that you and your baby aren’t ingesting any chemical nasties.
Some of the most important foods that you should buy organic are teas, due to the fact that the tea plant and herbs absorb pesticides readily. Thin skinned fruits like berries, tomatoes, peaches and grapes, and green leafy vegetables, that are more susceptible to higher levels of pesticide residue. Apples and cucumbers with wax coatings and carrots and potatoes, are also known to contain higher levels. Buying organic grass-fed meat, chicken, eggs, soy products and cow’s milk is also recommended.
Wash any non-organic fruits and vegetables well and peel off their skins. Rinse non-organic rice, legumes and grains well and then use new water to cook them in.
Importance of Vitamin B9:
It’s recommended that pregnant women take a good pregnancy multivitamin that contains around 500mcg of activated folic acid or vitamin B9 (folinic acid) daily. Green leafy vegetables and lentils are great sources of folate, which is the natural form of vitamin B9 found in foods. Supplementing with folinic acid in the preconception stage and during pregnancy and eating folate rich foods will help decrease the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
Healthy Fats in Pregnancy:
Pregnant mums and their babies will benefit greatly from including salmon in their diets a couple of times a week. Salmon contains high levels of beneficial omega-3 essential fatty acids including DHA (docosahexaenoicacid), which is vital for baby’s normal brain and eye function and development. If your a vegetarian chia seeds are the richest plant source of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat, which the body uses to make DHA. These beneficial fats also help keep women’s skin soft and supple and less likely to develop stretch marks. Walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables also contain some omega-3 fats. It is recommended that women also supplement with a good quality fish oil supplement, 2g/daily.
Probiotic rich foods:
Boosting your probiotic intake in pregnancy through eating fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and miso, will greatly benefit you and your baby’s health. Eating these nourishing foods regularly will support healthy digestion and immune function and can reduce the risk of thrush. Including more probiotics in the diet will also help promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria in your little one. Babies in the womb have a sterile intestinal tract, however they’re exposed to their mother’s bacteria when they’re born vaginally, which helps set up their own intestinal microbiome.
It’s also recommended that pregnant women take a probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus GG) daily during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester, and while breastfeeding to help lower the risk of their child developing allergies such as eczema.
Introduce protein-rich snacks:
It’s during the second trimester when women should increase their food intake by around 20%, and this should be made up by good quality, protein-rich foods. You could do this by including a couple of healthy protein-rich snacks during the day, such as a handful of raw nuts and seeds, hummus with wholegrain crackers or vegetable sticks, a small tub of yoghurt, a boiled egg, almond butter on toast, or a fruit protein smoothie. Your baby needs a constant supply of protein to support its rapidly growing body. Proteins are the building blocks for your baby’s muscles, organs, skin and all other tissues in their body. Eating protein with meals will also help curb sugar cravings.
Increase your iron:
Iron is a very important mineral for pregnant women as it is needed to make red blood cells. During pregnancy a woman’s blood volume increases by nearly half, which increases her iron requirements significantly. Iron deficiency is a common cause of anemia (low red blood cell count) and is associated with a higher risk of pre-term delivery and subsequent low birth weight. Your baby will be born with a stored supply of iron, which will last it around 6 months. If you are deficient in iron during pregnancy this can affect your baby’s iron stores. Common signs of deficiency include fatigue, dizziness, getting colds and flu and other infections frequently, and pallor (pale colour of the skin). The best way to avoid a deficiency is to eat iron rich foods such as red meat, fish, chicken, green leafy vegetables, seaweed and legumes (lentils). This increased need for iron can not always be met by the diet alone so supplementation in pregnancy is often recommended.
Importance of zinc in pregnancy:
Good zinc levels are also vitally important during pregnancy to sustain a healthy pregnancy and optimal growth of your baby. Zinc is needed for muscle and bone growth, and for healthy immune function and brain formation. Zinc is needed for the proper formation of elastin in connective tissue, which helps prevent stretch marks, perineal tears during the birth and cracked nipples when breastfeeding. Low zinc levels (and high copper levels) after birth can contribute to post natal depression. The best food sources include meat, chicken, fish, dairy foods, eggs (yolks), legumes, wholegrains, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and pecans.
Written by Lisa Guy, naturopath and founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.