Top 10 Power Foods from the Whole Foods website:
The following foods belong at the top of any mom’s priority list because they contain nutrients especially important for pregnant and lactating women—and they also can deliver a powerful nutritional punch to everyone at your dinner table, so now is the time to start incorporating them into your family’s meals for life.
- Yogurt for calcium and probiotics
Calcium needs increase during pregnancy. Consume any less than the recommended amount and your body will meet your baby’s calcium needs by pulling from your own supply. In addition to being high in calcium, yogurt is fermented, so it also provides beneficial probiotic bacteria, which promotes intestinal and immune health. In essence, probiotics help to maintain the natural balance of our “intestinal ecosystems.” Other, non-dairy sources of calcium include dark, leafy greens, sardines with bones, calcium-fortified orange juice, sesame seeds, almonds, dried fruit, corn tortillas, tofu and legumes
- Dark, leafy greens for calcium, fiber, vitamins and folic acid
Kale, collards and other dark, leafy greens are rich with calcium, fiber, vitamins A and C, and also rate high on the antioxidant scale. (Note: Due to their oxalic acid content, which decreases the absorption of minerals, spinach and Swiss chard are not thought to be a good source of calcium or iron.) And these dark, leafy greens optimize calcium absorption because of their phosphorous content. They are also an important source of folic acid, which is recommended in higher amounts for all women in their childbearing years to help prevent neural tube defects in their children. Other sources of folic acid include oranges, beans, asparagus, avocados and berries,
- Eggs for vitamin A, iron and protein
Eggs contain important nutrients, including vitamin A, iron and protein. Protein needs increase during pregnancy, and adequate protein intake often helps to temper sugar cravings. Note that most of the nutrition in eggs is found in the yolk. For extra nutrition, look for eggs enriched with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid important for brain development.
- Fatty fish for omega-3s
Salmon, sardines, black cod, anchovies, herring and trout provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are the primary components of brain tissue and are vital for brain and visual development. Studies have shown that women who eat fish during pregnancy have children with better visual acuity, higher IQ, better language and communication skills, and decreased rates of allergies and asthma. However, pregnant and lactating women should limit their intake to no more than 12 ounces (2 servings) of low-mercury fish per week, and should also avoid larger, long-lived fish with more dark meat (including tuna, shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish). Fish with dangerous amounts of mercury may harm a baby’s developing nervous system.
- Lamb for B12, iron and zinc
Lamb is an excellent source of vitamin B12 and a good source of highly accessible iron and zinc. Zinc is important for growth and development because it is required for cell division, DNA/RNA synthesis and protein synthesis. Adequate zinc levels also ensure optimal bone growth in developing babies and are necessary for immunity. Vegetarian sources of zinc include legumes (especially adzuki, navy beans and split peas), nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and cashews), whole grains (fortified cereal and wheat germ) and fortified soy foods. It is best to eat calcium-rich foods and zinc-rich foods at different times for optimal absorption of each.
- Berries for antioxidants and fiber
These colorful fruits top the charts with their antioxidant content and have been shown to help with brain, eye and vascular health. Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells from free radical damage. Berries also provide fiber, which is beneficial for pregnant women.
- Sweet Potatoes for vitamins A and E
This is one comfort food that has an appealing nutritional profile. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (as colorful beta carotene) and a good source of vitamin E. By eating sweet potatoes with a little fat, you can increase the absorption of these nutrients. Eat the skin for added nutritional benefit.
- Avocados for potassium, folic acid, vitamin C, lutein and “good” fat
Nutrient-dense avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as significant quantities of the antioxidant lutein, which has been shown to be beneficial for eye health.
- Legumes for vegetarian protein, fiber, iron, folate, magnesium and zinc
Legumes (a plant food category that includes certain pods, beans and peas) are a good source of vegetarian protein and are rich in fiber. Many varieties are also an excellent source of iron, folate and magnesium. Legumes (especially adzuki, navy beans and split peas) are also a good alternative source of zinc for vegetarians.
- Nuts for fiber, vitamin E and magnesium
Specific types of nuts have their own nutritional advantages. For example, walnuts have omega-3 fatty acids, and almonds provide calcium. Although nuts are high in fat, they contain primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, and have not been shown to promote weight gain when eaten in moderation (about a small handful five times a week).
One thing you’ll notice about these power foods is that many of them are vibrantly colorful. When faced with unfamiliar choices on a restaurant menu or buffet, an easy way to get a good dose of the recommended nutrients is to decorate your plate with a rainbow. As a general rule, have at least three natural colors on your plate at each meal.