By Ali Macy, Director of Marketing & WAG Coach
Working Against Gravity
Nutrition is always important for facilitating optimal health. But, when you’re 3D printing a tiny human, the foods you put in your body are even more impactful. Pregnancy superfoods help provide essential vitamins and minerals for the mother and the developing baby, directly impacting maternal health, pregnancy outcomes, and the child’s health after birth.
Today, we’re digging into why nutrition is important during pregnancy, the definition of a “pregnancy superfood,” examples of these superfoods, and tips to get more into your daily diet.
Why is Nutrition Important During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy comes with increased nutritional needs—protein, iron, folate, choline, Vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, and iodine, to name a few (or a lot) . These nutrients play key roles in the development of a baby’s essential organ systems and your body’s daily needs.
For example, glycine—an amino acid present in protein sources like bone broth, slow-cooked pork, bone-in poultry, and sausage—is needed in such high amounts during pregnancy that “the demand… during pregnancy may already exceed the capacity for its synthesis making it conditionally indispensable” . Glycine plays an integral role in synthesizing fetal DNA and developing bones, connective tissues, organs, and skin. Glycine also supports your growing uterus, breasts, and stretching skin .
Need another? Choline—a nutrient needed for fetal brain development, placental function, and the prevention of neural tube defects—has a recommended daily intake of 450mg during pregnancy . However, studies have shown that “choline intakes that exceed dietary recommendations during pregnancy may improve maternal and child health outcomes” and suggest that amounts as high as 930mg/day have beneficial effects on both fetus and mother .
One more? Iodine is a trace mineral that increases by 50% during pregnancy. Iodine plays a key role in thyroid function in the mother and fetus, along with supporting healthy brain development .
What are Pregnancy Superfoods?
So, what is a pregnancy “superfood” anyway? These foods are unique in that they are high in nutrients needed in larger quantities during pregnancy. Although there are many superfoods out there, today we’re covering ten to add to your diet and a few tips on including them in your meal plan.
As you read through the suggestions below, keep in mind that quality matters. You’ve likely heard words like “wild-caught,” “free-range,” “grass-fed,” and “organic” thrown around in conjunction with food choices. Although these options can be pricer, pregnancy is a good time to spring for naturally raised and produced meat, dairy, and produce choices.
Top 10 Pregnancy Superfoods to Include in Your Diet
1. Eggs with Yolk: Protein, choline, DHA, folate, B vitamins, Vitamin A, and antioxidants for brain development, placental function, other general growth needs, and preventing neural tube defects .
2. Liver: Choline, iron, folate, vitamin B12, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K for preventing neural tube defects and maternal anemia, and decreasing chances of miscarriage, preeclampsia, hypothyroidism, and preterm birth [6,7].
3. Leafy Greens: Folate, antioxidants, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, fiber, iron, and Vitamin K1 for blood clotting, collagen production, bone health, gut health, and more.
4. Avocado: Omega-3 fats and folate for brain and tissue development .
5. Salmon: Protein, omega-3 fat, DHA, Vitamin D, iodine, zinc, and selenium for tissue development, brain health, and proper development of fine motor, social, and communication skills .
6. Full-fat Greek Yogurt: Protein, calcium, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), probiotics, iodine, and B vitamins for bone health, tissue formation, and blood sugar regulation .
7. Sweet Potatoes: Fiber and beta-carotene for gut health, vision development, and nervous system health .
8. Berries: Vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, potassium, folate for bone development, iron absorption, gut health, brain development, and more.
9. Bone-in Meat and Bone Broth: Protein, glycine, B-vitamins, and fat-soluble vitamins for baby’s bone, connective tissue, organ, and skin development .
10. Legumes: Protein, iron, and folate—especially for vegan or vegetarian diets .
Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
Now that we’ve covered the foods to focus on during pregnancy, you may be wondering if there are any specific foods to avoid. This article digs into common misconceptions regarding food safety during pregnancy, the foods you really need to look out for, and other important considerations.
Including Pregnancy Superfoods in Your Meal Plan
“Hey, add these foods to your routine!” is a great start… but it is easier said than done; we get it. Here are a few meal ideas that incorporate the pregnancy superfoods mentioned above (plus other healthy foods!).
WAG’s Ultimate Meal Prep Guide will help you put the meal suggestions below into practice.
Healthy Pregnancy Breakfast Ideas
- Whole grain toast with smashed avocado, tomato, arugula, and an over-easy or medium egg on top. (Curious about runny egg yolks? We cover food safety during pregnancy here!)
- Full-fat Greek yogurt with berries and granola
- Egg hash with sweet potatoes, kale, and pulled pork
- Smoothie with berries, yogurt, avocado, nut butter, and spinach or kale
Healthy Pregnancy Lunch and Dinner Ideas
- Salad greens with pumpkin or sunflower seeds, roasted sweet potato, quinoa, blueberries or strawberries, and salmon on top
- Burgers made with a mixture of ground beef and liver. Sweet potato and salad on the side
- Salmon with brown rice and broccoli
- Crockpot pulled pork with wilted Swiss chard and sweet potato
For more meal inspiration and even more pregnancy superfood inspiration, check out Lily Nichols’ Real Food for Pregnancy.
Staying Healthy and Nourished Throughout Your Pregnancy Journey
Health goals shift during pregnancy—if you’ve been focusing on body composition change or optimizing athletic performance, objectives need to shift to supporting your body and that of your growing little one. Focusing on these pregnancy superfoods will ensure you get the necessary nutrients you need.
If training through your pregnancy is one of your goals, check out The MINT Prjct programs! The MINT Prjct’s pregnancy and postpartum fitness programs are designed by experts to keep your core and pelvic floor health a top priority, so you move safely and efficiently during and after your pregnancy. You can even get a discount as a reader of this blog from Working Against Gravity by using code WAGPREGNANCY20 on the pregnancy program or code WAGPP20 on the postpartum program!
Consult with a Pregnancy Nutrition Coach
… and your OBGYN or other medical professional.
Although some questions regarding nutrient intake during pregnancy need to be handled by a medical professional (like specific supplementation recommendations, prescriptions, and Medical Nutrition Therapy), most pregnant individuals need guidance, food suggestions and meal inspiration, accountability, and a reminder that nutrition during pregnancy is fluid and it is okay to take it one day at a time.
An experienced pregnancy nutrition coach can help you determine what to eat and when to support your body and your growing little one. Working Against Gravity coaches will help you set nutrition goals based on your trimester, food preferences, training goals, and whatever pregnancy symptoms (like nausea, heartburn, and hunger shifts) come your way.
**Get $50 off your first month of Nutrition Coaching with Working Against Gravity by using code MINT at checkout!
This article includes affiliate links. The MINT Prjct only recommends products and resources we’ve tried and loved!
- Nichols, L. (2018). Real food for pregnancy. (n.p): Lily Nichols.
- Rees, W. D., Wilson, F. A., & Maloney, C. A. (2006). Sulfur amino acid metabolism in pregnancy: the impact of methionine in the maternal diet. The Journal of Nutrition 136(6), 1701S-1705S. doi: 10.1093/jn/136.6.1701S
- Korsmo, W.., Jiang, X., & Caudill, A. (2019). Choline: Exploring the growing science on its benefits for moms and babies. Nutrients, 11(8), 1823. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6722688/
- Davenport, C., Yan, J., Taesuwan, S., Shields, K., West, A., Jiang, X… Caudill, M. (2015) Choline intakes exceeding recommendations during human lactation improve breast milk choline content by increasing PEMT pathways metabolites. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 26(9), 903-911.
- Zimmerman, M. B. (2012). The effects of iodine deficiency in pregnancy and infancy. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 26(1), 108-117. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3016.2012.01275.x.
- Cohen, J. T., Bellinger, D. C., Connor, W. E., Shaywitz, B. A. (2005). A quantitative analysis of prenatal intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cognitive development. Am J Prev Med. 29(4), 366-74. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2005.06.008.
- Molloy, A. M., Kirk, P. N., Brody, L. C., Scott, J. M., & Mills, J. L. (2008). Effects of folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies during pregnancy on fetal, infant, and child development. Food Nutr Bull, 29(2), S101-111. doi: 10.1177/15648265080292S114.
- Hibbeln, R., Davis, M., Steer, C., Emmett, P., Rogers, I., Williams, C., & Golding, J. (2007). Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood (ALSPAC study): an observational cohort study. Lancet, 369(9561), 578-586. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)60277-3.
- Jin Choi, H., Yu, J., Choi, H. An, J., Kim, S., Park, K… Shin, C. (2011). Vitamin K2 supplementation improves insulin sensitivity via osteocalcin metabolism: A placebo-controlled trial. Diabetes Care, 34(9), 147.doi: 10.2337/dc11-0551
- Zielinska, M., Wesolowska, A., Pawlus, B., & Hamulka, J. (2017). Health effects of carotenoids during pregnancy and lactation. Nutrients, 9(8), 838. doi: 10.3390/nu9080838