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Top 10 Foods To Eat During Pregnancy For An Intelligent Baby

By Anagha

Intelligence is definitely one of the prime skills that we as humans need. It is also the skill that will determine our prospective quality of life, right from interaction and communication to survival. And every parent wants their children to be intelligent, both emotionally and otherwise. In wanting so, they leave no stone unturned to get their children all possible sources to build their brain capacity - books, puzzles, toys and whatnot. But is intelligence really something that can be cultivated?

Indeed, a part of it can be cultivated or improved by training the brain regularly along with consuming healthy foods rich in nutrients important for proper brain function. Yet the majority of a person's intelligence is usually attributed to their genes and biological inheritance. However, did you know that your baby's intelligence is impacted by the foods you eat during your gestational period? Your baby's brain begins to develop in the first trimester itself and it is imperative that you start eating healthy right from the beginning of your pregnancy.

Want to know what are some foods which can help improve your baby's brain development and help you deliver an intelligent baby? We have compiled a list of 10 different foods that you must consume for that!

1. Spinach And Other Green Leafy Vegetables

The first on the list is spinach along with other green leafy vegetables. Haven't we all heard of the benefits of spinach for our overall health? Well, during pregnancy, green and leafy vegetables, especially spinach, could give you more benefits. First, let's take a look at the nutritional value of spinach. It contains the vitamin folic acid or folate, and iron, which are important for the baby's development. 100 grams of spinach contain 194 micrograms of folate and 2.71 mg iron. Apart from that, it contains 2.86 grams of proteins, 2.2 grams of dietary fibre, other vitamins (A, B6, B12, C, D, E, K), minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, zinc), etc.[1]

But why does your baby need folic acid and iron? Folic acid is required for DNA replication, vitamin metabolism, and for the proper development of the neural tube, along with multiple other benefits for the mother and baby. It is this neural tube which goes on to develop into the brain and to do so, it requires folate. A deficiency of folate or folic acid during pregnancy has been scientifically proven to be linked to birth defects in the baby.[2] Iron is required for the development of foetal tissues, the growth of red blood cells, carrying oxygen to the baby's brain and a horde of other important functions.[3]

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Being such important nutrients, your doctor will prescribe your iron and folate supplements. Yet, consuming green leafy vegetables like spinaches will also help increase your iron and folate intake naturally. However, before ingesting or cooking the leaves, ensure that you wash your vegetables well and get rid of any harmful chemicals present on them.

2. Fruits

Fresh fruits contain essential vitamins and minerals in abundance and what's more, they're tasty and can also help you with the cravings and sweet tooth that kicks in during pregnancy! Some healthy fruits include oranges, blueberries, pomegranates, papaya, mangoes, guava, banana, grapes and apples. But among all these, blueberries are considered to be the best. This is because they are rich in antioxidants.[4]

But, why do you need antioxidants? Our body needs to strike a balance between the amount of antioxidants and free radicals within it. An increase in free radicals adversely affects the body and its functions, causing oxidative stress. Hence, one of the many functions of antioxidants is to counter free radicals.

Moreover, excess free radicals are associated with brain damage and hampered brain development in newborns and foetuses.[5] [6] Consuming blueberries will help you get a horde of antioxidants. If blueberries aren't accessible, you can try any of the fruits mentioned above or most berries. However, don't be in a hurry to get your dose of antioxidants. Intake small portions.

3. Eggs And Cheese

Eggs are not only rich in proteins, but they are also full of essential vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin D. They also contain an amino acid called as choline.[7] [8] Cheese is yet another source of vitamin D which is both tasty and healthy. Now, both vitamin D, as well as choline, have been scientifically proven to be linked to brain development in the foetal stage and a deficiency in either one could tamper with the brain health of the baby, causing defects and/or poor performance later in life.[9] [10]

You can also get your fair share of vitamin D from fruits or sunlight, although basking in too much of the sun would not be a good idea while you're pregnant.

4. Fish And Seafood

You must have heard about iodine and its role in maintaining a healthy brain function. You must also have heard of omega 3 fatty acids being passively mentioned by someone. But did you know that the two are very important in the development of your baby's emotional and intelligence quotient? Well, fish, although not all of them, contain the two nutrients in them. A 2013 study found out that proper iodine supplementation during pregnancy could, in fact, wipe out mental impaired function to a large extent.[11] Another 2010 study found out the important role of omega 3 fatty acids in foetal brain development.[12]

Fatty fishes like salmon and tuna contain both the nutrients and can be consumed in moderation. However, while consuming fish, it is always best to ask your doctor first, as some fish may contain mercury and certain harmful contents. Seek your doctor's advice before consuming fish during pregnancy.

5. Yoghurt

Yet another dairy product rich in proteins is Yoghurt. Proteins are needed in abundance by the womb in order to develop the foetus's nerve cells as well as the entire body. Therefore, you can consume as much protein as you like without going over the top.

Although there are numerous food items rich in proteins, yoghurt has the added benefit that it is probiotic, meaning it stimulates the growth of good bacteria that the body needs[13]. So if you're looking forward to delivering a smart and intelligent baby, you'd rather want to start consuming healthy yogurt, especially Greek yoghurt, every day.

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6. Almonds

Almonds have traditionally been known as brain foods. They've been increasingly marketed based on that quality of theirs and all for good reason. Being healthy, tasty and beneficial, there is no single way you need to intake them. Did you know that 100 grams of almond contain 579 kilocalories, 21 grams of proteins, 12.5 grams of dietary fibre, 44 micrograms of folate and 3.71 mg of iron along with multiple other essential vitamins and minerals[14] You can have a fistful of almonds raw every day as it will help you deliver a smart and brainy baby!

7. Walnuts

Dried fruits and nuts have, over all these years, been in almost every list concerning omega 3 fatty acids. And walnuts are no exception to it. Just like almonds, walnuts are also a rich source of proteins, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, energy, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids required for your foetus's stable and rapid brain development.[15] Moreover, they contain 0 milligrams of cholesterol and have been scientifically proven to improve blood lipid profile.[16] So both the mother and the child benefit from this wonder nut.

8. Pumpkin Seeds

You must be wondering why we're talking about pumpkin seeds and not pumpkin as a whole. Actually, including pumpkin seeds in your pregnancy diet can be an effective way of adding a whole lot of nutrients to yours as well your baby's body. They have more or less the same constitution of proteins, fibre, vitamins and minerals as in the case of almonds and walnuts, and they also contain antioxidants which regulate free radical activity.[17]

9. Beans And Lentils

If you're more of a legume-person and prefer to eat a lot of legumes during pregnancy, be sure to include beans and lentils as they contain all or most of the vitamins and minerals mentioned in this article. In comparison to lentils, beans definitely have an edge. However, you can choose either of them and include them plentiful in your diet in order to give birth to an intelligent baby.[18] [19]

10. Milk

The benefits of drinking milk cannot be emphasised enough. That's why, even after birth, during the crucial developmental ages, parents provide their kids' milk. Although 89 per cent of milk is basically its water content, the remaining 11 per cent is packed with nutrients. It contains 3.37 grams of proteins, 125 mg calcium, and 150 grams of potassium along with numerous other nutrients which are sure to nurture the growing baby and its demands of a developing brain.[20] Drinking milk during gestation will significantly increase your chances of delivering a whizz-kid!

So, these were the 10 food items that will help develop your unborn child's brain development in the womb. But consuming these foods alone is not going to help. These will work only if you maintain a healthy lifestyle yourself. Eat healthy food items and ingest a lot of healthy fluids. Work out and exercise to stay fit. Not only does exercising help with delivering the baby, but it also helps with developing the baby's brain.

It has been scientifically proven through a 2012 study that maternal exercise improves cognitive function of the offspring.[21] Avoid unhealthy things like alcohol, junk food, etc. You can also talk or read stories to the baby bump when you're progressing further into your pregnancy. Also, whatever happens, stress less for a happy and fruitful pregnancy!

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View Article References
  1. [1] Spinach, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
  2. [2] Greenberg, J. A., Bell, S. J., Guan, Y., & Yu, Y. H. (2011). Folic Acid supplementation and pregnancy: more than just neural tube defect prevention. Reviews in obstetrics & gynecology, 4(2), 52-59.
  3. [3] Brannon, P. M., & Taylor, C. L. (2017). Iron Supplementation during Pregnancy and Infancy: Uncertainties and Implications for Research and Policy. Nutrients, 9(12), 1327
  4. [4] Olas B. (2018). Berry Phenolic Antioxidants - Implications for Human Health?. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 78.
  5. [5] Buonocore G Perrone S, Bracci R, (2001), Free radicals and brain damage in the newborn, Biology Of neonate, 79(3-4), 180-186.
  6. [6] Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy reviews, 4(8), 118-26.
  7. [7] Eggs, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
  8. [8] Wallace, T. C., & Fulgoni, V. L. (2017). Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States. Nutrients, 9(8), 839
  9. [9] Blusztajn, J. K., & Mellott, T. J. (2013). Neuroprotective actions of perinatal choline nutrition. Clinical chemistry and laboratory medicine, 51(3), 591-599.
  10. [10] Eyles D , Burne T, McGrath J. ( 2011 ), Vitamin D in fetal brain development, seminars in cell and developmental biology, 22(6), 629-636
  11. [11] Puig-Domingo M, Vila L. ( 2013), The implications of iodine and its supplementation during pregnancy in fetal brain development, current clinical pharmacology, 8(2), 97-109.
  12. [12] Coletta, J. M., Bell, S. J., & Roman, A. S. (2010). Omega-3 Fatty acids and pregnancy. Reviews in obstetrics & gynecology, 3(4), 163-171.
  13. [13] Yoghurt, USDA Branded Food Products Database, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
  14. [14] Almonds, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
  15. [15] Walnuts, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
  16. [16] Guasch-Ferré M, Li J , Hu FB, Salas-Salvadó J, Tobias DK, 2018, Effects of walnut consumption on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors: an updated meta-analysis and systematic review of controlled trials. The American Journal of clinical nutrition, 108(1), 174-187
  17. [17] Pumpkin and squash seeds, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
  18. [18] Beans, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
  19. [19] Lentils, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
  20. [20] Milk, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
  21. [21] Robinson, A. M., & Bucci, D. J. (2012). Maternal Exercise and Cognitive Functions of the Offspring. Cognitive sciences, 7(2), 187-205.
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