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7 Healthy Foods To Eat During The First Trimester Of Pregnancy

Being pregnant is an important and life-changing part in every woman's life that opens the doors of joy, happiness and responsibilities. The first trimester is very crucial for pregnant women as there's a higher risk of miscarriage and other complications. Therefore, medical experts suggest that women should take special care of themselves during this time as it is important for both the mother's and the child's health.

Foods play an important role during the pregnancy period. The body of a woman during pregnancy requires extra nutrients for the growth and development of the foetus, and lack of it may affect in several ways. The complications which may arise during pregnancy are vaginal bleeding, gestational diabetes, diarrhoea or severe abdominal cramps. Therefore, healthy foods are preferred during pregnancy to ensure the good health of both the mother and the baby. [1]

According to the American College Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nutrients like folate, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and calcium are vital for the baby and the mother during the first trimester. Here is the list of foods which are packed with these nutrients. Make a note of all these foods and must include it in your diet plan.

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1. Legumes

The term legumes refer to a group of food items like beans, kidney beans, lentils, soybeans and chickpeas. These plant-based sources are naturally rich in folate (vitamin B9) and other nutrients like dietary fibre, calcium, protein and iron-all the nutrients a pregnant woman's body requires during the first trimester. [2] Deficiency of folate during pregnancy can cause brain and spinal cord defect in a foetus like neural tube defects. Consumption of folate around 600 mcg/day during pregnancy is considered good for health. [3]

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2. Spinach

Pregnant women need folate for various metabolic needs of both the mother and the foetus. It helps in the development of red blood cells during fetal development. The amount of folate a woman requires during the first trimester is 137-589 ng/mL to prevent the risk of diseases like spina bifida and anencephaly. Spinach contains 194 mcg of folate per 100 g.

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3. Milk And Yoghurt

Dairy products like milk and yoghurt contain a good amount of calcium which is essential for the foetus's health. During the first trimester, the level of parathyroid hormone decreases in women as more calcium is absorbed by the foetus for development. Hence, women should consume more calcium during the period to meet the demands of both the mother and the foetus. [4]

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4. Salmon

DHA and EPA are the two biologically active omega-3 fatty acids found in fishes and other seafood. They both are very helpful in the growth and development of the foetus's brain and eyes. Lack of these fatty acids may cause visual and behavioural deficits in the foetus which cannot be reversed. The recommended amount of DHA is 200 mg which is equal to 1 -2 servings of seafood/week. [5]

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5. Green vegetables

Green vegetables are key sources to all the essential nutrients like magnesium, potassium, vitamin A and C, and folate. They also have a lot of bioactive substances which play a vital role during pregnancy. Lowering the number of green vegetables during pregnancy can increase the risk of Small for Gestational Age (SGA) in which the foetus is smaller in size as well as lower in weight than foetuses of the same gestational age. 48.2 g/day of green vegetables is considered good for women during the first trimester. [6]

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6. Nuts

During the first trimester, protein is very crucial to ensure the good health of both mother and foetus. Protein helps in the rapid growth and development of the foetus, maintaining the mother's homeostasis at the same time. It also prepares the body for lactation. The estimated requirement of protein for women during early pregnancy (less than 16 weeks) is 1.2 to 1.52 g/kg body weight/day. [7]

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7. Lean Meat

Meat and animal products contain a very essential nutrient called vitamin B12 which is not found in plants. Vitamin B12 helps in the myelination development of the central nervous system. Lack of this vitamin can cause poor neurodevelopment and growth of the foetus. The daily recommended dose of vitamin B12 during early pregnancy is 50mcg. [8]

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Foods To Avoid During The First Trimester

  • Fish with a high level of mercury like swordfish and tilefish should be avoided as it may obstruct the development process of the foetus's brain and nervous system.
  • Raw or unpasteurized milk should be avoided as it may increase the risk of food poisoning due to parasite or bacteria present in the milk.
  • Meat-based salads available in the market should be avoided like chicken salad or any seafood salad.
  • Excess caffeine as it may increase the risk of low birth weight in babies.
  • Unripe papaya as the latex in them may cause early labour, allergy and weaken the membranes that support the foetus.
  • Raw eggs as it may increase the risk of Salmonella infection (intestinal tract infection)
  • Junk foods or foods with 450-500 extra calories as it may cause several complications due to excess weight gain.
  • Raw sprouts as it may increase the chance of intestinal infection due to the presence of salmonella bacteria
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