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Typically, every pregnant woman gets advice from her physician or caregiver about which healthy foods to include during pregnancy, but there is also a long list of foods that should be avoided as they can pose a health risk for your unborn fetus. Women should be aware of which foods and nutrients are vital for a healthy birth, and also be aware of foods that are potentially dangerous for both mother and the unborn child.
Healthy foods are essential for energy, and some can even prevent certain birth defects. For example, folic acid has been shown to prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects, so every woman should include leafy green vegetables, legumes and orange juice as long as there is no extra added sugars and it is free of dyes or preservatives. Proteins can come from lean meats such as poultry, fish or eggs. Iron and Vitamin C can come from oranges or strawberries, and can help boost the immune system. Carbohydrates provide energy and are available from fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain pastas and cereal and breads. A prenatal vitamin can help include vitamins and minerals not ingested through diet.
Foods to avoid are the ones that pose a risk like salmonella, listeria and E. coli. These ailments are caused by bacteria and can cause symptoms like fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and infection that spreads to the blood stream. Severe cases may require hospitalization, antibiotics, and may even lead to death for mom and newborn.
Raw or uncooked foods are a high risk for E. coli and salmonella. Meats should be cooked to proper temperatures and foods to avoid are sushi and anything that may contain raw eggs like uncooked batter or dough. Some fish have high mercury levels like tilefish, albacore tunas, mackerel, or swordfish. These should be eliminated while pregnant. Unpasteurized juice or dairy products may cause listeria, E. coli, and salmonella, so soft cheeses like brie, feta or Roquefort are not healthy to eat while pregnant. Lunch meats like hot dogs, deli meats or poultry may contain listeria. A good rule to follow is always cook meats to 145F-160F. This helps to ensure that bacteria are eliminated. Steer clear of store bought salads and certain raw vegetables like radish or sprouts, as they can contain listeria. Instead opt to make your own salads and wash all lettuce and uncooked vegetables or legumes.
Eating healthy during pregnancy does not have to be confusing. Knowing which foods to include and which to exclude, can go a long way towards aiding in a healthy delivery for both mom and baby.