1. Wild Salmon
Avoiding all fish during pregnancy can be a mistake. Wild salmon has very little mercury risk and provides brain benefits for both mommy’s brain and baby-to-be. Salmon is rich in DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid that is the primary building block of the brain. According to Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy, DHA cannot be produced by the body, so the only way to get it is from consumption of food like salmon, fish oil supplements, DHA supplements or fortified food with an algae-base based DHA.
Try this grilled salmon with tomatoes & basil
Eggs are the best possible source of choline. Researchers have found that choline enhances memory function in pregnant women. Preliminary studies also suggest it can have long-lasting effects on a baby’s ability to learn and remember. Two eggs provide about half the recommended daily intake of choline for pregnant women. Whether you like them scrambled, easy-side-up or as an omelet, it’s a quick and easy option to start the day with eggs.
Try these slow scrambled eggs
Naturopathic physician Heather Manley points out that walnuts resemble little brains, so it just makes sense that they’re good for your mind. And the science backs it up; walnuts boost memory because they’re rich in antioxidants as well as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. An added benefit is that walnuts boost the body’s melatonin levels, which can help cure the restless nights that pregnant women often endure.
Try this date and walnut loaf
Rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, cranberries have been shown to improve memory and cut down on free-radical damage in brain cells. Pregnant women often crave easy, portable snacks between meals, and cranberries can be paired with brain-boosting nuts for a great snack mix. You can also enjoy a glass of cranberry juice with your lunch or spread a little cranberry sauce onto a sandwich.
Try Ina Garten’s cranberry
5. Coconut Oil
Dr. Larry McCleary, retired Acting Chief of Neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital and author of Feed Your Brain Lose Your Belly, credits coconut oil as a good source to boost a mommy-to-be’s brain power due to its high percentage of medium-chain triglycerides, which are a unique form of dietary fat that impart a variety of benefits. Coconut oil is also a great energy boost for exhausted pregnant women — one tablespoon can provide 4 to 5 hours of energy with no accompanying crash.
Try this popcorn recipe that calls for coconut oil
6. Lean Red Meat
Women need extra iron when they’re pregnant, and the best natural source is red meat. Iron carries oxygen to your brain and to your baby’s brain; furthermore, there’s a link between low iron and poor brain function in babies, so it’s essential to consume a healthy amount of the vitamin during pregnancy. If you’re a red meat lover, the leanest cuts of beef include round and sirloin. Bison meat is an even leaner option and has considerably more iron than beef.
Try these Mediterranean bison burgers
7. Whole Grains
Whole grain carbohydrates are essential for pregnant women because they boost energy levels. They are also rich in vitamin B6, iron and folate, all of which are important nutrients for both mother and child’s mental functioning. Start your day with a bowl of nutritious cereal, eat your sandwich on whole-grain bread, or snack on baked goods chock full
Try these whole wheat pancakes with dried cherries
Cheese is a great source for vitamin B12, which is necessary for brain function because it helps nerve cells communicate more rapidly, according to Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D. and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. B12 is important for pregnant women because folic acid supplements can mask some of the signs of a B12 deficiency. Liver is the best source of B12, but is off-limits during pregnancy. A safe alternative is a low-fat version of a hard cheese, like cheddar, Swiss, or Colby.
Try this light broccoli and cheddar cheese soup
Lentils and beans are rich in thiamin, which is critical for cognitive function. As is the case with other B vitamins, thiamin intake needs to be higher during pregnancy; thiamin deficiency can result in depression, nervous exhaustion and insomnia. Legumes also contain high levels of iron and folate, which is important for preventing birth defects and enhances memory recall in women. Overall, legumes are one of the cheapest, healthiest foods to eat.
Try these curried chickpeas
Pregnant women need loads of vitamins, so it’s important to eat as many colorful fruits and vegetables as possible. Spinach is particularly beneficial because it’s rich in folate.
Try Brian Boitano’s summer pasta (without the wine, of course)