In the sitcom “I Love Lucy,” a very pregnant Lucy sends her husband Ricky out to buy whatever foods she craves. In one episode, Lucy inhales a dill pickle dipped in a papaya milkshake. In another, she chows down on pistachio ice cream topped with hot fudge and sardines. Funny, and not entirely unrealistic. But occasional cravings aside, it’s important for a pregnant woman to eat foods that provide the nutrients she and her fetus need for good health.
Unfortunately, according to a metastudy published in Maternal & Child Nutrition, a majority of women who are hoping to conceive or are pregnant aren’t eating enough vegetables and whole grains and are taking in too much saturated fat. As a result, they’re deficient in vital nutrients such as folate, calcium and iron. Folate helps prevent neural tube defects, like spina bifida; calcium is essential for preventing high blood pressure, preeclampsia and preterm birth; and iron is needed for a healthy red blood cell supply, brain development and to guard against low birth weight.
The solution? Talk with your doc, get a blood test to check for essential nutrient levels, and upgrade your daily diet to eliminate all red and processed meats, added sugars and syrups and any grain that isn’t 100% whole. Also, women who are or may become pregnant should take prenatal vitamins with the omega-3 DHA. Remember, a healthy pregnancy is your best assurance of a healthy baby, and you can do a lot to make sure that happens.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.