Adding avocados to your pregnancy diet

Buttery and rich, avocados are as healthy as they are delicious. So healthy, in fact, they should feature on any list recommending foods for expecting or lactating mothers. The sheer density of available nutrients in this superfood not only helps provide the building blocks of fetal development but can also combat pregnancy complications and alleviate side effects.

Arguably one of the most important dietary requirements for pregnant women, folate aids in the formation of the nervous system during gestation and in the prevention of birth defects like spina bifida, a neural tube defect. A B-complex vitamin, folate is found in higher concentrations in avocados than most other fruits, nuts and seeds.

Essential Fatty Acids
Avocados contain essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Like folate, fatty acids contribute to proper nervous system development in the fetus. Avocados are a good source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which has shown to contribute to healthy birth weights.

Potassium alleviates the leg and muscle cramps known to plague women during mid to late pregnancy. More importantly, potassium intake during pregnancy—along with dietary fiber, also found in avocadoes—can reduce the risk of the serious pregnancy complication preeclampsia. Characterized by a drastic rise in blood pressure, preeclampsia can lead to organ failure, low birth weight and even death.

Dietary Fiber: Soluble and Insoluble
While most plants contain predominately either soluble or insoluble fiber, avocados contain both, each with benefits for an expectant mother. Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar, something particularly beneficial against gestational diabetes. It also nourishes healthy gut bacteria, which in turn stimulates the immune system. Insoluble fiber alleviates constipation, a common side effect during pregnancy.

The antioxidants found in avocados, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, have many benefits, from alleviating the symptoms of morning sickness to reducing free radical damage. A normal by-product of cellular energy production, free radicals damage cell membranes. Antioxidants bind to free radicals, minimizing potential damage to cellular structure and DNA sequencing. The carotenoid antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are also crucial for fetal eye development.

Adding Avocadoes to Your Pregnancy Diet
With so many health benefits, it is best to add avocado to your pregnancy diet as often as possible. Fortunately, avocado is an extremely versatile fruit. You can:

– Eat plain, sliced onto sandwiches, salads, bagels or toast.
– Add it to smoothies. Avocados are rich enough to add to the thickness and creaminess of smoothies and mild enough in flavor to let other ingredients shine through.
– Replace unhealthy mayonnaise as a binder in chicken salad with pureed avocado, low-fat yogurt and fresh herbs.