It’s no secret that pregnancy is a critical period in terms of nutrition for both mom and baby. In fact, recent research has shown that mom’s nutritional status through pregnancy not only affects the health of her unborn baby at birth but also for the rest of his/her life. This is one of the reasons why we are so focused on being as healthy as possible during pregnancy and on making sure that all of our nutritional needs are being met.
Most of us know that we need to eat a nutritious diet during pregnancy, take our prenatal vitamins and cut out alcohol and caffeine but very few of us know that we have very high antioxidant needs during pregnancy.
Free radicals are molecules that are produced by our body’s cells during everyday activities such as breathing, digesting, growing and repairing. Some types of free radicals can be very damaging to our cells, especially when they rob our cells of oxygen in order for them to function. Certain environmental toxins such as tobacco smoke and radiation can increase the production of these types of free radicals in our bodies. This type of damage to the cells caused by free radicals is known as “oxidative damage” and can lead to visible signs of aging, wrinkles and increased risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Luckily, we have many natural ways to combat this type of damage. Anti-oxidants are chemical compounds found in plant foods which neutralize the negative effects of free radicals and therefore combat oxidative damage in our cells. Many well-known nutrients such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Vitamin E are some of the strongest anti-oxidants in nature.
A pro-oxidative state is a state in which the amount of free radical damage taking place in our cells is outweighed by the amount of anti-oxidants we are consuming. This is often the case during pregnancy as our cells are working, growing, repairing and breathing that much faster during this time and thus producing a much greater amount of free radicals. This is why eating a diet rich in antioxidants is so important during pregnancy.
All plant foods from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, herbs, spices, wine, coffee and tea contain antioxidants. Consuming enough antioxidants during pregnancy doesn’t have to be complicated. Just following a few simple guidelines can help you to get enough of these key compounds:
Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least 7 servings per day of fruits and veg. One serving is about 1 tennis ball sized fruit or 1 cup of raw vegetables. An easy rule of thumb is to make sure that half of your plate at each meal is filled with fruit and/ or vegetables (the more colourful your plate, the better) and to snack on fruit or vegetable sticks at least once per day. If you are struggling with nausea or food aversions, you could try getting your fruit and veg in through juices, smoothies, ice lollies or hidden in soups, baked goods and cooked dishes.
Make sure to add herbs, spices and garlic to your food. Just small amounts of herbs and spices add large amounts of antioxidants and as a bonus they pack a flavourful punch. Add cinnamon to your breakfast oats, roast your veggies with garlic and rosemary, add some basil pesto onto your grains and sip on a red espresso® Turmeric Latte or Spiced Chai Latte between meals.
Eat plenty of beans, whole-grains, nuts and seeds. These foods are great sources of plant-based protein, iron and zinc and are also packed with anti-oxidants. Try snacking on some nuts, adding some brown rice to your curries/ stews, adding some lentils into your mince dishes or sprinkling some seeds on your salads.
Sip on antioxidant rich beverages. Rooibos tea has a high antioxidant content and it is naturally caffeine-free so it’s the perfect beverage for pregnant women. red espresso® offers a range of rooibos products from the classic red cappuccino®, to rooibos espresso powder and Nespresso compatible rooibos pods. The red espresso® Rooibos has been found to have 10 times the antioxidant potential of normal rooibos and 5 times that of green tea due to its unique production methods and style of preparation which allows for more antioxidants to enter the brew. Sipping on antioxidant-rich beverages is also a nutritious and tasty way to stay hydrated during pregnancy, especially if you are not a big fan of plain water. Adding a calcium- and protein- rich milk or milk alternative to these beverages can further ensure that you are meeting your calcium and protein needs during pregnancy.
Tip: Remember that teas and coffees can interfere with iron absorption so it’s always a good idea to consume your café-style beverages a few hours away from iron-rich meals.
Add some superfoods to your diet. Superfoods are foods that have an exceptionally high antioxidant content. One of the world’s greatest superfood is the Acai berry. It only grows in the Amazonian climate of South America but red espresso® has brought a powdered Acai and blueberry superfood mix to South Africa so that we can get all of the wonderful benefits of Acai berries. This mix can be added to smoothies, porridge or healthy puddings for an extra antioxidant boost.
red espresso® Superfood Latte Mixes are also packed with antioxidants from ingredients such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, beetroot and matcha. As a bonus, the ginger in these beverages can help to settle any pregnancy-induced nausea.
Disclaimer: The information on this blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.
Written by Jessica Kotlowitz, Registered Dietitian as a paid partnership with red espresso®
We would love to be a part of bringing prenatal yoga to you and were fortunate enough to collaborate with the well-known yoga studio, Yoga Yard, to do so.In addition to ensuring you are getting enough antioxidants and the right nutrition during pregnancy, most doctors and midwives recommend prenatal yoga for the multitude of benefits to both mother and baby throughout pregnancy, during birth and beyond.
Take a little time out for yourself and baby, find a quiet space indoors or outdoors, and spend the next 25 minutes with Jo Reid, founder of Yoga Yard, as she takes you through her own personal favourite yoga routine that she did for all three trimesters of her second pregnancy. And enjoy a deliciously healthy Rooibos red cappuccino® afterwards!
Jessica Kotlowitz is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters degree in Nutrition (Stell. University). Jessica has a private practice in Cape Town which focuses on plant-based nutrition.
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Jo Reid is a qualified Power and Vinyasa Yoga Instructor and has been teaching yoga since 2015. She has her own school, Yoga Yard, at Val de Vie in the Cape Winelands.