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Nine Foods To Boost Your Baby's Brain Development While Pregnant

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Written by: Co-Founder Amanda Capriglione, RDN, CDN

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Palmer, DO

Every parent naturally wants their baby to be healthy and grow up to be smart. Scientific research suggests that your diet during pregnancy can help boost fetal brain development. Optimal nutrient intake will not only have you flourishing but also your growing baby. We will be discussing the nutrients and foods that help boost a baby’s brain development while pregnant.

Best Prenatal Vitamin

1. TAKE YOUR DAILY PRENATAL VITAMIN

Taking a daily complete prenatal plus DHA multivitamin will help you get those extra nutrients you may not be getting in your everyday diet. Look for a prenatal with DHA and Choline, both essential for baby’s brain development. We recommend taking Feed Mom & Me Complete Prenatal + DHA Multivitamin.

Vitamins supplements are meant to supplement your well-rounded diet regimen. They help enhance your intake of nutrients and vitamins along with your everyday food intake. Vitamin supplements aren’t meant to be used in place of real food.

For more information on prenatal vitamins, please check out our Benefits of Feed Mom & Me Complete Prenatal with DHA Multivitamin Blog. To purchase our Prenatal Vitamins, click here! You got this mama, you and your little one are going to thrive!

2. OMEGA 3, LIKE DHA

Active forms of omega-3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are vitally important for your developing baby’s brain & retina during pregnancy. DHA is the critical component of the cell membrane in the brain, eyes, and nervous system. It also supports the development of the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brain stem.

The fetal’s brain growth accelerates during your second trimester and continues growth for several years after birth. During pregnancy and lactation, it is recommended women’s daily intake of at least 200 mg of DHA. Both DHA and EPA are primarily derived from seafood and algae. Consuming 1 to 2 servings of seafood per week and a daily prenatal with DHA will help with your omega-3 intake.

BEST FOODS RICH IN OMEGA 3 (DHA) FOR PREGNANT WOMEN:

  • Fish such as Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, Herring, and Sardines. (No more than 12 ounces per week)

  • Fortified Eggs

  • Flax and Chia Seeds

★ A good prenatal vitamin with natural DHA will smell a little fishy.

3. CHOLINE

Choline is vital for the proper development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. It also helps form the neurotransmitters in the brain, which the nervous system uses to transmit messages between neurons, and/or neurons to muscles. It also influences lifelong memory functions for your developing baby.

BEST FOODS RICH IN CHOLINE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN:

  • Lean Beef, and Poultry.

  • Fish such as Salmon. (No more than 12 ounces per week)

  • Dairy Products such as Eggs.

  • Potatoes

  • Vegetables such as Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, and Cauliflower.

  • Some Grains such as Quinoa.

  • Some Nuts such as Peanuts.

4. VITAMIN B COMPLEX

Vitamin B complex plays a critical role during pregnancy for your developing baby’s brain. They help aid the production of numerous aspects of brain function, including energy production, DNA/RNA synthesis/repair, genomic and non-genomic methylation, and the synthesis of numerous neurochemicals and signaling molecules. They can also be considered a potent antioxidant capable of protecting the brain’s cellular membranes.

BEST FOODS RICH IN VITAMIN B COMPLEX FOR PREGNANT WOMEN:

  • Poultry, Lean Beef, and Meat.

  • Fish such as Tuna and Salmon. (No more than 12 ounces per week)

  • Dairy Products such as Eggs, Milk, Yogurt

  • Nuts and Seeds such as Peanuts, Sunflower Seeds, Hazelnuts, Pistachios, Cashew Nuts

  • Legumes such as Chickpeas, Black-Eyed peas, and Kidney Beans

  • Whole Grains such as Whole Wheat, Brown Rice, and Oats.

  • Enriched and Fortified Foods such as many Breads and Cereals.

  • Vegetables such as Mushrooms (especially shiitakes), Avocados, Potatoes, Asparagus, and Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli.

  • Leafy Vegetables such as Spinach and Mustard Greens.

  • Fruits such as Papaya, Oranges, and Banana.

  • Dried fruits such as Apricots and Prunes.

5. ANTIOXIDANTS

Antioxidants protect your developing baby’s brain tissues and cellular membranes from damage and free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells. Produce contains the most amounts of antioxidants that are good for you and your baby. Try to consume seven servings of well-washed fruits and vegetables daily.

BEST FOODS RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS FOR PREGNANT WOMEN:

  • Dark Chocolate

  • Pecans

  • Berries such as Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, and Goji Berries

  • Vegetables such as Artichokes, Broccoli, Asparagus, and Squash

  • Leafy Vegetables such as Kale, Spinach, Cabbage, Lettuce, Collard Greens

  • Root Vegetables such as Carrots, Beets, Radish

  • Legumes such as Beans and Peas

  • Avocados

★ Dark-colored produce often has more antioxidants.

6. IRON

Iron is one of the critical nutrients in developing a healthy baby. It helps your body produce hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen through your red blood cells, delivering life-sustaining oxygen to your baby. Oxygen helps flourish your developing baby’s brain growth. Make sure you stay hydrated when consuming iron to help avoid constipation. Check out our blog on the Top 15 Foods to Help Naturally Relieve Pregnancy Constipation.

BEST FOODS RICH IN IRON FOR PREGNANT WOMEN:

  • Lean Meat, and Poultry.

  • Iron-fortified Breakfast Cereals and Breads.

  • Legumes such as White Beans, Lentils, Spinach, Kidney Beans, Peas, and Edamame.

  • Dried Fruits such as Raisins, Apricots, Peaches, and Prunes.

  • Leafy Greens such as Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, and Collards Greens.

7. PROTEIN 

Every cell in your body requires protein’s numerous amino acids to help your body make new cells and repair cells. Research has shown that proteins are essential for the function of brain cells and the development of your baby’s brain. 

BEST FOODS RICH IN PROTEIN FOR PREGNANT WOMEN:

  • Meats & Poultry 

  • Fish such as Salmon & Shrimp

  • Dairy such as Eggs, Milk 

  • Legumes such as Beans, Lentils, Split Peas.

  • Nuts & Seed such as Peanuts, Walnuts, Cashews, Pistachios, and almonds

  • Whole grains

8. IODINE

Your thyroid needs iodine to produce triiodothyronine & thyroxine hormones in both your developing baby and you during pregnancy. Iodine plays a crucial role in aiding the formation of your growing baby’s cerebral cortex and neocortex, visual and auditory cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum. The fetal thyroid is not fully active up until the 20th week of pregnancy; therefore, your baby is entirely dependent on maternal thyroxine supply.

BEST FOODS RICH IN IODINE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN:

  • Seafood & Fish such as Cod, Tuna, Seaweed, and Shrimp. 

  • Dairy products such as Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese.

  • Iodized salt

9. ZINC 

Zinc is a key micronutrient that helps with the rapid growth and development of cells and tissue.  Aiding the development of the brain's hippocampal and cerebellar. Making it essential for your baby’s brain development.

BEST FOODS RICH IN ZINC FOR PREGNANT WOMEN:

  • Lean Beef, and Poultry. 

  • Nuts, such as Cashews, Almonds, and Peanuts. 

  • Fortified Breakfast Cereals.