Some foods are especially beneficial for the development of your baby’s brain, which is why a well-balanced diet is essential during pregnancy.
What the science says:
The first 1,000 days of life, which includes the prenatal period, are crucial for brain development, and food plays a major role. During pregnancy, a child’s nerves grow, connect, and get covered with myelin, creating the systems that eventually decide how a child thinks and feels. Those connections affect sensory systems, learning, memory, attention, processing speed, impulse control, and mood. The food you eat influences Your Baby ’s brain growth, which subsequently affects neurodevelopment in childhood and adolescence.
Fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel, is one of the best food sources for DHA, a substance Your Baby needs for normal brain development. As your body does not produce DHA, you must get it from your food.
Meat, poultry, or seafood
You need to increase your zinc intake during pregnancy because your baby needs adequate amounts of zinc for brain development. Zinc is abundant in meat, such as lean beef, pork, and chicken. This important nutrient can also be found in seafood, such as fish, shrimp, crab, and lobster. Eat one or two servings of lean meat daily. Vegetables high in zinc include shiitake mushrooms, green peas, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, and sweet corn.
Dark green leafy vegetables
Folic acid is one of the most critical nutrients you need before conception and during pregnancy. Eating a lot of dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce, helps you consume enough. Folic acid is particularly important during the first few weeks of pregnancy when your baby’s nerves and brain are beginning to develop. It also helps close your baby’s neural tube and prevents birth defects like spina bifida.
Seaweed, eggs, and milk
These are great sources of iodine, which is another critical nutrient. Iodine contributes to healthy brain and mental growth. Severe iodine deficiency can lead to mental retardation. Other sources of iodine are iodized salt, codfish, seaweed, yogurt and milk from cows, or iodine enriched milk from almond, oats, or soy.
Vegan and other diets
For vegan families, who are not supplementing their diet, getting all of these nutrients can be a challenge, and learning more about the subject or meeting with a nutritionist may be helpful. Pregnant mothers, who mainly eat starch-heavy diets without much vegetables or fish, should think about changing their diets if that’s possible.
- The Crucial Brain Foods All Children Need, Harvard Health, (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/brain-food-children-nutrition-2018012313168 )
- Impact of Nutrition on Brain Development and its Neuroprotective Implications (https://www.nature.com/articles/pr2014171 )
- Healy Food Good for Brain Development, Live Strong, (https://www.livestrong.com/article/358743-healthy-food-for-good-brain-development-for-babies-during-pregnancy/)