Leafy green vegetables can be a healthy part of almost anyone’s diet at any time, but it’s during pregnancy that the double-, triple-, and dectuple duty that leafy greens do to keep you healthy really starts to look impressive. With all of the nutrients that become extra important during pregnancy, it only makes sense to turn to a family of vegetables that’s willing to multitask for you. So what do leafy greens help you out with?
- Strong bones, strong baby: The thing about calcium during pregnancy is that your body is pretty clear on its priorities – the baby will get as much calcium as necessary, even if you’re not getting enough in your diet. Your body will fill the gap by tapping into your bones, which can lead to complications like an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life. Leafy greens won’t give you all the calcium you need, but they certainly can help.
- The common cold: Having a cold is no fun at the best of times, but during pregnancy, it can be especially irritating. You can help keep your immune system healthy and robust enough to fight off pesky little viruses off with some healthy, Vitamin C-packed leafy greens. Leafy green vegetables are also packed with Vitamin A, which is also good for the immune system, and the combination of the two can mean that even if you do happen to get sick, your body is better able to fight off illness and get healthy again faster.
- More heavy-duty health benefits: Leafy green vegetables are rich in antioxidants, like carotenoids, that could help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, like breast, skin, stomach, and lung cancer, so focusing on eating healthily through pregnancy really is also an investment in your future health.
- Fights anemia: Aside from leaving your feeling ill and drained, anemia during pregnancy can also hurt your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to illness. Leafy greens may not seem like as much of a way to fight anemia as, say, a steak, but the Vitamin C in greens makes it easier for your body to absorb the iron in them.
- Fiber-licious: Leafy greens are rich in the fiber that can help keep your digestive system running smoothly, even through all of the changes your body faces during pregnancy.
- Finding folate: Folate, the naturally occurring cousin of the folic acid your prenatal vitamin may be fortified with, is an important part of your baby’s brain development. Folate that occurs naturally in leafy greens comes packaged with micronutrients which may have additional health benefits that haven’t been fully explored.
- Labor of leaves: Moms who are fit and healthy may have easier labor experiences, and a significant part of a healthy pregnancy is a balanced diet including leafy greens.
- Eye to the future: Moms who maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy and keep a pattern of healthy eating may have an easier time physically bouncing back after birth.
Now, this doesn’t mean leafy greens need to take over your life. But letting them grow into the cracks of your diet could have more positive effects than you were expecting.
- Mary Murphy, et al. “Associations of consumption of fruits and vegetables during pregnancy with infant birth weight or small for gestational age births: a systematic review of the literature.” Int J Womens Health. 6:899-912. 2012. Web.
- “Ch. 17: Nutrition During Pregnancy.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Apr 2015. Web.