Eating Organic Food During Pregnancy

Reviewed on : 27 August 2016

While experts generally advise everyone to consume organic foods, most people take this casually due to the higher prices of organic products. But after a woman conceives, she should not take her dietary habits lightly. From conception till the time the baby is feeding on breast milk, the mother should remain vigilant about what she consumes. A mom-to-be should refrain from consuming chemically produced foods which are easily available and replace it with healthy, natural and organic food. It is important for a pregnant woman to remember that her food consumption is now utilized by two, so she should carefully choose her diet. While the health impact of chemically produced foods on the fetus have been constantly debated, it is always better to make a safer choice when it comes to the diet.

What do we mean by organic food?

The much talked about organic food products are cultivated under a system of agriculture that doesn’t use any chemical fertilizer or pesticide. The producers of organic food make sure that they take an environmentally and socially responsible approach while they grow their produce. This method of farming also helps preserve the regenerative and reproductive capacity of the soil and aims to produce nutritious food, that is rich in vital elements and also resistant to diseases.

Why should one consume organic food during pregnancy?

When one is responsible for another life, every bite one takes should be carefully scrutinized. To be a responsible mother, one should add as much organic food in one’s diet as one can afford, while ensuring that they are the foods that one craves for and are also the right foods to eat during pregnancy. One should maintain a journal to note what one eats over a certain period. e.g. of two weeks.

It is found that organically produced fruits, cereals and vegetables e.g. apples, corn, wheat, potatoes and peas are 63% higher in calcium, 118% higher in magnesium, 73% higher in iron, 125% higher in potassium, and 60% higher in zinc, than traditionally grown produce using chemicals. A research has also revealed that organic food is 29% lower in mercury. The higher presence of key minerals and vitamins plays a vital role in nurturing the growth of the baby.

Apart from vegetables and fruits, experts suggest that a mother-to-be should also consume sufficient iron-enriched food. Almost 2/3rds of the animals meeting the need of meat in our diet are been treated with artificial growth hormones. One is hence also advised to choose only organic meat and poultry, which are certified as free from any chemical treatment, for consumption during pregnancy.

Why is it important to continue with organic food till breastfeeding?

It is very important for mothers to continue to to eat organically produced food till the baby is breastfeeding because the diet of the mother also impacts the quality of the breast milk, which in turn impacts not only the child’s present but also future health.

Innumerable studies have revealed that due to excessive use of chemicals in non-organic foods, the health of the baby is likely to be impacted adversely. Such babies are more prone to falling ill and their immune system may not become strong enough (in the absence of sufficient nutrients) to fight diseases. Breastfeeding mothers unable to exclusively consume organic foods should therefore complete the requirements of these nutrients through oral supplements.

According to experts, during the first trimester of a pregnancy, when the neural tube and nervous system of the baby develops, mothers should be careful to avoid exposure to pesticides. It is important to note that almost all pesticides have some amount of toxicity and the level of risk to the baby depends on the toxicity of the pesticide ingredients and the exposure that the mother has to them daily.

What organic foods can one consume?

  • Cereals – It is healthy to have whole-grain breads along with high fiber cereal, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, and whole-wheat crackers.
  • Vegetables – Dark leafy veggies such as spinach or mustard greens along with deep yellow vegetables like pumpkin, squash, and carrots are advisable. One can also have veggies such as tomatoes, capsicums, cabbage, beans, peas and broccoli.
  • Fruits – Fruits like strawberries, oranges, mangoes, melons, apples and bananas can be consumed liberally. Artificially ripened products should be completely avoided.
  • Dairy Products – One must not limit oneself to just milk and instead also consume milk products like yoghurt and cheese, according to the recommendation of a dietician.
  • Meat & Poultry – While one can consume meat, it is important to ensure, that it is organically produced. Grass-fed, organically raised animals are not just leaner but healthier as well.

When the baby is breastfed, the mother should continue to be careful about what is incorporated in their diet. Calcium is important for the baby’s rapidly growing bones and one can opt for organically reared salmon (although, not easily available in India) or for low fat milk to get the required quantities. If one is allergic to milk, then broccoli or kale can be used as alternate sources of calcium. One should consume fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. A mother-to-be should also consume adequate quantity of fluids regularly to be able to produce the required quantity of milk. It would be advisable to get the drinking water tested and use a suitable filtration system to remove contaminants and heavy metals if the tests show their presence. If one can’t give up consumption of tea  completely then they should substitute it for organic green tea. Consume fruits and vegetables that are 100% organic. One can opt for soup as well to keep the body well hydrated. One should avoid processed foods, which are rich in additives and preservatives and should try to consume food which has been prepared at home.

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