The last months of pregnancy are a period of intense growth. If you are not eating healthily, your own energy and health can be affected because your baby’s requirements are so high. However, it is only during this trimester that you actually need more calories; just 10 percent more, so an extra snack or few slices of bread daily will be sufficient. Ensuring your extra food has high nutritional value is crucial, especially because less room in your stomach means you may need to eat little and often.
Protein needs are high to provide building blocks for your baby’s growing body, and foods that supply this and the growth nutrients folate (folic acid), zinc, and vitamin C are key. Minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium support the bone health and heartbeat of both mother and baby.
In this article, we are going to discuss foods that every pregnant woman should eat in the third trimester.
1. Adzuki Beans
Adzuki beans contain protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. They are also rich in many nutrients that sustain intense growth during this last trimester. One of these nutrients is zinc, low levels of which have been shown to result in lower birth weights. With less room available for the mother’s stomach, zinc is also important in keeping up an appetite, encouraging a little-but-often eating regime of nutrient-dense foods.
The folate (folic acid) in adzuki beans is used to make the DNA that facilitates growth as well as the extra red blood cells needed at this stage of pregnancy when blood volume has increased by 40–50 percent. The high magnesium and potassium levels in the beans assist this process by enabling the heart muscle to keep circulation flowing to the womb and reduce common third-trimester symptoms, such as high blood pressure, puffiness, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
- Provide nutrients for growth, energy, and detoxification, including zinc, which enables the baby to grow to optimal size.
- Zinc also keeps appetite strong so that both mother and baby can keep up their energy levels.
- Folate supports DNA and red blood cell production for growth.
- Magnesium and potassium keep up the circulation and help prevent high blood pressure, bloating, and cramps.
Adzuki beans can be bought pre-cooked and frozen, and are ideal for slow cooking. Add them cooked to vegetable soups to bulk up the protein content.
Cherries make a superior sweet treat. They taste delicious and, unlike cakes and cookies, bring balance to your blood sugar instead of robbing you of energy. At this stage, the baby is producing around 100,000 new brain cells a minute, but these are easily damaged or destroyed by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that enter the body via pollution and chemicals, cooked foods, electrical equipment, and our natural metabolic processes.
The proanthocyanidins in cherries, which are demonstrated by the deep red color of the fruit, are antioxidant bioflavonoids that quench free radicals. Working alongside vitamin C in the fruit, they also have an anti-inflammatory action, helping prevent preeclampsia and skin problems and relieving pain. Antioxidants also support the mother’s immunity, which is directly passed on to the baby, helping prevent illness that can take energy away from the vital process of growth.
- Antioxidants destroy harmful toxins to protect the growing baby’s brain.
- Proanthocyanidins work with vitamin C to help prevent inflammation and infection in both mother and baby.
For taste and to get the most vitamin C, cherries are best eaten fresh, with stems intact. Choose darker colors for more proanthocyanidin content. Think of them as a wonderful treat—both delicious and healthy, if also on the pricey side. A portion of cherries now and then will help keep your bowels regular when they may be sluggish.
At this stage of pregnancy, the mother may crave sugar to satisfy the baby’s energy requirements. Pineapple is a healthy and nutritious way to deal with these cravings. In the third trimester, the baby begins to squash the mother’s digestive organs and reduce her stomach volume. As the belly grows, higher levels of the hormone relaxin, which relaxes the esophagus and reduces the efficiency of the digestive muscles, can cause constipation and heartburn.
Pineapple helps all the digestive processes and relieves these symptoms. It also contains vitamin C and the mineral manganese, which safeguard the increased production of sex hormones needed to maintain the pregnancy and induce labor at the right time. These nutrients also support blood sugar balance, providing constant energy to both mother and baby. They are necessary, too, for bone development.
- Helps digestive actions, relieving constipation, and heartburn.
- Vitamin C and manganese allow for the pregnancy sex hormones to rise appropriately and eventually induce labor.
- They also enable rapid bone development.
- Pineapple helps steady blood sugar balance, providing energy to all cells and for growth.
In many cultures, pineapple is avoided until the very end of pregnancy because it is believed to soften the cervix and bring on labor. In fact, you would need to eat a huge amount to achieve this effect, which anyway remains unproven. A few slices are nothing to be concerned about and help digestion when eaten after a meal.
4. Dried Plums
Dried plums (prunes) contain the natural laxative dihydro-phenyl isatin, which, together with their fiber content, helps keep a sluggish pregnancy bowel regular. Dried plums offer a much safer and gentler alternative to laxatives, such as senna and cascara. Both the squashing of the digestive organs and colon and the effect on the muscles
of the pregnancy hormone relaxin can cause a slowdown. This is not only uncomfortable but can also cause a toxic buildup, while any straining and lower bowel pressure increase the risk of hemorrhoids.
The antioxidants vitamin C and rutin in dried plums help prevent piles by keeping the veins intact, and, therefore, also help relieve any tendency to easy bruising and varicose veins. The fiber pectin soaks up toxic metals, such as mercury, aluminum, and lead, stopping them from reaching the baby. Meanwhile, the carotenoids beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin provide antioxidant protection for the baby’s brain and eyes.
- Gentle laxative action removes toxins.
- Vitamin C and rutin help prevent hemorrhoids, as well as varicose veins and bruising.
- Fatty antioxidant carotenoids protect the growing baby’s brain and eyes.
Dried plums are extremely satisfying snacks that, although sweet, help regulate blood sugar levels. To relieve constipation, make a dried plum puree by combining with boiling water in a blender, and add to muesli or oats.
Leeks have a well-deserved reputation as a gentle natural laxative and detoxifying agent, which makes them a perfect choice at a time when the bowel may be slow. All members of the allium (onion) plant family—leeks, onions, and garlic—have a high sulfur content, which helps the liver detoxify harmful substances. This mineral also moves waste products out of individual cells, allowing for nutrients to enter.
Leeks have high levels of prebiotic fibers, such as inulin, which feed the probiotic beneficial bacteria in your intestines and keep your bowels moving. This prebiotics help you fight infection and encourage good immune responses throughout the body and convert the plant foods that you eat into energy. All of these actions are important in helping to keep harmful toxins away from the baby. The antibodies that a mother’s immune system produces against fungal, viral, or bacterial invaders are passed to the fetus through the placenta.
- High sulfur content detoxifies the body and lets nutrients into cells that protect and nourish the baby.
- Prebiotic fiber inulin feeds good digestive bacteria to prevent constipation that can cause toxic buildup.
- Prebiotics also support immunity against invading bacteria and viruses, which are passed on to the baby.
Leeks can be used in any recipe in place of onion, which may exacerbate heartburn tendencies in the third trimester. Be careful not to overcook leeks because they easily become soggy and lose their flavor. Use them as a base for a vegetable broth or soup.
6. Raspberry Leaves Tea
Raspberry leaf tea, which is thought to ease birth pain and complication, has a longstanding tradition as herbal support during the third trimester. Raspberry leaf tea contains an alkaloid called fragine, which helps tone and strengthen the uterine and pelvic muscles. This effect may help shorten the second stage of labor. More effective muscle contractions can help reduce pain because the muscles remain oxygenated and don’t build up lactic acid through stress.
Some studies have shown that these effects may result in less intervention during labor: specifically, fewer Caesarean and forceps deliveries in those women who had regularly drunk it in their third trimester. In one study, two-thirds of midwives recommended raspberry leaf tea as a known remedy to help women. The tea’s rich and varied mineral content is also believed to help birth.
- Fragine tones muscles in the womb and pelvis to make contractions stronger during labor.
- May help shorten the second stage of labor, reduce labor pains, and reduce the likelihood of intervention.
- Its rich mineral content, although not quantified, is believed to aid muscle contractions.
Due to its effects on the uterus, many sources recommend waiting until week 36 of pregnancy before drinking raspberry leaf tea. If the pregnancy has had any serious complications, first consult your health-care provider. Drink 1–2 cups per day of the fresh leaf infusion or, if using tea bags, 2–3 cups.
Watercress is a fantastically easy way to add cleansing sulfur, protective antioxidants, and energy-giving chlorophyll to the pregnancy diet. Watercress contains the sulfur
compounds isothiocyanates. These are very efficient at helping the liver escort out harmful toxins that might otherwise harm the baby. Sulfur helps deliver nutrients and oxygen around the body, aiding its ability to work with vitamin C to produce the collagen that forms the baby’s skeleton, muscle, and skin.
With vitamins A and E, they enable the mother’s skin to stretch while causing minimal damage and may reduce the baby’s future risk of eczema and asthma. The dark green of watercress leaves signifies high levels of the antioxidant carotenoids, beta-carotene, and lutein, which strengthen both mother’s and baby’s immune system and vision.
- Sulfur eliminates harmful toxins and aids circulation so that oxygen and nutrients can be delivered to the baby.
- Sulfur and vitamins A, C, and E help create the baby’s bone, skin, and muscle and the mother’s expanding skin.
- May help prevent the baby from developing eczema and asthma.
- Carotenoids beta-carotene and lutein strengthen both mother’s and baby’s immune systems and vision.
The darkest green leaves have the most carotenoids and the energizing plant pigment chlorophyll. Choose fresh, open bunches instead of those in sealed bags. Add
watercress to meals as you would any salad green. The bitter taste stimulates digestion.
8. Coconut Water
Coconut water is a natural isotonic, with the same electrolyte mineral content as blood plasma. It will naturally hydrate and support the body’s higher blood volume. The electrolyte minerals calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium in coconut water are essential to health because they govern electrical impulses and fluid balances in our
bodies. They also support the heart as it works 25 percent harder than usual to pump the extra blood. The baby uses up these minerals for the benefit of its own nervous system and fluids, so if the mother does not replenish stocks, she may have deficiency symptoms arising from dehydration, such as muscle cramps, puffiness, fatigue, or
- Coconut water is also a good source of energy.
- The lauric acid it contains destroys bacteria and viruses and is also found in human breast milk.
- The 40–50 percent increase in blood volume at this time demands higher levels of electrolyte minerals.
- Mother’s and baby’s muscles, heart, and brain rely on this extra level of hydration and energy.
- Helps prevent electrolyte mineral deficiencies, such as muscle cramps and fatigue.
- Lauric acid protects against viruses and bacteria.
Coconut water can be siphoned from young, green coconuts. It is also available in cartons. Drink it daily in the run-up to the due date to keep the muscles supplied with
the minerals it needs for efficient contractions. Coconut water is an ideal energy drink during labor.
Butter provides many components that are crucial to growth, reproduction, and health. It can support increased energy and hormone needs during pregnancy. There has been a lot of negative press about saturated fats over the past 20 years, but many scientists now believe that they are part of our natural diet and create an important
balance with dietary omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Butter provides lecithin, which helps break down fats for absorption so that the baby can use them to make cells.
What’s more, the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, produced in very high amounts in the third trimester, can only be made from fats.
The butyric acid, myristic acid, and lauric acid in butter are MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) that fuel your digestive cells to keep in check your defense against bacteria and viruses. We can’t store these fats, but use them as dense sources of energy. Lauric acid is also found in human breast milk, a densely fatty substance that the body is now preparing to make.
- Lecithin helps a mother digest crucial fats that can be incorporated into the baby’s growing body.
- MCTs support the immune system and digestive function, and can be passed on to the baby.
- Lauric acid and other fats in butter provide the building materials for breast milk.
Fatigue in pregnancy can occur if there are not enough quality fats in the diet. Butter from grass-fed cows also contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which helps regulate weight.
Garlic has a long history of use as an antifungal. The regular inclusion of garlic in the diet keeps a check on yeast organisms that can cause thrush. Vaginal thrush becomes more likely in late pregnancy as estrogen levels reach their peak. This risk is increased if the mother’s diet includes a lot of refined sugars. The allicin in garlic is a strong alternative to antifungal medications that can affect beneficial bacteria levels and, therefore, both mother’s and baby’s immunity.
Vaginal thrush can also be passed to the baby during birth or afterward through breastfeeding, causing oral thrush and diaperrash. The potent antioxidants and sulfur compounds in garlic also remove toxins and may help reduce the problems with nasal congestion and breathing that are common in the third trimester. The prebiotic fiber inulin fuels beneficial bacteria, reducing the severity of fungal, bacterial, and viral infections and the likelihood of inflammation and intolerances.
- Antifungal action that doesn’t upset natural beneficial bacteria levels and helps stops a mother from passing thrush to the baby.
- Antioxidants and sulfur compounds support immune function and eliminate harmful toxins.
- Prebiotic fiber supports healthy probiotic bacteria levels so that the body can ward off infection.
Add garlic to cooking but also eatraw, where possible, to obtain its full potency. Garlic needs to be chopped, crushed or chewed to release the allicin. Add crushed garlic to olive oil.
11. Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers are one of the richest sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the most abundant micronutrient in the body, and the need for it increases during pregnancy.
This is particularly true in the third trimester when vitamin C is used up quickly to help produce the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, which maintain pregnancy and prepare the body for birth and breast-feeding.
Vitamin C is naturally purged from the body via the urine about twice a day, so it is difficult to have too much of it, and our need is constant. It also supports the collagen production of the baby’s rapidly growing body that is necessary for all its structures, including skin, bone, teeth, and muscle. Vitamin C allows for calcium in the diet to be absorbed to make the baby’s skeleton and to keep the mother’s own bones and teeth from being affected. It also allows for iron to be absorbed and is used to keep the blood oxygenated.
- The vitamin B6 and folate (folic acid) in red bell peppers support healthy brain function and detoxification processes.
- Vitamin C maintains healthy levels of the hormones needed to sustain pregnancy and enable birth and breast-feeding.
- Vitamin C is needed in large amounts for the growth of the baby.
- The absorption of calcium from food relies on vitamin C, as does our utilization of iron for energy.
- Vitamin B6 and folate keep the brain and body free of toxins.
Choose deep red colors to benefit from the fat-protective antioxidant lycopene. Buy with the green stem intact and cut this at the last minute to preserve the vitamin C content.
Asparagus offers a wealth of supporting nutrients at this demanding stage of pregnancy when the need for nutrient-dense foods is at its peak. Asparagus helps provide the
nutrients that work together most efficiently in support of the growing baby and the mother’s preparation for birth and breast-feeding. Its rich antioxidant profile, which includes vitamins A and E, the minerals selenium and zinc, the carotenoids lutein and betacarotene, and the flavonoids rutin, quercetin, and kaempferol, protect DNA and maintain both mother’s and baby’s immune systems. Added to these and enhancing their action is the antioxidant enzyme glutathione.
Asparagus is one of a few foods, including onions, garlic, leeks, and bananas, that provide the prebiotic fiber inulin. This fiber enables beneficial digestive bacteria to protect the mother and baby from infection. With its antioxidants and B vitamins, asparagus also helps remove toxins.
- Antioxidant combinations maintain the mother’s and baby’s immune systems and protect DNA.
- The prebiotic fiber inulin supports internal good bacteria, keeping out invaders that may cause infection.
- Antioxidants and B vitamins enhance the body’s ability to tackle harmful toxic buildup that may harm the baby.
Asparagus can be eaten hot or cold, in salads, stir-fries, as a side dish, or as an appetizer. It works particularly well with lemon or butter or a few Parmesan shavings. Steaming it will retain the most nutrients. The thicker, woodierlarge stalks contain the most fiber.
Potatoes can help satisfy the daily need for 200–300 extra calories in this trimester. A meal that includes potatoes can also stop you from craving dessert afterward. Stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness are common third-trimester problems when the birth is imminent and activity is harder. Potatoes raise serotonin levels in the brain and this
sleep and mood neurotransmitter(brain chemical) promotes relaxation and quality sleep.
The vitamins B6 and C in potatoes aids this action and also ensures that energy is released from food at the right times, making it easierto cope with the day. Vitamin B6 is a very important pregnancy nutrient. It makes possible the use of iron, it breaks down and makes use of protein for growth, it draws energy from carbohydrate foods, and it regulates the pregnancy hormones. The vitamin C in potatoes protects the baby’s vulnerable brain and nerve cells as they rapidly develop.
- Potatoes are naturally calming, promoting sleep.
- Vitamins B6 and C help release energy from food and produce serotonin to regulate mood and sleep.
- Vitamin B6 plays an important role in hormonal, growth, and energy processes in pregnancy.
- Vitamin C protects the baby’s sensitive brain cells.
Choose new potatoes in their skins to get the most fiber and to benefit from the nutrients that are concentrated under the skin. Older potatoes are far more sugary and have a less positive effect on energy and mood.
14. Cashew Nuts
Cashew nuts are often overlooked in favor of other nuts, but they have excellent levels of the same heart-protective monounsaturated fats found in olive oil. At this stage, the mother’s heart is working 25 percent harder than usual to pump the extra blood around the body, while the baby’s heart is just starting its life, so both need a lot of nutritional support.
Studies have shown that the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, enables the heart to use oxygen and fuel more efficiently. The minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium in cashew nuts also encourage two strong heartbeats, while the B vitamins ensure energy is released completely into every cell. These minerals also regulate nerve and muscle function.
One molecule of calcium is needed for every muscle contraction during labor and magnesium helps strengthen muscles in the uterus. These two “calming minerals” also help relieve stress, and promote relaxation and sleep.
- Oleic acid protects the mother’s and baby’s hearts and helps them to work effectively.
- Calcium, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins keep heartbeats strong.
- Calcium and magnesium keep the nervous system calm and prepare the muscles for birth contractions.
Cashew nuts make excellent nut butter, simply blended on their own. If used in cooking, they should be added only at the very end to avoid damaging the omega-6 fatty acids. For this reason, choose raw cashew nuts to snack on instead of roasted.
The deep color of blueberries indicates their high levels of proanthocyanidins. These support circulation, a crucial factor in late pregnancy. With an extra 40–50 percent of blood flowing around the body, it is imperative that the blood vessels stay intact and strong. Proanthocyanidins help with this, along with the vitamins C and A that are also present in blueberries.
Easy bruising, varicose veins, nosebleeds, and hemorrhoids are common symptoms that result from damage to blood vessels. Effective circulation also ensures good skin condition, brain function, and a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients to the placenta and baby; any break in the flow can be detrimental. Proanthocyanidins are also believed to neutralize the enzymes that cause inflammation and can damage connective tissue, relieving pregnancy aches and pains, including discomfort in the joints, carpal tunnel, and pelvic girdle pain.
- Provide proanthocyanidin circulatory support to help prevent hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and easy bruising.
- Healthy blood flow ensures the baby receives a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients.
- A naturally anti-inflammatory food that helps relieve common pregnancy symptoms, including joint pains.
Blueberries can be easily frozen and enjoyed whenever convenient, either as a snack or in smoothies, or yogurt. They are a perfect food to graze on during labor because they are digested quickly and will help keep oxygen flowing to the contracting muscles.