In the first trimester of pregnancy, you may be feeling changes in your body already. For many women, the first three months of pregnancy can be the hardest, with fatigue and morning sickness most likely to strike now. Being careful about what you eat can help, by ensuring steady blood-sugar levels, and providing the nutrients—such as the B vitamins and iron—that may be depleted at this time. Folate (folic acid), vitamin E, and zinc support the growth of the baby and placenta.
Certain foods can help minimize common symptoms, the best-known being ginger for nausea. Foods that support immunity are also particularly important now when it is naturally lowered to protect the embryo from being rejected by the mother’s body. Those foods that promote detoxification and the elimination of harmful substances also protect your baby at this delicate stage.
In this section, we will discuss the best foods to eat in the first trimester of pregnancy with reasons why you should eat these foods.
Ginger has been used for thousands of years as a medicine for nausea and morning sickness. Its active compound gingerol also encourages good digestion. Being able to eat healthy, nutritious food is vital during all stages of pregnancy, but this can be difficult in the early months when nausea is most likely. Ginger helps keep up the appetite by curbing nausea, and it also helps rectify any digestive disharmony that may be contributing to the problem.
It is a powerful antimicrobial, which means that it kills off harmful bacteria, yeasts, and viruses that may harm the fetus. Its strong antioxidant action, derived from 12 different substances that together have a more protective effect than vitamin C, also protects the growing baby from damage.
- May help reduces morning sickness so that the mother-to-be can retain her natural appetite; supports the absorption of vital nutrients.
- Contains high antioxidant levels that protect the embryo from damage.
- Kills off harmful bacteria and so helps prevent illness during this crucial time.
A quick morning sickness remedy is a ginger syrup with sparkling water. Others swear by ginger tea. It is available in tea bags, but a few slices of fresh ginger with hot water is more potent. Ginger cookies may be useful in emergencies, although the added sugar may exacerbate the problem in the long run.
2. Rooibos Tea
Rooibos is refreshing and caffeine-free. It provides antioxidants to support immunity, which is lowered in early pregnancy to prevent rejection of the embryo. A mother’s natural immune suppression in early pregnancy prevents the growing baby from being attacked as a foreign body.
Rooibos is very high in polyphenols— protective antioxidants, such as quercetin, rutin, and ferulic acid—that support circulation and help prevent allergies that can heighten immune reactions. It also contains the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, which protects the body’s cells—including a developing fetus—from damage by oxygen.
Rooibos isn’t technically a tea because it isn’t derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, but from a legume. This means that it is extremely low in the tannins present in “normal” tea, which can prevent the absorption of iron. Iron is vital in pregnancy because it supports blood flow to the growing baby.
- A rich antioxidant profile supports natural immunity, which becomes suppressed during pregnancy.
- These substances also support circulation and prevent allergies, so helping to prevent miscarriage.
- Low tannin content makes rooibos preferable to normal tea because the tannin in regular tea and coffee hinders iron absorption and can reduce blood flow to the baby.
Drink with milk as “normal” tea, or with lemon or honey. Limit intake to 2–3 cups a day in total. Some rooibos tea blends are mixed with herbal products that should be
avoided during pregnancy.
The abundant oils and fiber in avocados help the liver to maintain healthy hormone levels. This supports the growing baby and helps prevent nausea. Any fears about the fat content of avocados need to be discarded, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. A growing baby needs these valuable oils to start developing, especially in fat-rich areas, such as the heart and brain. These oils carry with them fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A and E, and the carotenoid lutein, which protect these delicate fatty areas from damage as they grow.
The minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium—avocados contain 60 percent more potassium than bananas—help support the mother’s increasing metabolism and heart rate. They also help to regulate fluid balance and maintain healthy blood pressure. Although high blood pressure is unlikely to pose a problem at this point of the pregnancy, support from the beginning as a preventive measure is advised.
- Contain healthy fats that support liver health and the development of the baby’s heart and brain.
- Fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A and E, and lutein, protect these fatty body parts from damage.
- Calcium, magnesium, and potassium support the mother’s increasing heart rate, metabolism, and blood pressure.
Avocado can be a pleasing snack, even when morning sickness is an all-day problem, and it is a good choice if food intake is minimal. If solid food is off-putting, it can be
made into a smoothie.
4. Walnut Oil
Walnut oil provides a great balance of fatty acids during the first trimester, at a time when the baby’s nervous system is undergoing intense development. The omega-6 fatty acids in walnut oil help the body to maintain a healthy balance between sex hormones, which lowers the risk of miscarriage. Walnut oil also contains useful levels
of omega-3 fatty acids, needed to support a baby’s developing brain and spinal cord.
These omega-3 fatty acids, along with omega-9 fatty acids (oleic acid), support the baby’s heart development, too. During this crucial time, when a healthy immune system is vital to ward off infections, walnut oil also offers high levels of the antioxidant substances ellagic acid and phytosterols. These help the liver eliminate toxins that can pose a danger to your pregnancy by damaging cells and increasing the chances of inflammation and infection.
- Omega-6 fatty acids balance the sex hormones, while omega-3 fatty acids support brain development.
- Omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids help create a healthy heart and keep problematic inflammation at bay.
- Ellagic acid and phytosterols fight against toxins and infections that can increase the risk of miscarriage.
Store walnut oil in dark glass bottles; the fatty acids it contains can absorb hormone-disrupting chemicals from plastic. It should also be stored away from heat and light.
Heating walnut oil can create damaging trans fats, so save it for salad dressings and smoothies. Choose cold-pressed types and avoid roasted or toasted oils.
Pomegranate juice has been found to contain around three times the protective dose of antioxidant polyphenols of either red wine or green tea. The polyphenols in the fruit help to increase circulation, keeping a growing baby supplied with vital blood and oxygen. This may reduce the negative effects on the brain that a baby born before 34 weeks of risks because it is starved of a steady flow of blood and oxygen. It will also provide a healthy dose of vitamin C and folate (folic acid) to encourage all growth and development.
Pomegranate juice has been found to help problems associated with high altitude in pregnant women, such as air travel, which may be part of an expectant mother’s life
during these early stages. High potassium helps this effect by aiding hydration.
- Rich polyphenols help blood and oxygen flow to the baby’s brain and may reduce the risk of damage if born prematurely.
- Contains vitamin C and folate, which support all growth processes.
- Pomegranate juice has been shown to help reduce the negative effects of flying, while potassium assists hydration.
Pomegranate juice has risen in popularity in the last few years and is now widely available. It is high in sugar, however, so limit consumption to a few glasses a day and
dilute by up to half with water. It is even better to eat the fruit because you will also get the benefit of the cleansing fiber. Avoid pomegranate seed extract during pregnancy, because it can stimulate uterine contractions.
Eating celery is one of the easiest ways to help bring down high blood pressure, which reduces the risk of later developing serious complications, including preeclampsia.
Celery contains two substances, apigenin and phthalide, which widen blood vessels, and three minerals, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which relax them. The combined effect is to keep blood pressure at a healthy level.
Celery also contains the calming amino acid tryptophan, from which we make the sleep and mood neurotransmitter serotonin, so it helps to minimize the stress and anxiety that can contribute to miscarriage risk. Its folate (folic acid) content helps prevent birth defects, and the high potassium and water content helps prevent dehydration and keep fluid available to the embryo. A mother-to-be can draw energy from the vitamin C, B vitamins, and magnesium, making it less likely that she will turn to sugary snacks.
- Apigenin, phthalide, tryptophan, potassium, calcium, and magnesium maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce stress.
- Contains folate for healthy fetal development.
- High potassium and water content ensure hydration of the mother and extra fluid for the embryo.
- Vitamin C, the B vitamins, and magnesium all balance blood sugar levels, promoting sustained energy.
Celery is one of the simplest snacks—just munch on a stalk or, for extra protein, dip some into hummus or a bean dip. It is an ideal bedtime nibble for people who find sleep difficult.
7. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds contain healthy doses of three key nutrients—folate, vitamin E, and zinc. A developing baby needs each of these in order to develop and grow. During the first 12 weeks, when the embryo is developing, nutrient-rich foods, such as sunflower seeds, support both the baby and the growing placenta. Vitamin E and folate (folic acid) help prepare the placenta’s connection in the womb, ready for it to take over and sustain the pregnancy. They are also needed to develop the red blood cells that supply the placenta and baby with nutrients and oxygen, which they both need continually in order to flourish.
The iron in sunflower seeds makes hemoglobin, the substance in the blood that transports oxygen to where it is needed. Meanwhile, vitamin E and magnesium keep the mother’s muscles intact so that her body is able to support the growing baby and recover after birth. Selenium and zinc enable the body to create antioxidant enzymes that protect the baby from damage.
- Folate, vitamin E, and zinc support the growth of the baby and placenta.
- Vitamin E is needed to secure the placental link, and, in combination with iron, safeguards the oxygen supply to the baby.
- Vitamin E and magnesium content maintain muscle health to support the baby and the mother after pregnancy.
- Contain selenium and zinc to protect the embryo from toxins.
Store in an airtight glass jar in a cupboard. The fatty acids are easily damaged, which can potentially be harmful, so avoid toasting. Sprinkle on salads, in cereals, and on
Raspberries are a delicious way for a mother-to-be to load up on antioxidants that will protect the developing baby and keep it supplied with vital oxygen. Raspberries are one of the most abundant sources of antioxidants in the plant kingdom. Their ample supply of vitamin C, quercetin, and proanthocyanidins helps prevent harmful free radicals (unstable molecules) from damaging the susceptible new tissues of a developing baby. These three also support the circulation so that it can deliver oxygen and nutrients effectively.
Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means it keeps watery areas between and inside cells free from harmful toxins, as well as the amniotic fluid that surrounds and protects the baby. The high fiber of raspberries—at 20 percent, they have one of the highest-fiber levels of any fruit—takes a clean sweep of the body, moving out what is unwanted. Another good reason to include raspberries in the diet from early on is that they contain fragine, a chemical thought to strengthen the uterus, which will stand a mother in good stead when having birthing contractions later.
- Contain extremely high levels of antioxidants, which keep toxins from harming the baby, and help nourish it with oxygen and nutrients.
- High fiber content carries unwanted products out of the body.
- The substance fragile helps prepare the body for labor by strengthening the smooth muscle of the uterus.
Raspberries are safe to eat at any time during pregnancy. A handful of raspberries enjoyed daily as a snack or with cereal, yogurt, or a smoothie is a safe way to support
Oats provide a powerful combination of complex carbohydrates, ensuring a sustained release of energy at a time when the metabolic rate is increasing. Oats and other slow-release foods balance your blood sugar by preventing sudden surges of sugar into the bloodstream. This keeps energy levels stable, helping to regulate appetite and prevent nausea, and keeps cravings for unhealthy foods at bay.
The magnesium and zinc in oats also help to keep blood sugar on an even keel by supporting the production of insulin, as well as the hormones estrogen and progesterone. At the same time, zinc, vitamin E, calcium, iron, and folate (folic acid) work together to support the baby’s growth and development. Oats also help to keep bowel movements regular; constipation is a common pregnancy symptom and needs addressing to ensure that the mother is able to eliminate harmful toxins and maintain a healthy hormone balance.
- Slow-release energy food that regulates blood sugar, preventing sugar cravings and helping to prevent morning sickness.
- Contain magnesium and zinc, needed to support the hormones that balance blood sugar and maintain pregnancy.
- Zinc, vitamin E, calcium, iron, and folate are all necessary for fetal development.
- Help prevent constipation and remove toxins.
Cooked oats in oatmeals are much easier to digest than the raw flakes found in muesli or granola. You can soak oats overnight in water or apple juice to increase their ability to relieve constipation.
The eggplant provides a wide spread of the nutrients that work together to support a healthy pregnancy, including antioxidants that help protect a baby from toxic damage.
The chlorogenic acid found in eggplant is a powerful antioxidant. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promoting sustained energy levels, and assists our metabolism by reducing our body’s uptake of sugar. Vitamins B3 and B5, zinc, and manganese also help the body release the most energy possible from the food we eat, thereby reducing sugar cravings.
Nasunin is another antioxidant in eggplant, which particularly protects fatty areas, such as the baby’s growing heart, brain, liver, and kidneys. Copper is a trace mineral needed for collagen production, the protein from which all human tissue is derived, and which is needed constantly to ensure the baby’s continued development. The potassium in eggplant helps to keep blood pressure at a safe level.
- Chlorogenic acid protects the baby’s cells from damage and regulates energy.
- Vitamins B3 and B5, zinc, and manganese help energy to be unlocked from food, ensuring a baby’s growth.
- Nasunin prevents damage to fatty areas in the fetus.
- Contains copper, needed to make collagen for the baby to grow.
- Potassium ensures blood pressure stays within healthy parameters.
It is recommended that everyone avoids salt beyond a little culinary seasoning whether pregnant or not, so instead of salting eggplants before cooking, try brushing slices with olive oil and broiling.
Eating an apple can satisfy a sweet craving, helping to support changing demands on energy and a developing appetite, while sustaining blood sugar levels. Regulating blood sugar levels to avoid highs and lows is the most fundamental way to control appetite, which can increase or decrease during the early stages of pregnancy. Keeping something in the stomach at all times can help keep nausea at bay, and choosing an apple may stop an expectant mother from reaching for unhealthy foods, such as cookies and caffeine.
It is high levels of the fiber pectin that makes the release of sugar in apples so slow. The pectin also holds onto toxins in the bowel so that they can be safely removed from the body and the baby. The antioxidant quercetin in apples supports immunity at a time when it is naturally low and encourages blood flow, taking oxygen and nutrients to the womb.
- Apples naturally regulate blood sugar levels to correct appetite, reduce cravings for caffeine and sugar, and help prevent nausea.
- Pectin removes harmful toxins from the body.
- Quercetin’s antioxidant action supports immunity and circulation.
Nonorganic apples are sprayed with more pesticides than other fruits, so choose organic to reduce the number of toxins you take into your body. An apple a day is an easy way to keep your bowels regular, and you can also make applesauce with added plums, dried plums (prunes), or dried apricots if you need some extra help.
12. Live Yogurt
Live yogurt retains the bacteria used to ferment the milk and has a long tradition of supporting immunity and reducing digestive problems. The immune-supporting effects of live yogurt occur by increasing and protecting the probiotic beneficial bacteria that naturally colonize our digestive tracts. This reduces inflammation and helps prevent
intolerances and allergies.
Yogurt also helps regulate digestion, reducing the incidence of diarrhea and, particularly in pregnancy, constipation that may be at the heart of other symptoms, such as nausea, heartburn, flatulence, and bloating. Any buildup of waste products in the intestines needs to be addressed at the start of pregnancy because it can lower the body’s immunity and its ability to rid itself of toxins. Yogurt is a complete protein and a vegetarian source of vitamin B12, which means it is well
equipped to support the baby’s developing brain and body.
- Supports beneficial bacteria for immunity and detoxification.
- Ensures good digestive function, helping relieve nausea, heartburn, gas, and bloating.
- Contains protein and vitamin B12, needed to form the baby’s brain and body tissues.
Live Greek-style yogurt can be easier to digest because it contains less lactose and more protein, and may help women with morning sickness feel fuller easily. Choose organic dairy products, if possible, to reduce your exposure to hormones and antibiotics.
13. Black Beans
All beans have antioxidant properties but black beans are particularly special. The purple proanthocyanidins they contain ensure good blood flow to the womb. The antioxidant power of black beans is around ten times that of the equivalent weight of oranges, so a meal based on these will help keep a baby safe by supporting the mother’s immunity.
Black beans also supply a great dose of folate (folic acid), not only needed for the baby’s neural tube to form in the first four weeks of pregnancy but later on for the production of the entire nervous system, producing red blood cells and all new cell growth. Vitamin B1 aids these processes by helping the body produce the energy needed to make it all happen. The high levels of protein, calcium, magnesium, and potassium in black beans also help strengthen the mother’s muscles as they prepare to
accommodate the growing baby.
- High antioxidant levels protect the growing baby from harm and help safeguard the pregnancy.
- Folate and vitamin B1 play crucial roles as the baby’s nervous system grows and the mother’s blood volume increases.
- Protein, calcium, magnesium, and potassium prepare the stomach muscles to stretch and support the baby.
There is little nutritional difference between dried or canned beans. Look for those without salt or additives. If cooking from dried, presoaking helps break down the fibers that can cause flatulence. Soak overnight or boil for two minutes, then let the beans stand, covered in the water, for two hours, before rinsing and draining.
Almonds contain high levels of vitamin E, which protects the baby’s delicate fat cells and helps produce both mother and baby’s increasing red blood cell numbers. The omega-6 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium in almonds not only help to regulate estrogen and progesterone, which is essential to maintain pregnancy and reduce the risk of miscarriage, but also help keep up the mother’s energy, good mood, and positive outlook.
The minerals calcium and magnesium are also present in a perfectly balanced ratio, helping to soothe muscle tension, maintain healthy blood pressure, and keep the
mother’s brain firing on all cylinders. In the first trimester, the baby is busy storing calcium, ready to build bone, and is taking this from its mother. If there is not enough calcium in the diet, the mother’s personal stores will be the ones to be depleted, often resulting in tooth decay or increased risk of osteoporosis later in life.
- Vitamin E helps prevent inflammation and ensure immunity, protect fatty areas of the baby’s body, and create red blood cells.
- Omega-6 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium regulate hormones, energy, and mood.
- Contain calcium and magnesium for healthy blood pressure, baby’s bone growth, and topping up the mother’s stores.
As an easy, portable snack, almonds help prevent drops in blood sugar that can cause nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. For some women, snacking every four hours is the only way to reduce these symptoms. Eat them raw and store them away from heat and light.
Chicken is a dense source of protein, which will provide the building blocks for a baby’s development and growth. Protein forms the basis of every part of the human body. We also receive a good dose of iron when eating chicken. The iron in chicken, and other animal products, is the most easily absorbed by the body. We are then able to use it to make hemoglobin to transport oxygen and create energy.
Fatigue in the first trimester can often signal low iron stores and should be discussed with a doctor. It is low levels of iron and its companion vitamin B6, also present in chicken, that most often contribute to morning sickness. As well as helping our utilization of iron, B6 regulates the hormone estrogen, which can contribute to nausea and even vomiting at this early stage when the hormone is peaking. The selenium in chicken helps eliminate toxic metals, such as mercury and lead, which can harm the fetus.
- Dense protein, which provides the building materials a baby needs for full development.
- Contains easily utilized iron with vitamin B6, helping the body to create energy and combat fatigue and morning sickness.
- Selenium helps detoxify toxic metals that are harmful to the fetus.
A free-range chicken will have a higher protein-to-fat ratio than other birds because it has been active, and is more likely to have been fed more nutritious food. Organic is the best option during pregnancy, because the hormones and antibiotics present in nonorganic meat may interfere with a mother’s own hormones and immunity.
16. Olive Oil
The fat profile of olive oil is similar to human breast milk. As such, it can help to support a baby’s growth throughout pregnancy, and beyond if the baby is breastfed.
As one of the staples of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is the oil to choose if you want to pass on the immune-enhancing properties of that diet-derived from substances
including quercetin and oleic acid—to a developing child.
The vitamin E in olive oil has been shown to be a supportive factor in the development of a baby’s liver, kidneys, and pancreas, important if a baby is born prematurely. Thanks to the compound oleocanthal, which has the same anti-inflammatory action as ibuprofen, olive oil also helps to relieve those pregnancy aches and pains completely naturally.
- Contains healthy fats and immune-supporting chemicals, which can be passed on to a child even beyond pregnancy.
- Consumption during pregnancy has been shown to produce better breathing patterns in babies.
- Vitamin E helps reduce the risk of problems in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas in premature infants.
- Oleocanthal acts as a potent anti-inflammatory, so reducing aches and pains.
Choose the best quality extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil that you can afford and use it for salad dressings. Its high monounsaturated fat content means that it can be safely used when cooking at medium temperatures, such as when stir-frying or roasting.