An A-Z of Summer Produce for a Healthy Pregnancy

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It is that time of year when farmer’s markets and gardens overflow with deliciously healthy fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of nature’s bounty in these summer months to give your growing baby plenty of the best kind of nutrition. Remember, your body can better absorb and process minerals and vitamins from fresh food than from your prenatal vitamins. That is why your doctor advises you to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. In addition, fresh fruits and vegetables have more easy-absorbed minerals and vitamins than frozen or canned varieties, with less sugar, salt, and preservatives.

A to Z Alphabet of Summer Garden Goodness

Apples

We often think of apples in fall, but late summer varieties are a great source of fiber, iron to prevent anemia, and powerful antioxidants called flavonoids and phytochemicals.

Bell Peppers

Low in calories and full of vitamin A, C, potassium, and folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, peppers are another source of fiber for your battle against pregnancy constipation.

Cherries

These cute little stone fruits are the perfect portable snack for when you are craving something sweet. High in natural polyphenols, cherries help fight inflammation and free radicals.

Vitamin D

Suppose you are out in the sun at a farmer’s market or working in your garden. In that case, your skin will be making its natural, easily-absorbed variety of Vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for your baby’s growing bones, teeth, kidneys, heart, and nervous system.

Eggplant

This purple garden friend serves up a healthy dose of bone-building manganese, plenty of antioxidant B vitamins, and may even have some anti-high blood pressure effects. Try roasting it with your summer squash, tomatoes, and zucchini in a nutritional smorgasbord of delicious ratatouille.

Fiber

Fruits and vegetables contain extra fiber, which can be helpful to prevent constipation so common in pregnancy. Fiber also slows sugar’s absorption into the bloodstream, helping to keep blood sugar levels more even.

Greens

Dark leafy greens such as collard, mustard, and chard are excellent sources of fiber to prevent constipation. They also supply iron to guard against anemia and deliver a healthy dose of calcium needed for your baby’s strong bones and teeth.

Herbs

A flower pot or kitchen window garden with some basil, parsley, and thyme holds a wealth of savory tastes to complement your summer veggies. These fresh herbs also supply healthy doses of Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and Vitamin C (parsley).

Ice

Not technically from the garden, ice is a crucial ingredient for a comfortable summer pregnancy. Sucking on ice chips, rubbing ice cubes on sore, swollen feet, and drinking plenty of icy smoothies made from summer’s fruits are great ways to keep your cool.

Jackfruit

This healthy, low-calorie veggie substitute for meat is filled with essential minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron, beta-carotene.

Kale

Slip one cup of kale leaves into your morning smoothie, and you will meet  10% of your daily calcium requirement and all of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamins A and C.

Limes

These citrus fruits can help flavor the endless glasses of water you are drinking to stay hydrated during hot summer days. They also deliver a healthy dose of vitamin C to boost your immune system.

Melons like cantaloupe and honeydew

Keep a bowl of sliced melon in your fridge for a low-calorie, hydrating snack that will help cool you down when the heat and humidity start to rise.

Nectarines

Deliciously juicy, summer’s nectarines pack a healthy punch of Vitamin C, lutein, flavonoids, and antioxidants. Top your spinach salad with this stone fruit, and the nectarine’s high vitamin C content will boost your body’s ability to absorb the iron from the spinach.

Onions

To be consumed with caution if you struggle with heartburn during pregnancy, onions are a way to add flavor to many dishes without adding salt and its possible blood-pressure-increasing effects.

Peaches and plums

The vitamin C in peaches in plums helps build muscle and grow blood vessels. In addition, their high potassium levels can help stabilize blood pressure.

Quinoa

While not a typical summer fruit or veggie, quinoa comes from a flowering plant in the amaranth family. This grain tastes delicious when combined with some roasted squash or tossed with kale in a salad for extra protein whether you are pregnant or nursing.

Rhubarb

According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, having rhubarb in low doses can help prevent pregnancy-induced hypertension. It is also rich in vitamin K, a nutrient essential for blood clotting.

Squash

Summer squash, delicata squash, acorn squash, and butternut squash- nature’s cornucopia of squash varieties is a delicious way to add nutrients known to improve your baby’s vision and lower your risk of gestational diabetes, and boosting your immune system.

Tomatoes

Why not enjoy lycopene-rich tomatoes in gazpacho, tomato basil salad, or a salad pizza with oven-roasted tomatoes?  If you struggle with pregnancy heartburn, you might need to go easy on high-acidic tomatoes or try these two tricks: 1) Eat the ripest ones- they have the lowest acidity; 2) Remove the seeds-they store the majority of the tomato’s acid.

Ugli fruit

As tricky as it might be to find a fruit or vegetable starting with “u,” creative farmers came to the rescue when they crossed a grapefruit with a mandarin. You might only be able to find ugli fruit at specialty markets, but you’ll love the easy-to-peel fruit whose citrusy sweet juice serves up almost 100% of your daily dose of Vitamin C.

Vanilla

Not a summer fruit or vegetable either, this spice is delicious when used to poach or grill peaches, plums, and nectarines for a sweet summer treat.

Watermelon

The ultimate in refreshing summer snacks, you can eat watermelon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during summer months to stay hydrated, reduce your chances for heat exhaustion and fatigue and protect your kidney function.

X marks the spot…

Summer farmstands, the produce section of the grocery store, and even your own garden are the spots to find this A to Z alphabet list of summer produce for your healthiest pregnancy.

Yuzu

Another more exotic fruit that might only be found in specialty stores, this aromatic citrus fruit from Japan and Korea harbors immune-boosting antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation.

Zucchini

If you are watching carbohydrates or dealing with gestational diabetes, spiralizing summer zucchini into “zoodles” is a great way serve up a fiber-rich serving of carotenoids, antioxidants, and Vitamin A. 

Tips for Safe Pregnancy Produce Harvesting and Eating

A few healthy tips and tricks can help keep you safe as you try the amazing bounty of fresh fruit and vegetable available during the summer months:

If possible, choose organic. If cost is a concern, prioritize buying organic varieties of the “dirty dozen” – produce with the highest levels of pesticides:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and Hot Peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap before cutting and eating fresh produce.
  • To avoid any foodborne illness (food poisoning) and wash off any residual pesticides, thoroughly wash off all fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Wash produce before you cut or peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
  • Use a separate cutting board for meat and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Use a clean brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons, sweet potatoes, and cucumbers.
  • To dry produce after washing, use a clean cloth or paper towel. Drying will wipe off any remaining bacteria.

Make a #Summergoal to Try A New Veggie or Fruit

Were you one of those kids who struggled to eat their vegetables growing up? You may have noticed that pregnancy causes a change in what tastes good and odd cravings for foods you might not have liked before. Take advantage of this shift to try a new recipe, vegetable, or fruit from this A to Z alphabet list of summer produce. Your body and your baby will thank you for the extra nutritional boost of healthy minerals and vitamins. And if you are breastfeeding, remember that your breastmilk will pass summer’s nutritional cornucopia on to your baby. Boost your growing family’s nutrition this summer by supplementing with fresh fruits and veggies from the garden.

Do you have favorite recipes for your summer fruits and vegetables? Please share them with the @pregistry community and post pictures of your summer garden harvest or favorite produce on Facebook.

Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a certified nurse-midwife with a Master's Degree in Maternal and Child Health from Harvard Chan School of Public Health. Her passions are health literacy and women's reproductive health. A recent two-year sabbatical with her family in Spain was the impetus for becoming a freelance women's health writer. An exercise nut, she is happiest outdoors and on adventures abroad.

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