Which mother wouldn’t want a smart baby! Much of your work towards making a baby with a well-developed brain starts right after three weeks post conception which is when the fetus begins to develop its brain. You must start eating nutritious foods right at this stage onwards. Rapid changes in the fetal brain occur between 24 and 42 weeks. Significant changes occur 34 weeks onwards.
In the first trimester, nerve cells form, but don’t necessarily develop fully as the brain. Impulses have no specific direction at this point in time, the sensory organs and nerves are not developed at this point in time, so the fetus does not feel any pain. In the first trimester, women have to be extremely careful about what they eat, and they need to avoid any dangerous chemicals or substances. The exponential fetal growth in the first trimester can be alluded to 70 percent new tissues that are fat-derived. Therefore eating healthy fats from natural foods is essential at this point in time.
During the second trimester, there is more synchronicity in the how the nerves function as both the nerves and the sensory organs would begin to develop. By the fifth month, the fetus can begin to feel sensation and can get erratic as well. In the meanwhile, the healthy fats can help foster the brain development.
The third trimester is the time when the fetal brain begins to develop memories and learning abilities.
So eating healthy for most of your pregnancy is the key, but here are tips to what you must eat for your baby to develop a healthy brain:
1. Sardines for DHA
Rich in DHA or docosahexaenoic acid (an essential omega-3 fatty acid), Sardines and a few other oily fish are important in helping the brain and the central nervous system develop. DHA also helps in developing the immune system and eye development of your baby. DHA reserves of your body are imparted to your baby. Therefore it’s important that you replenish the DNA requirement by consuming sardines among other DHA-rich foods. There are DHA fortified vitamins available apart from five hundred food products that are fortified with DHA derived from algae. The best part about sardines is that they are less likely to have mercury contamination, unlike several other fish. Moreover, sardines have good vitamin D content. Pregnant women should consume at least two servings of fish per week, one of which must be oily. Salmon, herring, and freshwater trout are other examples of DHA-rich foods.
2. Pumpkin seeds for Zinc
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc which is necessary for building the structure of the brain. Zinc also activates the regions of the brain that receive and process information. Most of the zinc in pumpkin seeds is concentrated next to the shell, so it’s better to eath them unshelled. The daily recommended quantity of pumpkin seeds is 7 mg per day.
3. Spinach for Folate
Spinach is not only rich in iron but also contains naturally occurring folate which is essential for generating new DNA and regulating cell metabolism. The antioxidants from spinach also help in protecting your baby’s brain tissue from damage. The daily recommended values of folate for pregnant women is 400mcg. Overcooking spinach might make it lose the essential nutrients.
4. Eggs for Choline
Apart from being great sources of iron and protein which are essential for brain development, eggs are also rich in choline that is important in developing memory and the ability to learn throughout one’s life. The daily recommended levels of choline are 450mg a day. Egg yolks are supposed to be the richest source of choline.
5. Sweet potatoes for Beta-carotene
Beta-carotene is essential for the development of the baby’s central nervous system. The daily beta-carotene recommended requirement is 700mcg per day. Sweet potatoes with orange flesh have the maximum beta-carotene content in them.
6. Lentils for Iron
Iron is very important for producing brain chemicals and myelin formation. Myeline is essential for speedy and precise message transmission to the brain. An iron deficiency can lead to mental impairment in babies. This apart, iron is crucial to carry oxygen to your baby. Most women have low iron levels by the time they are pregnant. Therefore, pregnant women need to have a good iron intake. Pregnant women need at least 14.8 mg of iron each day throughout pregnancy. A blend of lentils and vitamin C helps the iron available to your body spike up. You could consider adding tomatoes to your lentil soup. Lean beef, legumes, chicken and fortified breakfast cereal, beetroots, pomegranates, etc., are other sources of iron.
7. Brazil nuts for Selenium
Rich in monounsaturated fats, Brazil nuts are also very good source of selenium. A deficiency of selenium can impair brain development in babies. The daily recommended levels of selenium in pregnant women are 60mcg which is just one Brazile nut in a day.
8. Peanuts for Vitamin E
Rich in monounsaturated fats, niacin, folate and proteins, peanuts are a good source of vitamin E as well. The vitamin E levels in peanuts support DHA and protects brain cell membranes. Peanuts with skin intact also serve as good antioxidants. The daily recommended values of vitamin E a day is 3mg per day which is what a serving of natural peanut butter provides.
9. Greek yogurt for Iodine
Most mental problems in babies are preventable provided adequate care is taken through iodine consumption during pregnancy. The World Health Organization recommends iodine intake by pregnant women to prevent mental health problems in babies. While all yogurt is rich in iodine, Greek yogurt contain a good amount of proteins as well which could help in preventing low birth weight. 140 mcg of iodine is the recommended iodine level in pregnant women. Apart from yogurt, milk, pears and iodized salt are also supposed to be laden with iodine.
10. Avocados for Monounsaturated fatty acids
About 60 percent of a developing brain is made up of fats. Avocados contain high levels of oleic acid that help create myelin. Myelin is a protective sheath that protects the nerves in the central nervous system. While 25 to 35 percent of daily calories come from fat, most of it is monosaturated fats.