It is that time of year when gardens overflow with deliciously healthy summer 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dark leafy greens such as collard, mustard, and chard are excellent sources of fiber to prevent constipation. They also guard against anemia and deliver a healthy dose of calcium needed for your baby’s strong bones and teeth.
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).
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.
This healthy, low-calorie veggie substitute for meat is filled with essential minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron, beta-carotene.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Vitamin C.
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.
The ultimate in refreshing summer snacks, you can eat watermelon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Watermelon can help you stay hydrated, reduce your chances for heat exhaustion and fatigue, and protect your kidney function.
- X marks the spot…
Summer farmstands, the produce section, and even your own garden are the spots to find summer fruits and vegetables for your healthiest pregnancy.
Another more exotic fruit that might only be found in specialty stores, this aromatic citrus fruit harbors immune-boosting antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation.
If you are watching carbohydrates or dealing with gestational diabetes, spiralizing summer zucchini into “zoodles” is a great way to 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:
- Kale, collard, and mustard greens
- Bell and Hot Peppers
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap before cutting and eating fresh produce.
- Thoroughly wash off all fruits and vegetables before eating to avoid food poisoning and rinse off any pesticides.
- 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? Pregnancy changes what tastes good and causes odd cravings for foods you never used to like. Take advantage of this shift to try a new recipe, vegetable, or fruit from this A to Z guide to summer fruits and vegetables. Your body and your baby will thank you for the extra nutritional boost of 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 in the comments below and post pictures of your summer garden harvest or favorite produce on Facebook.