Children are prone to allergies and taking steps to prevent them starts early – even before birth. Pregnant moms-to-be may be able to reduce their unborn baby’s risk of getting certain types of allergies by eating more fruits and vegetables during pregnancy.
In a study published in the journal Allergy, researchers looked at how many fruits and vegetables a group of 763 women ate during pregnancy. They also followed the newborn babies after birth for evidence of allergies – taking careful note of how many babies wheezed or showed skin changes of eczema – a skin condition that’s associated with allergies.
What did they find? The infants of moms who ate the most fruits and vegetables during pregnancy had babies who were less likely to wheeze or have eczema. They found that women who ate foods rich in vitamin E such as spinach, broccoli, mango, tomato, and spinach were less like to have “wheezy” babies. Women who ate lots of green and yellow fruits and vegetables had another benefit. They reduced their chances of having an infant with eczema.
Unfortunately, most women don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables during pregnancy. Vegetables are an excellent source of folate – a B vitamin that’s needed to reduce the risk of serious spinal cord abnormalities called neural tube defects in an unborn baby. The vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables each play an important role in building healthy tissues. The fiber found in the skins of fruits and vegetables also helps to treat the constipation so many pregnancy, moms-to-be experience.
How many servings of fruits and vegetables during pregnancy are needed? At least five, but seven is even better. There’s even evidence that the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables protect against certain types of birth defects – particularly ones associated with alcohol use. On the other hand, antioxidants in supplement form don’t have the same health benefits as those found naturally in foods – and may even be harmful. For additional reassurance for mom and baby, choose organic fruits and vegetables. This helps to protect the growing fetus from pesticide residues. Be sure to wash each fruit and veggie well before eating it.
The bottom line? Eating more fruits and vegetables during pregnancy is a smart move. Take a trip to the farmer’s market and stock up on fresh, organic produce. It may make for a healthier baby – with fewer allergies.