During pregnancy, it's essential for the expectant mum to watch her diet, both for her own sake and for that of the baby.
One essential nutrient, especially during the early stages of pregnancy, is folic acid, which is used in the formation of red blood cells and carries oxygen from the lungs all round the body. Daily folate requirements are closely related to growth, which means that during pregnancy, the recommended intake of folic acid rises, largely due to the new mother's increased quantity of blood.
It's absolutely vital to avoid folate deficiency as it can lead to major problems for the developing foetus, from birth defects such as spina bifida or cleft lip, to deformations in the placenta or complications for the mother, such as pre-eclampsia, a problem associated with hypertension. Since some of these problems may be triggered even before you know you're pregnant, you need to make sure you're getting enough folic acid even if you are only at the 'trying for a baby' stage.
Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are one of the commonest sources, but melon and apricots are rich in folic acid, too, and a sweet addition to breakfasts, snacks and desserts; liver, fish and avocado for lunch or dinner will also help raise the body's folate levels and help to widen the range of tasty dishes for what can sometimes seem nine very long months of waiting.
When it comes to dealing with unexpected cravings and the desire to 'pick', sunflower and pumpkin seeds become one of the easiest and most nutritious snacks around, containing large amounts of essential vitamins. Of all nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds are one of the richest in folate and other nutrients such as vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium, which are associated with the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. They also have even higher amounts of folic acid per gramme than spinach or Brussels sprouts.
There are plenty of tasty seed breads on the bakery counter, or you could mix them with other nuts and dried fruit and eat them with plain yogurt, or sprinkle them into a bowl of salad. Can you think of a better way of fighting off hunger pangs and cravings without sacrificing your daily dose of health?