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It is a known fact that what you choose to eat and drink, think and do, during your pregnancy affects your baby’s brain development. Pregnancy encourages you to eat healthy. One of the key aspects of prenatal nutrition is focusing on the baby’s brain development. The most crucial period during which the brain develops is from the second trimester of pregnancy until the baby reaches the age of two. It is during this time span that the brain matures at a rapid pace and therefore, it is at this stage that your diet is crucial.

There are some foods that enhance your baby’s brain development, boost their memory and capacity to learn, while there are others that can negatively affect their brain development. Listed below are a few tips to boost your baby’s brain development during pregnancy.

  • Prenatal vitamins daily: Vitamins such as folic acid, calcium, iron, Vitamin B12, zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin D are a must during pregnancy.
  • Folic acid: This is known as the ‘pregnancy superhero’. It is the synthetic form of Vitamin B9, also called folate. Getting sufficient folic acid helps your baby form healthy brain cells, with low chances of birth defects and also helps prevent autism. Therefore, a lot of folic acid during pregnancy — either in the form of prenatal vitamins or from natural sources such as lentils, beans, eggs and leafy greens, are advised.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These play an important role in the development of your baby’s brain, and also help in the development of their eyes. A few of the main sources of Omega-3 are fishes, chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseed. Fish such as salmon, are the richest source of Omega-3 fatty acids (namely DHA and EPA). A positive association has been observed between high DHA levels in a new-born baby with that of high IQ, advanced motor skills and less neurological problems later in life. When thinking of consuming fishes, pregnant women should consume those with low mercury content such as salmon, rohu, hilsa, surmai, about twice a week.
  • Eggs: These are loaded with protein, folate, choline and iron. Eat the whole egg to get all the listed nutrients, especially choline, which is present in the yolk. Choline plays an important role in the development of your baby’s brain, and minimises the risk of neural tube defects.
  • Nuts: Nuts, such as walnuts, are packed with healthy fats and Omega-3 fatty acids, also rich in fibre and magnesium, along with other vitamins and minerals. Magnesium plays a key role in the baby’s nervous system development and minimises the risk of premature labour.
  • Legumes and beans: Chickpeas, peas, kidney beans are few of the options that you can include in your diet to get your daily dose of protein, iron, calcium and folate.
    Food is the ultimate medicine. So, you must fine-tune your diet during pregnancy.

(As published in Hindustan Times dated January 23, 2020)

January 6, 2020

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