Breastfeeding moms are often concerned about which foods they should or shouldn't eat in order to keep their babies healthy. Although it's important to make healthy food choices, the great thing about breast milk is that it can still meet your baby's nutritional needs even if you have an occasional cheat day. One of the healthiest foods you should incorporate into your well-balanced breastfeeding diet is, no surprise, vegetables. Most veggies are rich in vitamins and nutrients, but there are particular vegetables to eat when breastfeeding that will keep your energy high and may even boost your milk supply.
According to Baby Center, your diet objective when breastfeeding is to properly nourish your own body so that it can produce the healthiest breast milk for your baby. Eating a lot of junk food or not consuming a sufficient number of calories will cause your body to dip into its nutrient reserves, which will leave you drained and susceptible to illness. If your nutrients are not replaced by your food intake, eventually this will have a negative affect on the quantity and quality of your breast milk.
Here are some vegetables you can add to a well-balanced diet to help keep you and your breastfed baby in tip-top shape.
Lettuce is a low calorie, water-rich vegetable that is a good addition to a balanced diet for a breastfeeding mom. According to Organic Facts, lettuce contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, zinc along with vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A, B6, C, E, and K.
Peppers are also rich in water, which is great for breastfeeding moms. In fact, according to Health green peppers are 93.9 percent water. They're also low in calories and are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber.
Another healthy veggie for a breastfeeding mom is the tomato. Yes, technically a tomato is a fruit, but according to Oxford Dictionaries tomatoes are used as a vegetable for cooking, so for this purpose they will be a veggie. Tomatoes are 94.5 percent water according to Health, and Medical News Today calls tomatoes a nutrient-dense, super-food as well as a rich source of vitamins A and C and folic acid. Tomatoes contain tons of antioxidants to help a nursing mom feel her best, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene and lutein.
Okra is one of those vegetables that you either grew up eating and loving, or are deathly afraid to try. If you've ever cooked okra, you know that it can produce a viscous mucilage (some would call slime) that is great for thickening soups and stews, but can be problematic if you just want to eat the okra as a side. According to Food Republic, the mucilage is made of sugar residues called exopolysacharrides and proteins called glycoproteins. One Green Planet suggested getting rid of the slime by soaking the okra in vinegar for 30 minutes before cooking and then rinsing and patting dry.
Now that you know more than you ever wanted about okra, what are its health benefits for a breastfeeding mom? According to Parenting Healthy Babies, okra is a good source of vitamins A B, C, and E, thiamin, niacin, and folate. It also contains minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc which will keep you healthy as you nourish your baby.
Eating Well noted that asparagus is a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K, chromium and folate, which works well with vitamin B12, found in fish, poultry, meat and dairy. Together, the folate and B12 act as a brain booster to help prevent cognitive impairment, which any new mom who's had "baby brain" knows is essential when caring for a newborn. According to Just Mommies, asparagus also contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid which may stimulate prolactin, the milk-making hormone.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, carotenoids and potassium. According to SF Gate Healthy Eating, breastfed babies are dependent on their mother's intake of vitamin A for proper growth and development. One medium sweet potato meets almost the entire daily recommendation of vitamin A for a breastfeeding mom.
The avocado is another fruit that should be a vegetable, but is, in reality, a berry. What? Avocados are so good for breastfeeding moms and taste amazing – ask anyone who's ever eating guacamole. The previously mentioned SF Gate Healthy Eating article noted that avocados are rich in potassium, fiber and monounsaturated fat. This healthy fat is important in babies for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. It helps with growth and neurological development.
Carrots are considered a galactagogue, or a food that increased milk flow. Just Mommies noted that carrots contain phytoestrogens, beta-carotene and Vitamin A, which can provide extra energy needed by lactating moms, and may also improve the supply of breast milk.
Spinach, another galactagogue, is a good source of calcium, iron, Vitamin K, A, and folate, according to Just Mommies. Vegetarian Times warned that raw spinach contains oxalic acid, which can interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients like calcium and iron. Cooked spinach will allow you to absorb higher levels of vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium, iron, beta-carotene, lutein, and 9.
Another leafy green, kale is a great source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 C, and E copper, manganese, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids phosphorus, protein, folate and niacin according to The World's Healthiest Foods by The George Mateljan Foundation. Nursing moms can eat raw or cooked kale or blend it into a smoothie to take advantage of all its nutrients.
If you're looking for a healthy snack while you're breastfeeding, SF Gate Healthy Eating has suggested pumpkin seeds. Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, fiber and iron which is essential for proper nerve and brain cell development. One ounce of pumpkin seeds meets half of the daily recommendation of iron for nursing moms.