You probably already know that fruit should be part of your daily diet during pregnancy. But there are more reasons for this than you probably think.
From satisfying cravings to helping you avoid constipation, fruit has many benefits during pregnancy, but did you know there are fruits you should avoid while pregnant?
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about why fruit matters, how much fruit you should eat during pregnancy, and which ones to pick — along with which ones to avoid.
The Importance of Prenatal Nutrition
Your prenatal vitamins are packed with all the nutrients your baby needs, so why pay attention to your nutrition?
- It affects your baby’s lifetime health: What you eat while pregnant can affect your baby for a lifetime, so it’s important to eat well. There are even some studies that suggest eating a salty, fatty, and sugary diet affects your baby’s taste preferences, potentially setting them up for a lifetime of struggle with their own eating habits, health, and weight (1).
- Food helps your body absorb healthy nutrients: Bodily absorption of nutrients is a tricky business. While your prenatal vitamin would ideally be formulated to promote maximum absorption of all the nutrients listed on the box, that isn’t always the case. For example, iron is best absorbed when combined with Vitamin C, while other nutrients need fat present to absorb properly. If you’re eating a balanced diet, you’re more likely to be getting — and absorbing — the nutrients your body needs.
- Healthy food helps your body function better: There’s way more to fruit than the nutrients inside them. There’s the fiber in the skin, water in the flesh, and a satisfying texture that can help stave off cravings. When you’re eating well, your body will thank you. You’ll have more energy, feel better, and maybe even avoid some of the more common discomforts of pregnancy.
10 Best Fruits to Eat During Pregnancy
Eat plenty of these fruits for the best benefits during pregnancy:
- Bananas: Bananas are a pregnancy superfood. They are filling, have a satisfying texture that can cure those high-fat cravings, and contain calcium and potassium, which can help ward off those middle-of-the-night leg cramps. You can choose a banana to meet your customized dietary needs. The riper the banana, the higher the sugar content. If you’re craving healthy sweets, choose a fully ripe banana. But if you’ve got gestational diabetes and need a low-sugar option, choose one on the green side.
- Apples: Apples pack an extra punch since the peel is edible. They contain vitamins A and C, lots of water, and both soluble and insoluble fiber to keep things moving in your body.
- Watermelon: There’s a reason the word “water” is in this fruit. It has one of the highest water contents of any fruit — a whopping 92%. If you’re struggling with dehydration during pregnancy, this can be a handy fruit to eat. The sweetness and crunch are satisfying, and watermelon contains potassium, zinc, and folate to battle your nighttime leg cramps and help with your baby’s spinal development.
- Oranges: Oranges can be either sweet or sour, which tend to be pleasing to women suffering from pregnancy nausea. Oranges also have high water content and are an excellent source of vitamin C, which not only boosts your immune system —and your baby’s — but also helps build connective tissue necessary for your baby’s physical development.
- Avocado: They may not be sweet, but avocados are still technically a fruit — and a fantastic one at that. The texture will help you calm your cravings for fat in a healthy way while still giving you a good amount of fiber. Plus, the iron can help stave off anemia while the magnesium and potassium help with leg cramps and nausea.
The advantages of eating healthy fats in pregnancy are finally being recognized. Avocados are an excellent source of the healthy fats you should be eating while pregnant.
- Berries: Berries are a great source of antioxidants and contain lots of fiber and folate, which are great for both you and your baby. Berries come in various shades and colors, so try them all — they each offer a different mix of nutrients.
- Pears: With an edible peel that contains pectin, a digestion aid, pears are a great source of fiber that can help prevent constipation. They’re also a great source of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and folate.
- Plums: You know what prunes are, right? Dried plums. And you know what prunes have a reputation for, right? Yep — getting your bowels moving. So if you’re having some serious constipation struggles, try eating a plum a day — and if you can’t find them due to availability issues, opt for dried prunes. You should be regular in no time.
- Mangoes: Mangoes are a fantastic source of vitamins C and A, which help your baby’s immunity. While it’s technically possible to get too much vitamin A, it’s incredibly rare. So as long as you’re enjoying your mangoes in moderation, you should be fine.
- Cherries: They may only have a short season in summer, but cherries are a fantastic pregnancy food. Not only do they have loads of vitamin C and contain melatonin to help regulate your sleep, but they also help your little one’s brain development. Plus, they’re one of the most low-calorie fruits out there, so you get a lot of nutritional bang for your calorie buck.
Benefits of Fruit During Pregnancy
Do you want a healthy pregnancy? These are some of the many reasons to eat fruit while pregnant:
- It Provides Important Nutrients: Your baby needs certain nutrients to grow properly. Those most notably provided by fruits include vitamin C and folate. Vitamin C is necessary to build collagen and connective tissue (2), which helps boost your baby’s immune system and increases their iron stores to help prevent anemia. Folate is necessary for healthy spinal development and helps prevent neural tube defects in a developing fetus.
- It Helps Satisfy Your Sweet Cravings: One of the hallmarks of fruit is that it can be incredibly sweet or sour, both of which are common pregnancy flavor cravings. Opting for fruit instead of a bowl of ice cream can help you give in to your cravings in a way that’s both satisfying and healthy.
- It’s Palatable When You Feel Nauseated: If you struggle with pregnancy nausea, it can be hard to keep certain foods down. Sweet and cold foods are generally more palatable if you’re wrestling with morning sickness, making fruit you keep in the fridge a great breakfast solution. When I was pregnant and lost my taste for coffee, all I wanted was a cold glass of orange juice each morning. The sweet-and-sour flavor helped tame my tummy in the morning and allowed me to eat normally from there on out.
Another craving I had throughout pregnancy was apples. The crunch satisfied my need for a snack, and the tart, juicy flavor appealed to me even when I was going through my 20 weeks of nausea.
Editor's Note:Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN
- It Helps Manage Your Blood Sugar: Whole fruits contain fiber, which helps regulate the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. If you eat a candy bar, the sugar hits your bloodstream quickly, resulting in a huge spike and subsequent crash. But eating a piece of fruit can give you the burst of glucose energy you need without the huge crash later. This long-lasting energy effect is even more helpful if you pair your fruit with a protein like a piece of cheese or beef jerky. This is especially helpful advice for those diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
- It Can Keep You Hydrated: You need to drink plenty of water when you’re pregnant, but it can get pretty boring sipping water all day. Fruit is composed of more than 80 percent water, so it’s a creative way to keep your body hydrated.
- It Can Relieve Constipation: Your digestion slows when you’re pregnant (3). This can result in constipation, which is a common pregnancy complaint. If you’re taking iron supplements during pregnancy, even in your prenatal vitamin, that can also cause constipation. Severe constipation is uncomfortable and can even cause hemorrhoids. One of the best ways to improve constipation is to increase your consumption of fiber and water — and fruit contains both!
How Much Fruit Should I Eat While Pregnant?
While fruit is healthy, it still contains natural sugar, which needs to be limited when you’re pregnant. The general recommendation for a pregnant woman is 2-4 servings of fruit per day.
But watch those serving sizes to make sure you aren’t accidentally super-sizing them.
One serving of fruit equals:
- One cup of cut fresh, canned, or frozen fruit.
- ½ cup of dried fruit.
- Eight ounces of fruit juice.
- ½ cup of pureed fruit.
Fruit is seasonal, so it can be hard to get good-quality fruit all year long. If your favorite fruit isn’t on the shelves, frozen is a fantastic substitute. Frozen fruit is usually preserved at the peak of freshness, and the nutrients may be even denser than the fresh fruit you find in the produce section.
Are Organic Fruits Better While Pregnant?
There is a lot of debate about organic versus non-organic produce. However, pregnancy isn’t the time to mess around with your health, so we take the conservative approach and recommend opting for organic fruit to stay as safe as possible if you can afford it.
If you can’t afford to buy all of your fruit from the organic section, buy conventional options, but prioritize organic choices for the fruits named on the “dirty dozen” list, as these are considered to have the highest concentration of pesticides (4).
These are the fruits on the “dirty dozen” list:
And if you can’t afford any organic fruit at all, please don’t just cut it from your diet altogether. Your body and your baby need the nutrients found in fruit, and eating conventional fruit is far better than eating no fruit at all.
If you’re really concerned, opt for fruits with a thick exterior, as they tend to have fewer pesticides in the edible portion. Or stick with the fruits listed on the “clean fifteen” list (5):
- Honeydew melon.
Fruits to Avoid During Pregnancy
Pretty much no fresh, ripe fruits are off-limits when you’re pregnant. However, it’s important to make sure you wash your produce thoroughly before consuming it to avoid contaminants. You can easily wash fruit by using a commercial fruit spray or mixing a solution of vinegar and water, soaking your fruit, and then rinsing it off and allowing it to dry.
These are some fruit-related products you should limit your consumption of:
1. Fruit Juice
Fruit juice may contain some of the nutrients from fruit, but it contains none of the fiber. When you drink a glass of fruit juice — even the “no sugar added” variety — you are drinking ultra-concentrated sugar from the fruit.
With the pulp and skin removed, you are also missing out on a whole lot of the nutrients. It takes about three to four apples to produce one 8-ounce cup of apple juice, so in one sitting, you’ll consume the same amount of sugar as if you were drinking a regular soda (7).
And without the fiber from the whole fruit, it doesn’t have anything to keep it from immediately hitting your bloodstream and spiking your blood sugar.
2. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is super yummy, but that’s because the sugar is also concentrated. When fruits are dried, the water is removed, so they take up considerably less mass. The nutrients and fiber are preserved, but the water is no longer present to help hydrate you and fill you up.
It’s easy to eat the equivalent of several whole fruits in one sitting, meaning you’re consuming a large amount of sugar and calories, too.
3. Canned Fruit
Canned fruits are a great way to get nutrients when fresh fruit isn’t in season. Canned fruits maintain their vitamin C better than fresh fruits. However, a few years ago, canned foods came under scrutiny because of the discovery that many of them were lined with a substance that contains bisphenol A (BPA), an estrogen-mimicking chemical.
While consuming canned foods on occasion isn’t likely to be harmful, you may want to avoid consuming them frequently. Instead, opt for fruit canned in glass jars. You should also check the label and sugar content of canned fruit. If your fruit has been canned in a heavy syrup, skip it. Instead, choose fruit canned in water or its own juice.
Smoothies can be a tempting alternative to eating whole fruit, but it can be easy to rack up the calories and sugar content without even realizing it. Use an unsweetened or lower-sugar mixer, such as unsweetened almond milk, coconut water, or oat milk.