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The list of detrimental effects due to delivering a premature baby is long. The United States’ rate of preterm birth has continued to increase in recent years, leading us to have one of the worst rates in the world and a dismal global ranking: 131st among all other countries. Prematurity is the number one cause of infant death and, unfortunately, even when a premature baby does make it to his or her milestone first birthday, they may still encounter behavioral problems or neurodevelopmental disabilities down the road. Evidence shows that babies born very early have a greater risk of developing psychiatric disorders in childhood and chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes as adults.

While little is still known about exact causes of prematurity, more and more research is linking inflammation and microbial infections in the genital tract to spontaneous preterm delivery and preterm pre-labor rupture of membranes (which means your water breaks before 37 weeks). With this knowledge, scientists have turned to diet and the consideration of foods that have antimicrobial properties in them, as well as foods that fight inflammation, such as a diet with high intake of vegetables, fruit, and berries.

So, if you’re pregnant, what should you be eating?
Research tells us it’s as simple and easy as garlic and raisins.

The diets of 66,000 pregnant women in Norway were studied to see if a plant-based, “prudent” diet (vegetables, fruits, oils, water as beverage, whole grain cereals, fiber-rich bread) compared to a “Western” or traditional Scandinavian diet (salty and sweet snacks, white bread, desserts, processed meat products) yielded different results. Not surprisingly, the “prudent” diet was associated with significantly reduced risk of preterm delivery.

Further research then looked specifically at the consumption of garlic, onion family vegetables, and dried fruit intake among pregnant women and again a reduced risk of preterm delivery was found. Raisins and garlic stood out in particular among these food groups.

Garlic is known for its antimicrobial and probiotic properties. Dried fruit contains fiber and also has antimicrobial activities thought to combat some of the bacteria suspected to cause preterm delivery. Even more interestingly, it doesn’t seem you need to add much of these common foods into your diet – just a clove of garlic per week and the equivalent of one mini snack box of raisins a month can provide these protective benefits.

What are some other healthy, easy, and beneficial foods you should be snacking on while pregnant?

  • Nuts, seeds, dried apricots: Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Magnesium
  • Bananas: Potassium, Fiber
  • Avocados: Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Folic Acid
  • Berries: Antioxidants, Fiber, Vitamin C
  • Yogurt: Calcium, Probiotics, Vitamins B12 & Vitamin B2

For more ideas of good pregnancy snacks & healthy recipes, visit our Pregnancy Health Pinterest page here.