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Pregnant women need a lot of vital nutrients to ensure the healthy development of the baby. Apples are sweet, edible fruits of the apple tree (scientific name Malus pumila). Apples are a very good source of nutrition and highly beneficial for both the expectant mom and the growing baby. This article explains the nutritional value and benefits of apples for pregnant women.
Is it Safe to Eat Apples during Pregnancy?
Apples are completely safe for pregnant women. No side-effects have been known to occur due to consumption of apple or apple juice. Apples are, in fact, very healthy and nutritious for pregnant women and developing babies.
Apples should be thoroughly washed before eating as there is a high probability that the surface is contaminated by pesticides. If possible, organic apples should be used as they are pesticide-free.
More importantly, apple seeds should not be eaten. Apple seeds contain cyanide, which is poisonous. The seeds, when eaten, release cyanide slowly into the stomach as they are being digested. Hence it could take a while before the symptoms of cyanide poisoning begin to show. Therefore, it is important for pregnant women to make absolutely sure that they are not ingesting the seeds while eating apples.
Nutritional Value of Apples
Apples are primarily made of water and carbohydrates. They contain high amounts of simple sugars like glucose and fructose. Apples also contain insoluble and dietary fibres. They also contain between 1 to 3% of the daily RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of B-complex vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and pantothenic acid and folate.
Apples contain Vitamin C (8% of RDA), and smaller amounts of Vitamin A, E and K. Apples also contain trace amounts of essential minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous. Apples are a great source of phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, flavonoids and anthocyanin. Phenolic compounds like procyanidin can be found in the skin, pulp and core of apples.
Potassium is the main mineral present in apples, and it helps in keeping the heart healthy. Apples are also rich in fibre called pectin, which helps lower sugar levels, improves digestion and helps with weight loss.
Benefits of Apple in Pregnancy
Eating apples during pregnancy has several health benefits for both the mom-to-be and the growing baby. The saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ does have some truth to it.
The Vitamin C and antioxidants in apples reduce damage by free radicals in the body. The B—complex vitamins in apples help in keeping the red blood cells healthy. The high fibre content in apples helps to reduce bad cholesterol. Apples also prevent or reduce the risk of stroke and dementia.
Apples reduce the risk of developing various types of cancer according to several studies.
Health benefits of eating apples during pregnancy are:
- Prevent free radicals: The phytochemicals and flavonoids present in apples are powerful antioxidants that eliminate free radicals in the body. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules in the body that are produced as a by-product of various body functions. Too many free radicals in the body can cause oxidation leading to damages in our cells structure, DNA and ability to function.
- Decrease the risk of cancer: Studies have shown that regularly eating apples can lower the risk of getting cancer of the oesophagus, colon, larynx and even lungs.
- Prevents Anaemia: Apples contain lots of iron that boost the haemoglobin in blood and prevents anaemia
- Detoxification: Research has shown that regularly eating apples can help to remove toxins such as mercury and lead from the body. Thus, it is a good idea to include apples in your daily diet to ensure that toxins are flushed out from the body.
- Aid in digestion: Apples contain insoluble fibre that can reduce indigestion. They also improve bowel movements.
- Boosts Immunity: Apples are a good source of Vitamin C, which helps build immunity and thwart infections.
- Increases energy instantly: Apples contain simple sugars like glucose, sucrose and fructose that can give you an instant energy boost. So, it is a good idea to carry an apple in your purse when you go out, in case you get hungry or suffer from low blood sugar problems.
- Prevents heartburn : Eating apples has been found to soothe heartburn.
- Help keep the heart healthy: Studies have shown that eating apples daily lowers levels of bad cholesterol, plaques and inflammation within artery walls.
- Makes the lungs stronger and prevents respiratory problems: Research has shown that eating apples during pregnancy can lower the risk of asthma and wheezing in your baby. Apples contain antioxidants that strengthen the lungs of the mom-to-be. Stronger lungs help in keeping breathing and respiratory problems at bay.
- Helps in bone development: Apples contain calcium which is essential for the development of strong bones in the baby. The calcium also helps to strengthen the bones of the mother-to-be.
- Increase memory: Apple skin contains quercetin, an antioxidant that improves memory and cognitive functions. It protects the brain from inflammation, prevents brain cell damage and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Drinking apple juice daily improves memory in the brain by stimulating a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. It also protects the brain from oxidation damage that happens due to dietary deficiencies or genetic inadequacies.
- Good for vision: Apples contain beta-carotene which is a precursor of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is necessary for good eye health, and it improves vision.
- Prevent birth defects: Apples contain Folate that helps prevent the occurrence of birth defects in the baby like Spina bifida. This condition is a neural tube defect that causes serious developmental problems in the baby.
- Helps in weight loss: According to early research, eating apples regularly might help in weight loss. This is because apples have indigestible compounds that encourage the growth of good bacteria in the intestine. These bacteria are associated with weight loss. This can be helpful for the mother to get back into shape post-delivery. Apples are weight-loss friendly foods because are high in fibre and low in calories.
- Reduces the risk of diabetes: Some studies have shown that eating whole fruits such as apples lowers the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
- Helps keep the mouth healthy: The skin of apples contains fibre that acts like a toothbrush and clean teeth and gums by removing food debris and scrubbing away plaque. The fibrous texture of apples also stimulates gums. Thus, chewing an apple after mealtimes can help remove surface deposits from the teeth.
- Relieves constipation: Apples contain dietary fibre that softens stools and relieves constipation and reduces flatulence.
- Softens gallstones: Gallstones are small, hard crystalline stones in the gallbladder formed from bile pigments, calcium salts and cholesterol. They can cause severe pain and block the bile duct. Eating apples and drinking apple juice during pregnancy help in softening the gallstones so that they can be expelled with a bowel movement. This way, surgical removal of gallstones can be avoided.
- Helps reduce hair loss: Research has shown that a phytochemical named procyanidin found in apples can increase hair growth in people with hair loss. So, eating apples regularly can prevent hair fall.
Is Green Apple as Good as Red Apple?
- The health benefits are very similar for both red and green apples.
- Green apple benefits during pregnancy are mostly the same as that of red apples.
- Green apples do contain less sugar and more fibre than red apples.
- Green apples have thicker skin and a crisp tartness.
- They are beneficial for moms who are concerned about their carbohydrate and sugar intake.
- Red apples contain more antioxidants like anthocyanin that eliminate free radicals in the body and have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Red apples are more sweet and juicy than green apples.
- Red apples are for moms who want to increase their antioxidants intake.
Side-Effects of Excessive Consumption of Apple during Pregnancy
Although apples are very good for expectant mothers and their developing babies, it is important to eat them in moderation. Excessive consumption of apples can cause problems such as:
- Slows Down Metabolism: The excess carbohydrate from eating too many apples can increase blood sugar and prevent the body from burning fat, thus slowing down metabolism.
- Weight Problems: Eating too many apples can increase the daily recommended calorie intake. This can cause issues with managing weight in the future.
Most medical health professionals agree that apples and apple juice are very healthy and beneficial for pregnant women and the babies growing in their wombs. However, this isn’t to say that you need to live on a diet only of apples. Fruits such as apples go well when had in moderation. So, go ahead and munch on a delicious, juicy, crunchy apple right away or sip on a glass of refreshing apple juice.