As you’re planning your pregnancy snacks, include some apples. They have a lot to recommend them. There are plenty of varieties—from tart to sweet, soft to crisp—and they are highly portable. Just wash it before you leave the house, throw it in your bag, and you have an instant fuel when you get hangry. In addition to being easy to get, they’re great for you and baby.
One of an apple’s main benefits is its fiber content. Getting enough fiber is critical during pregnancy, as the smooth muscle that moves foods through your gastrointestinal tract slows down during pregnancy, which can lead to constipation and gas, everyone’s favorite symptoms. Fiber increases the size of your stool, which might seem counterintuitive, but it turns out that bulkier poops tend to be softer and easier to pass—leading to less time on the toilet and a lower chance of getting hemorrhoids. To get all the fiber from the apples you’re eating, make sure you eat the skin along with the fruit.
Another plus for the fiber in apples, which is called pectin, is that it is a prebiotic—a substance that’s thought to promote gut health by feeding the beneficial bacteria that hang out in your intestinal tract and stop bad bacteria from growing there. A healthy gut has immediate benefits in terms of how easy it is to poop, but it also has longer term benefits that scientists are just starting to understand. For instance, it’s possible that having a healthy microbiome during pregnancy may influence your baby’s likelihood of developing allergies, especially if they are already at high risk due to family history.
Finally, the fiber in apples could help regulate your blood sugar and decrease your risk of preeclampsia. Fiber regulates blood sugar by helping to slow sugar’s absorption into the bloodstream. In a study published in the journal Diabetes Care in 2006, physician and researcher Cuilin Zhang and colleagues determined that women who ate more fiber before coming pregnant were less likely to develop gestational diabetes. And in 2008 in the American Journal of Hypertension, another group of researchers led by Chunfang Qiu found in a study of nearly 1,600 pregnant women in Washington state that women whose diets were high in fiber in early pregnancy were less likely to develop preeclampsia.
And the apples might help your baby, too. A study published in 2007 in the journal Thorax suggested that eating apples eaten during pregnancy could have a protective effect against the development of asthma in children. Epidemiologist Saskia Willers and colleagues assessed the diets during pregnancy of the mothers of more than 1,200 children and investigated the relationship between the food consumed during pregnancy and the children’s health at five years of age. Children of mothers who ate apples were less likely to wheeze and to be diagnosed with asthma at age five. It’s not clear why this association exists—and it’s just an association, not a cause and effect relationship—but this possible benefit is another great reason to eat apples.
Apples are also chock full of vitamins, such as vitamin B6, which—in addition to helping your body make red blood cells—can help tame morning sickness. And while citrus and bell peppers have way more, apples also contain vitamin C. This vitamin is important because it helps with the absorption of iron. Iron is essential for helping you avoid iron-deficiency anemia that at its most mild may cause fatigue and when severe can cause headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, and difficulty thinking clearly. Anemia may also be a problem during labor and birth, as blood loss can be more problematic when accompanied by low iron. Apples also contain a bit of iron, in addition to the vitamin C.
Apples are great alone or dipped in nut butter if you want to up your protein intake, but if you’re looking for recipe ideas, check out the recipes from The Pulse. This apple cinnamon Dutch baby would make a great dish for brunch. If you want something else warm and sweet, consider these fried apple “doughnuts.” If you want a classic, done small in a way that would be perfect for a baby shower, check out the candy apple mini pies. And if you need something easy to take on the go, with a good amount of protein, this apple pie smoothie recipe with Greek yogurt is just the thing.