by Annie Siegfried, MS, RDN
A woman’s body undergoes significant hormonal and physiological changes to help with the
development of the baby and these changes completely alter the way a woman’s body reacts to
certain things. While nutrition and healthy diet never rely on a single food group, food type or
nutrient, pregnancy superfoods like dried figs are definitely worth including in your healthy
pregnancy diet for a number of reasons. Let’s see how these superfoods for pregnancy can help tackle some of the most common issues during pregnancy.
Insulin Resistance and Gestational Diabetes
All pregnant women have some insulin resistance. Particularly in late pregnancy, the hormones:
estrogen, cortisol, and human placental lactogen can block insulin. These changes cause your
body’s cells to use insulin less effectively. As a result your blood sugar levels rise more than
usual after a meal, and while that does provide your developing baby with a steady supply of
energy and nutrients, this change can sometimes cause an expecting mother to become diabetic
during pregnancy. This condition is called gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar (glucose) that starts during the second half of pregnancy
in women who have not been previously diagnosed with diabetes. While all pregnant women
have some insulin resistance during late pregnancy, gestational diabetes happens in about 9 in
100 pregnant women. While this condition usually goes away as soon as the baby is born, it can
result in pregnancy complications if not addressed properly.
A low-glycemic, high-fiber, balanced diet combined with a low-volume exercise during
pregnancy helps keep blood glucose levels stable and in range. Monitoring the amount of
carbohydrates in your diet, and including complex and fiber-rich carbohydrates instead of simple
carbs are key. Dried figs are pregnancy superfoods and a rich source of fiber. One cup of dried figs provides you with 14.6 grams of fiber. The human body is unable to absorb and break down fiber. Because of this, fiber does not cause a spike in blood glucose the way other carbohydrates can. This can help keep your blood sugar in your target range. Pair dried figs with a good source of protein, e.g. combine it with nuts for snacking or add it to your yogurt. Blending dry figs with nuts, nut and seed
butters and making energy balls, are another great option to satisfy the sweet tooth if you have
gestational diabetes, or find my easy recipe for Dark Chocolate Fig Chia Pudding below.
Iron Deficiency and Anemia
Pregnant women are susceptible to iron deficiency because of the heavy demands for
iron associated with rapid body growth. Iron deficiency occurs in stages:
- The mild form starts with a decrease in stored iron, usually either from a low-iron diet,
from excessive bleeding, or rapid body growth.
- If the above is not addressed and treated, the next stage is an even greater depletion of iron
stores and a drop in red blood cells.
- Eventually, if left untreated again, this leads to iron-deficiency anemia where iron stores
are used up and there is significant loss of total red blood cells.
During pregnancy, the volume of blood in the body increases, and so does the amount of iron
you need. Your body uses iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. If you don’t
have enough iron stores or get enough iron during pregnancy, you could develop iron deficiency
This turns the pregnancy to high-risk and increases the risk of premature birth. This condition
during pregnancy is also associated with having a low birth weight baby and postpartum
Good nutrition can prevent stage 3 iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy. Dried figs are a
good source of iron, and combining those with other iron-rich foods (lean red meat, poultry, fish,
dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas) throughout the day can help you meet the
recommended dietary allowance of iron during pregnancy (27 milligrams per day). Dried figs
contain less water. This makes their nutrient content more concentrated than their fresh
Constipation and Digestive Health
Constipation is a common, unpleasant part of pregnancy. A growing fetus makes your uterus
heavier. This is extra pressure on the bowel, making it harder for waste to come out of the body.
On the other hand, during pregnancy, the body makes more of the hormone progesterone.
Progesterone relaxes the intestines, so that it doesn’t work as hard to bring waste out through the
body. The slowdown allows the body more time to absorb nutrients and water from the food we
eat. The longer the food remains in your bowel the more time your large intestine (colon) has to
absorb the moisture out of it. The waste becomes dried out and hard to pass. Another reason for
constipation can be the iron from prenatal vitamins: this of course helps your body make the
blood needed to circulate oxygen throughout your and your baby’s bodies. However, too much
iron can make it harder for bacteria in a bowel to break down food. The waste can build up,
Dried figs nourish and tone the intestines, also acting as a natural laxative because they are rich
in fiber. The fiber they provide also has prebiotic properties, feeding the gut bacteria and creating
a healthy gut microbiome which, as a result, improves digestive wellness. Eating more fiber
may also help you avoid pregnancy issues like hemorrhoids.
During pregnancy you need to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber-rich foods each day. The good news is
1 cup of dried figs already provides you with 14.6 grams of fiber. You can eat dried figs as is for a
snack, mixed into salads, blended in smoothies, or even used as a sweetener. Dried figs are convenient pregnancy superfoods that are hardy and versatile to enjoy everywhere.
Dark Chocolate Dried Fig Chia Parfait
Chia Pudding Layer
- 1 cup milk
- 4 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Golden Dried Figs , stems removed + chopped
- 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
- Mix together the milk and chia seeds in a container until combined. Cover and chill overnight (or until the chia seed pudding gels, about 5 hours).
- When the chia pudding is ready, in a bowl, stir the cocoa powder into the yogurt.
- Into a glass, spoon in half the chia pudding. Add the chocolate layer on next. Then, top with the chopped dried Golden Figs. Cover the figs with the remaining chia pudding. Finally, dollop on the Vanilla Layer. Eat right away.