Produce-Rich Diet Reduces Risk of Miscarriage by 61%, Study Shows

by | Updated: July 5th, 2023 | Read time: 5 minutes

If you are pregnant — or intend to have a baby soon — it might be time to load up on fruits and vegetables.

Diets that contain these staple health foods can reduce your risk of miscarriage, according to a new review of previously published research.

Woman Preparing Produce on Kitchen Cutting Board to Reduce Risk of Miscarriage

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in England pored over the data and found that higher consumption of fruit can reduce miscarriage risk by 61%, while eating more vegetables can lower the risk of miscarriage by 41%.

Diets rich in other types of foods also appear to lower the risk of miscarriage by the following percentages:

  • Dairy products: 37%
  • Grains: 33%
  • Seafood and eggs: 19%

By contrast, eating a diet high in processed foods may double your risk of miscarriage.

Why the right foods matter during pregnancy

Eating more fruits and vegetables offers several benefits to pregnant women, says Edibel Quintero, a registered dietitian nutritionist and medical advisor with Health Insider.

She says pregnant women who boost their intake of fruits and vegetables:

  • Get more essential nutrients such as folate, iron, calcium and protein
  • Reduce discomfort that comes with pregnancy, including nausea, heartburn and exhaustion.
  • Get enough calories for their needs, which is particularly important in the final trimester, when a women feel fuller after eating a small portion
  • Are less likely to be hungry and overeat, which can lead to unwanted weight gain

By contrast, eating a lot of processed foods – which are loaded with added fats, sugar and sodium, as well as low in nutrients – can cause health issues.

“Consuming a lot of processed and junk food can cause unnecessary weight gain, which increases the risk of gestational diabetes and birth complications,” Quintero says.

Dr. Alan Lindemann, a North Dakota-based obstetrician and maternal mortality expert, says pregnant women should “try to eat food that is good for you.” He says this might include:

  • Fruit, such as pears, apples oranges, bananas and grapes
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Nuts

Pregnancy presents its own unique dietary challenges, Lindemann adds.

“During the first half of your pregnancy, the baby gets first dibs on the body’s food supply,” he says. This can leave the mother with low blood sugar, which in turn can lead to nausea and loss of appetite.

Lindemann recommends keeping crackers and orange juice beside your bed.

“When you wake up in the morning, eat this snack and go back to bed to give your body time to assimilate some of the carbs and get your blood sugar levels up,” he says.

When you eventually get up, eat breakfast right away, before you shower, he says. He also recommends eating heartily during your pregnancy.

“This is also not the time for low-carb diets,” Lindemann says. “You should have fat and protein as well as carbohydrates. This is the time for bacon, eggs, and toast with real butter.”

If you can’t stomach the thought of eating so richly, choose oatmeal with butter or cream and a slice of unprocessed cheese, Lindemann says.

Adding produce to your diet to reduce risk of miscarriage

Some people automatically reach for fruits and vegetables during meals or when snacking. However, just 9% of adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables and 12% consume the recommended amount of fruit, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Getting more produce into your diet is easy if you are intentional about it.

One of the best and easiest ways to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables is to snack on them two to three times per day, Quintero says.

A mix of these foods is likely to provide the best benefits. Quintero recommends adding the following to your diet.

Dried beans

Quintero notes that dried beans are loaded with folic acid and iron. “Folic acid reduces the risk of birth defects,” she says. Iron helps the body produce more red blood cells, which facilitates circulation of oxygen throughout the bodies of both mother and baby

Vegetables with hummus

Quintero says constipation is common during pregnancy. “So, you need to take in lots of fiber for better digestion.” Apart from being high in fiber, vegetables contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that can strengthen the immune system. Adding hummus can boost protein and help you “maintain your satiety for a long time,” Quintero says.

Pumpkin seeds

During pregnancy, the uterus keeps growing, causing a woman’s muscles to stretch in different ways. “Pumpkin seeds will help you repair your muscles, as they contain protein,” Quintero says. The texture of pumpkin seeds also can satisfy your cravings for chips, she adds.

Other foods that Quintero recommends for pregnant women include:

  • Protein-rich eggs, chicken, yogurt, tofu and legumes
  • Folic acid-rich whole grains, fresh fruits and eggs.
  • Iron-rich oats, tofu, white beans, lentils, spinach, broccoli and legumes
  • Calcium-rich dark green leafy veggies, soybeans, dried apricots, oranges and dairy products

Foods to avoid during pregnancy

As mentioned earlier, Quintero recommends avoiding processed foods. She notes that in addition to possibly causing weight gain, some processed foods — such as hot dogs — contain preservative chemicals such as nitrates and nitrites that might be harmful to a growing fetus.

“For this reason, always check the label before buying any processed food,” Quintero says.

Pregnant women should also limit their intake of sugar. Quintero says excess sugar consumption might negatively impact a baby’s cognitive abilities. “It can also cause gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes,” she says.

Finally, consume sodium in moderation. High sodium intake increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and preeclampsia, Quintero says. Excessive sodium can also cause edema – -which is the swelling of the face, legs and ankles — and lead to digestive issues such as bloating and gas.

“Junk and processed foods are mostly made from high sodium, so it’s better to avoid them,” Quintero says.

Featured Products

Emerald Labs Prenatal 4-Daily Multi
Traditional Medicinals Organic Pregnancy Herbal Tea Rasberry Leaf
New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Whole-Food Multivitamin