10 African Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman should be careful of what to eat. Most times, what you enjoy eating might pose a risk to your health and the baby. Foods to eat during pregnancy should be rich in Iron, Calcium, Folic Acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12. Thankfully, some African foods are rich in these vitamins and have proven to be suitable for pregnant women.

What African foods are ideal for a pregnant woman? There are a handful of African foods that can offer a pregnant woman the required nutrients—these include:

  1. Okra soup
  2. Afang soup
  3. Oat porridge
  4. Jollof rice
  5. Beans
  6. Moi Moi
  7. Sweet potatoes sauce, etc.

If you’re interested in learning more about African foods to eat during pregnancy, we’ve written this piece for you. We covered everything about foods to eat during pregnancy, as well as other essential aspects of the subject. Read on to learn more…

See our recommended book for a healthy pregnancy and safe childbirth.

What Should I Eat During My First Trimester of Pregnancy?

The first trimester of pregnancy starts on the first day of the last menstrual period until the twelfth week (3 months). During the first trimester, pregnant women usually develop food aversion. And while you can indulge in eating some of your cravings, ensure the foods have the required nutrients and should be eaten frequently. Such foods include:

  • Vegetables—dark green vegs contain folic acid, good for pregnant women.
  • Fruits—citrus fruits contain Vitamin C, and you should treat yourself to at least one each day. If you opt for fruit juice, you need to limit consumption because it has higher calories, unlike whole fruits, a cup per day is enough.
  • Diary—milk, and cheese are some of the best dairy foods to try out. They’re rich in calcium. For reduced saturated fat and calories, opt for non or low-fat dairy products. Also, dairy products are rich in Choline, which is good for the body.
  • Oily fish—this contains Omega-3 fatty acids. You can also try out linseeds.
  • Whole grains—for proper bowel function, try eating meals with whole grains such as cereals, pasta, whole wheat bread, and so on. Whole grains are also rich in fiber.

ALSO READ: 10 African Foods that Help You Lose Weight

What Should a Pregnant Woman Eat for Breakfast?

Pregnant women need some certain amount of nutrients to stay healthy and also for the healthy growth of the baby. And that is why a mother has to be selective of the foods to eat during pregnancy—whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Whatever you crave to eat as breakfast, ensure the food contains the required nutrient. These nutrients are:

  1. Iron: The average amount of iron needed in pregnant women is around 20 mg, but it can be as much as 30 mg. Iron supplies oxygen to the baby. Some foods rich in iron are eggs and spinach.
  2. Fiber: Pregnant women should consume around 25 grams of fiber each day (especially at breakfast). Fiber helps in stabilizing blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, and preventing constipation. Apart from eating foods rich in fiber like nuts and whole grain-based foods, you can try out high fiber fruits as well, such as bananas, oranges, apples, and so on. You can even try a fiber food combination.
  3. Calcium: Pregnant women need about 1,000 mg of calcium per day. This helps keep you strong and also grow the baby’s bone. Your breakfast can have cheese, milk, and yogurt as additions to sesame-seed bread or other food of your choice.
  4. Protein: It’s recommended to have 75 – 100 grams of protein in a day. The amino acids aid strong growth in babies, and it will also help with your blood supply, uterine tissue, and breast growth. Yellow sweet potatoes, meat, and fish are some of the foods rich in protein.
  5. Whole grains: The ideal intake for pregnant women is about 60-95g per day. Whole grains will make you feel full for hours, and the presence of Vitamin B is a necessary nutrient for your baby’s growth. Try whole-wheat bread and porridge.

10 African Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

See our recommended book for a healthy pregnancy and safe childbirth.

So, what are the African foods to eat during pregnancy? We’ve highlighted and discussed a bit about each food below. The good thing about these foods is that you can easily prepare or order from a restaurant effortlessly.

  1. Egusi soup

Egusi soup is mostly eaten in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, if you live outside Africa, there African restaurants in Europe, America, Asia, etc. You can order them or find the recipes and make the soup yourself. Egusi soup is rich in dietary fiber, which helps in controlling bowel movements during pregnancy. It also contains vitamins B1 and B2, which helps improve appetite. Serve your Egusi soup with any starchy food.

  1. Oat Porridge

This food is prepared by boiling ground grains in water. Afterward, you can serve it with milk. Oat porridge is also known as oatmeal. It’s a great breakfast meal containing folic acid, which helps in producing red blood cells and in the development of the baby’s neural tube to the brain and spinal cord.

  1. Okra Soup

Okra soup is also popularly eaten in Nigeria., with other African countries. This soup is low in calories, which is a major factor in maintaining a proper weight. It contains several vitamins (vitamin A, B6, C, thiamine, riboflavin) and minerals (zinc, calcium). Dietary fiber is also present, and it helps prevent constipation.

Before the preparation of this soup, make sure you wash the okra thoroughly and cook on low heat to retain the nutrients. Serve your okra with any starchy food.

  1. Pap with Akara

Pap is major Africa food. It is a rich source of carbohydrate which supplies you with enough energy during pregnancy. It also helps with nausea during pregnancy. Moreover, pap retains a large percent of the natural nutrients. And its fine texture makes it easy to digest.

  1. Beans

Beans are a rich source of protein and also contains some essential nutrients like folic acid, iron, magnesium, potassium, and essential fatty acids. It’s also a great source of fiber which prevents hemorrhoids and constipation that most pregnant women experience.

  1. Afang Soup

Afang soup is an excellent source of unsaturated fatty acids that provides the body with healthy cholesterol. It also contains dietary fiber that helps prevent constipation. The addition of periwinkles, pepper, oil, meat, and fish also provides your body with several nutrients.

  1. Moi Moi

This food is made from beans and offers similar nutrients contained in beans. Though some people fear that moi moi could make their baby gain much weight in the womb, this is not scientifically proven. Considering the primary ingredient of moi moi, which is beans, makes the food safe to consume during pregnancy. However, you should consume in moderation and also watch other ingredients you add to avoid weight gain, which could also affect the baby.

If you know how to make moi moi, you should consider preparing it yourself to prevent eating the ones that are packed with unknown ingredients.

  1. Jollof Rice

Rice is high in carbohydrates, which energize the body. Rice is also a natural diuretic that helps prevent urogenital infection during pregnancy. Rice is a popular food across Africa, and it’s quite easy to make.

  1. Sweet Potato with Sauce

Sweet potato is rich in vitamin A, which is necessary for fetal development. It helps in the growth of organs like the lungs, hearts, kidneys, and so on. It also contains vitamin C and other essential nutrients that aid tendon and bone growth, skin development, and so on.

  1. Oha Soup

The dietary fiber found in Oha soup helps in improving digestive function. This also applies to pregnant women; the nutrients help prevent constipation during pregnancy. Oha soup is a Nigerian soup, but it is believed that other African countries also have a similar soup but with a different name, perhaps.

ALSO READ: 10 African Foods that Increase Low Libido

Does Spicy Food Cause Miscarriage?

Spicy foods are enjoyable foods to eat during pregnancy, and no, it doesn’t cause miscarriage. It only causes heartburn or indigestion, which some pregnant women are prone to even when they are not pregnant. However, this doesn’t affect your child.

Also, try avoiding these spices in large quantities: cayenne pepper, basil, celery seed, caraway, anise, rosemary, clove oil, marjoram, chili powder, oregano, sage, parsley, thyme, cinnamon, and cumin. Also, avoid these herbs in large quantities too: bitter orange, fenugreek, chamomile oil, lavender, angelica, and peppermint oil. Excess of these spices can cause uterine stimulation and contractions.

How Many Times Should a Pregnant Woman Eat Daily?

You may eat three small meals and three light snacks in a day. The light snacks shouldn’t be empty calories. It should have nutrients that will help the baby grow. Also, for normal-weight pregnant women, the foods you eat during pregnancy should contain the following calories in a day:

  • Around 1800 in the first trimester
  • About 2200 in the second trimester
  • About 2400 in the third trimester

This increase in each trimester helps to sustain the weight gain of the baby. Learn more about how to eat—as a pregnant woman here.

Foods to Avoid as a Pregnant Woman

As you can see, there is a long list of foods to eat during pregnancy. However, you should also take note of foods to avoid. Some of these foods aren’t generally unfavorable; the problem is their method of preparation. Such foods include:

  • Empty calorie foods (cookies, candy, cakes)
  • Unpasteurized milk
  • Smoked fish
  • Raw or undercooked meat
  • Processed meat
  • Uncooked or undercooked foods
African Foods to Eat During Pregnancy
Image: Flickr.com

Final Thoughts

A balanced diet will tremendously improve your baby’s growth. However, it’s necessary to avoid some particular foods—your body might be able to handle its side effects, but the immune system of the baby cannot function as yours.

There is also the issue of eating hot or cold foods during pregnancy. This is said to be of no effect, but if you want something more definite to keep you at peace, then your hot foods should be kept at 60°C or above while cold foods–at 4°C or below. You can make use of a digital food thermometer in checking the food temperature. However, the diversity of ingredients and food combinations in most African meals make them suitable for pregnant women–either hot or cold.

Finally, if you’re looking for recipes for any of the foods mentioned above, you can leave us a comment via the comment section, and we’ll point you to the right recipes.


Note that this article is solely for information purposes and shouldn’t be relied on to make health decisions. However, we do carry out proper research to work out the content we provide, but it is best to always consult with your doctor before making decisions that concern your health.