When you find yourself “in the family way,” many women suddenly worry about their diets and whether or not what they normally eat will nurture a healthy pregnancy and - more importantly - a healthy baby.
Even before conception occurs, what you eat can vastly effect your fertility, and can also have an impact on the severity and the likelihood of succumbing to unpleasant early pregnancy symptoms. So what are some of the best foods to consume before pregnancy and during? Here is my list:
- Magnesium - I know this isn’t directly a food, but it is such an important supplement that I had to include it in this list. Magnesium regulates muscle and nerve functions, balances stress hormones, encourages the healthy formation of teeth and bones, and - if taken for a minimum of 6 months before conception - can actually reduce or eliminate morning sickness!. It is a mineral which has been thought to be lacking in almost 70% of the world’s population due to unhealthy eating habits and the over-consumption of coffee and alcohol.
Foods that are high in magnesium include dark leafy greens, avocados, seeds and nuts, dried fruit, bananas, and...... Dark chocolate! Depending on your lifestyle and personal needs, you may want to consider taking a real magnesium supplement. I take Natural Calm Magnesium powder mixed in water or juice because it is easy to take, it tastes good, and it works very well.
- Fresh, organic produce. Fruits and veggies should make up a good portion of any human’s diet, but the quality of the produce being consumed will make a huge difference in the amount of vitamins and nutrients your body is actually receiving. The majority of commercially grown produce gets coated in pesticides which can not only poison your body, but can actually remove nutrients from your system, creating deficiencies where there were none before. Visiting local farms and heading to your farmer’s market can be great options if you are concerned about the higher up-front cost of organic foods (food for thought: paying slightly higher prices for pure, high-quality food can save you thousands in hospital bills for illness!). Also, more and more discount stores like Walmart have started offering more organic options, so that would be a great place to look as well.
For easier digestion, cooking/roasting your veggies and fruits (Warmed pears? Fried honey bananas? Yes please!) is recommended, and can help your body to more easily absorb all of the wonderful nutrients each food has to offer.
- Whole milk dairy (raw if available and if you are comfortable consuming it.) There is a dangerous rumor circulating that low-fat diets are the healthiest. This is absolutely untrue and can cause a myriad of complications if consumed on a regular basis. The human body at any age needs healthy fats for proper cell structure, for helping to absorb vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and for creating energy stores. Whole-milk yogurt can offer a wonderful array of live cultures that promotes good gut health and smooth digestion. Just make sure you are buying yogurt that does not contain a lot of added sugars or the benefits will be greatly diminished.
- Bone Broths - I love making bone broth from the carcasses of pasture-raised chickens. Not only is it healing and soothing to the digestive track (and can help with morning sickness), but it is also chock full of proteins and minerals that enhance your body’s natural functions. “Glycine also supports digestion and the secretion of gastric acids. Proline, especially when paired with vitamin C, supports good skin health. Bone broths are also rich in gelatin which may support skin health. Gelatin also supports digestive health which is why it plays a critical role in the GAPS Diet. And, lastly, if you’ve ever wondering why chicken soup is good for a cold, there’s science behind that, too. Chicken broth inhibits neutrophil migration; that is, it helps mitigate the side effects of colds, flus and upper respiratory infections.” I’d say those reasons are as good as any to start making bone broth a regular part of your diet, whether you’re pregnant or not!
- Animal meat and fats from pasture-raised livestock. This includes grass-fed beef (add liver 1 - 2 times per week if you can stomach it), pork, and poultry; eggs from pasture-raised hens; and though it is not an animal, wild-caught oily fish such as salmon. These are all incredible sources of healthy fats and proteins.
In addition to the above-mentioned foods, there are various vitamins and minerals that you want to make sure you are receiving. Vitamin D is extremely important, and is best absorbed and utilized by the body when taken together with Magnesium and ARA (Arachnidonic Acid). Do NOT take Vitamin D by itself if you are not also getting balanced amounts of ARA as this can cause issues such as hemorrhaging at birth. The best way to take Vitamin D (as a pure food source) is to consume a Cod Liver Oil and High Vitamin Butter Oil blend (or you can take them separately, but at the same time and in proper dosages). Please do more research on this before taking, especially if you are already pregnant.
While it’s best to completely avoid junk food, processed flours and sugars, coffee, caffeine, etc... what’s the fun in that? Balance is key, and if you can commit to a healthy diet most of the time, some less-than-healthy food is fine on occasion. I tend to follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time, I eat a very clean diet. The other 20% (or less), I indulge in whatever I want.
The short and sweet version of this article is this: Nourish yourself with high-quality, clean foods and you will encourage a healthy body and a healthy baby. Do this as much as you can, and don’t stress out over the times when your diet is less than optimal. In the world as it is today, sometimes we have to do the best we can with what we have available to us.