Gestation is the most important nine months of your baby’s life. These months in the womb inform the intelligence, physical health, and even the appearance of your child. Unborn babes obtain all the necessary nutrients for healthy development and their adult health later in life from their mother’s diet, which is why taking care of your nutrition during pregnancy is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give your baby.
Modern lifestyle and diet make this responsibility increasingly difficult as processed foods, chemically preserved foods, highly refined carbohydrates, refined sugar, and excessively high amounts of caffeine have become the ‘staples’ of today’s diet. We have come a long way from our ancestors who consumed meat with the fat still intact, unprocessed dairy products from grass-fed (not grain-fed) animals, fresh seafood, and loads of untainted vegetables and fruit.
The stark contrast between these two diets asks us to consider what the main difference is? The answer is; nutrients. Our traditional nutrient-dense diet has been substituted for easy, on-the-go, ‘pick-me-up,’ empty calories.
In this series, I will initially discuss what nutrients we need during pregnancy to create optimal conditions in the womb and mother’s intestinal tract. Secondly, I will explore how we can include these in our everyday diet. Eating to grow a healthy and robust baby isn’t difficult, it is delicious(!), and only requires a little bit of know-how.
Nutrients Important for a Healthy Pregnancy
Vitamin A is crucial for developing strong bones, good eyesight, healthy skin, sufficient hormone production, metabolism, and good concentration in new-borns. It informs the cells to locate their correct regions, and supports communication between the organs and brain. Mid-way through gestation, adequate amounts of vitamin A ensure the development of healthy lungs.
Vitamin D is crucial for lung development and prime fetal development.
It is important to understand that vitamin A only has its total effect on development when it is consumed alongisde vitamin D. According to Sally Fallon M.D., it is difficult to obtain adequate amounts of both vitamins A and D from our Western diet, which is where a cod liver oil supplement comes in to play (see below).
Vitamin K2 is important for fetal development; bone structure, teeth, the brain, and blood. Weston A. Price found that vitamin K2 is responsible for well structured, and attractive facial structure, as well as ensuring there is enough space in the child’s mouth for the teeth to grow straight. It has also been shown to improve nervous system development. Sources of vitamin K2 include liver and foods sourced from grass-fed animals, e.g. butter.
DHA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid, supports brain development, i.e. formation of the neurons. It also protects the baby from oxidative stress.
Choline is necessary for the formation of synapses between neurons in the new-born. Adequate amounts of choline during pregnancy support a healthy nervous system and avoid spinal cord and brain defects.
Cholesterol, although considered controversial, is a very important nutrient to consume during pregnancy. It is true that only 15% of our total cholesterol levels are obtained through diet – our bodies form the other 85% of cholesterol on their own – but extra cholesterol assists in brain, nervous system, and intestinal development. I implore you not to avoid consuming cholesterol during these precious months - enjoy a cholesterol-rich diet.
Glycine is an essential amino acid that is required for protein synthesis of the foetus and placenta. It is important to consume glycine-rich foods while consuming a diet that consists of animal meats.
Folate (Folic Acid) is the ‘pregnancy’ nutrient we’ve all heard of. This is because extensive research has shown that folate helps prevent neural tube (spinal cord and brain) defects in infants. Dietary sources of folate include liver, dark leafy greens, egg yolks, legumes, and other green vegetables. To read more around folate versus folic acid, click here.
I advise women on how to meet their baby’s and their own nutritional requirements during pregnancy, how to manage morning sickness and weight gain, and how to best prepare their bodies to develop a healthy baby. Please get in touch if you would like some guidance.
Part Two of this series will explore how to source these nutrients from a nutritional diet.
Feed, nourish, value yourself.