Are You Missing Critical Nutrients During Your Pregnancy?
Five key areas to consider for the best pregnancy possible.
1. The Importance of a Whole Foods Diet
What is a whole foods diet? Whole foods are those that are unprocessed and unrefined. I like to think that they are those foods you can picture growing in nature. For example, I can imagine and trace the steps back to where my oatmeal came from, or any grain for that matter. Or fruit, beans, meats, etc. Why does this matter? First of all, whole foods are loaded with vitamins and minerals. We wouldn't need prenatal vitamins if we simply ate a whole foods diet. The first actual synthetic vitamins weren't even created until the early 1900's, so generations of women made babies without supplements. They also ate far fewer processed foods, so their diet was superior nutritionally. You can get all the key prenatal nutrients from food: folate, choline, Vit A, Calcium, Omega 3′s, etc. Now, I never tell a preggo not to take her prenatals, but I will admit that when pregnant I was not a religious pill taker. I watched my diet and took about half the recommended dose of my vitamins. I didn't feel the need to meet 100% of my needs synthetically if I also ate a well balanced diet.
The other reason a whole foods diet is so important goes beyond what the eye can see. More and more research is surrounding what we call "epigenetics." Epi in Greek means above or over and genetics means, well, I think you know. Basically it's the study of changes in gene expression by mechanisms that do not involve change of the actual gene itself. There are mechanisms that can turn genes "on" or "off," and these factors can be influenced by diet. Fascinating stuff. Research has shown in mice that poor diets can influence genes expression AND those changes can be passed on to subsequent generations. "Many epigenetic effects stem from the mother's activities during pregnancy. For example, if a mother overweight during her pregnancy, it can affect weight control mechanisms in her child, leading to obesity or diabetes years later. These effects can even be passed down through multiple generations, so eating particular foods or being exposed to environmental factors could lead to effects in grandchildren and great-grandchildren." (Persagen.com)
So eat a whole foods diet. Enough said.
2. Eat Foods Rich in Choline
I know I said I avoid vitamins. That being said, there are a few exceptions I make, one of which is choline. The thing is, most prenatal vitamins don't contain choline. The research is still emerging (but it's there!) that choline is a critical nutrient during pregnancy. Nobody ever talks about it though. Research is showing that similarly to folate, choline plays a vital role in closing the neural tube and preventing neural tube defects. In fact, the role choline plays typically occurs before a person even knows they are pregnant, much like folate, so sufficient body stores are important.
Choline is also implicated in healthy nerve and memory function. One study showed that choline-deficient pregnant rats gave birth to offspring that had memory deficiencies later in life. Extrapolated to a human timeline, it appears that around week 27 is the critical time for choline to help create critical pathways for short-term memory formation. Offspring from deficient mothers won't notice the effects until after the age of 30, according to the rat models.
If that wasn't enough, research also shows in rats that high dose choline can help mitigate the brain-damaging effects of alcohol abuse by pregnant women. No excuse for drinking, but fascinating that there might be some help for disadvantaged babies. Also choline may also help prevent preeclampsia, premature birth and low birth weight. I have to say, what does choline not do? And come again, it's not in my prenatal vitamin?
It's recommended that women get 450 mg of choline per day. Good food sources include milk, broccoli, and red meat, and one of the best sources is eggs. Of course there are also supplement options. Omelette, anyone?
3. Get Some Vitamin D
Yeah, Vitamin D again.