Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy from a Holistic Perspective
When you google what foods to eat and what foods to avoid during pregnancy, you will find all the same stuff. Avoid large fish high in mercury, anything raw, deli meats, hot dogs, soft cheeses, coffee, alcohol and anything that is unpasteurized. These are a great starting point, but its important to figure out what we need in order to help our babies thrive. I will add to that list that it’s important to avoid any genetically modified foods (when in doubt, buy organic), as we have no idea as to the extent of damage these foods can cause to our long term health.
The Basics: Supplements
Supplements are important during pregnancy because we need to get nutrients in high doses since the growing baby will take everything they need and leave what’s leftover for you.
The supplements that are absolutely necessary are a good quality multivitamin (see this comparison to make an informed decision – hint: doctors prescribe the ones that are made by the pharmaceutical companies that pay them, and are the worst ones with the most fillers), a good quality fish oil (fish body, not liver) such as cytomatrix, which also contains 1000 IU of vitamin D per serving, and a good quality probiotic (around 25 billion CFU). These are your basics for a healthy pregnancy.
Of course we all know that we need folic acid, but what we actually need is folate (activated folic acid), to ensure that our body is able to utilize it properly. Ensure that your multivitamin contains the active form. Also, eat foods that are naturally rich in folate such as dates, leafy greens, citrus, sweet potato, legumes, seaweed, cauliflower and cabbage. It’s important to note that folate must be present in the body upon conception (ideally), so if there’s a chance you may become pregnant in the next year, start incorporating these foods and taking your prenatal multivitamins now!
Other supplements you may consider are vitamin C for immune health, magnesium for muscle relaxant effects, chromium for blood sugar balance or zinc for digestive health (good for people with low stomach acid, but not to be taken long term). There is really no cookie cutter plan for every pregnant woman, which is why it may be a good idea to see a holistic health coach to get you on the right track for your unique body.
The Basics: Food
Once you figure out what to avoid, the diet should be pretty straight forward. We need a diet rich in whole foods, probably 80% plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes) and 20% organic animal protein (we want to avoid hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified feed). Vegans and vegetarians need to ensure proper food combining and supplementation to get the amino acids and B vitamins lacking in a general vegan/vegetarian diet.
Whole grains are important too but gluten grains are inflammatory in nature and can cause gut issues for many people. There are many gluten free grains that are rich in nutrients, and health promoting such as buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, rice (in moderation), and millet. It’s important to avoid any refined carbs, as they are nutrient poor and spike the blood sugar. The goal is to keep a nice steady blood sugar by including a source of fat, fibre and/or protein with each meal, and avoiding refined carbs and sugars. (Tip: if you have digestive issues, don’t mix grains and animal proteins – meals should be grains and vegetables, or protein and vegetables)
Speaking of fats, it’s important to ensure that you get enough fat in the diet via avocados, nuts, healthy oils (coconut oil, ghee, olive oil, avocado oil), and small amounts of animal fats. We need fats for the development of baby’s brain and nervous system!
Dairy is a sensitive topic for many, because doctors and the media insist that we need it for calcium. The truth of the matter is that dairy is highly inflammatory and mucous producing in the body, and most of us don’t have the enzymes to break it down. We have so many foods that are rich in calcium. The main ones are leafy greens, sesame seeds, chia seeds and blackstrap molasses. You can also think about taking a magnesium/calcium formula if you feel you are lacking.
Lastly, we want to ensure that we have a good quality water source. Tap water should be avoided as much as possible, as well as water in plastic bottles. Investing in a water filtration system is a good idea and there are a wide variety of products and price points to choose from.
Specific Considerations for an Active Pregnancy
If you are active during your pregnancy (which you should be), you may need additional support for the body.
Collagen: this is what your tissues are made up of – you can find it in powdered form and add it to your smoothies, or make a big batch of bone broth. Collagen supports your joints and helps to ease any joint discomfort.
Electrolytes: If you are sweating often, you will want to ensure that you replace your electrolytes during and after workouts. Pure coconut water is the very best option for this, but since we don’t all live in the tropics, it can be hard to find real coconut. You can put a small pinch of sea salt in your water. This helps with absorption of the water and the minerals in the sea salt. You can also add some calcium/magnesium powder to your water to help keep your electrolytes up while exercising
Beet Crystals: Beet crystals are beets that have been crystallized and nutrient density increases due to concentration. Beets are high in iron and are fortifying to the blood. As you may know, your blood volume increases by 50% throughout pregnancy, so your heart and lungs have to work much harder to oxygenate all of it (this is why you’re so out of breath after a flight of stairs – its nut just because you’re heavier).
Try this pregnancy-approved energy drink mix
- 500ml filtered water
- 1 tbsp beet powder
- small pinch of sea salt
- 1 tsp natural calm magnesium/calcium formula
- 1 tsp buffered vitamin C
- 1 scoop (5g) L-Glutamine Powder
Drink this formula slowly throughout your workout and don’t forget to have a good meal or protein shake after your workout to replenish lost nutrients. You want to ensure that post workout, you’re getting a protein and antioxidant rich meal in as soon as possible.
When you workout, your body creates some free radicals, which is not ideal, so we want to ensure that we eat foods rich in antioxidants like leafy greens and berries post-workout. To learn more about why we need antioxidants and where to find them, click here.
Lastly, please ensure that your activity during pregnancy is safe. If you’re unsure, find a fitness coach who specializes in prenatal/postnatal care to work with you to keep your strength and endurance up, as well as to train you specifically for pregnancy, labour, birth, and early motherhood.
Cheers to a happy and healthy pregnancy and beyond!
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