Pregnancy can be one of the most inspiring times for a woman to reap the rewards of a healthier diet for herself and her growing baby. A growing field of research associates good prenatal nutrition with desirable health benefits in their children – from reducing the risk of low birth weight to supporting healthier brains and balanced immune systems. I find this “epigenetic” research so empowering for women as we learn more about how we can positively influence the health of the next generation before they are even born – often through something as simple and self-caring as eating well. Yet another reason to invest enthusiastically in the health of girls and women, well before they conceive and right on through their childbearing years.
I recently shared some tips for pregnancy nutrition on Inside Guelph on Rogers TV. You can catch the full (7 minute) video here. Here are a few more tips to consider from the research:
• A Mediterranean diet (rich in vegetables, fish, legumes, whole grains, extra virgin olive oil -we’ll have to defer the red wine until baby’s born) consumed in pregnancy may reduce the risk of babies being born with low birth weight and of developing asthma later in childhood.
• Higher intakes of oily fish during pregnancy have been associated with decreased risk of hyperactivity and increased verbal IQ scores in children. Higher fish consumption is also protective against pre-term birth.
• The brain-building omega-3 fatty acid, DHA (docosahexanoic acid), found in fish and fish oils, also supports your baby’s eye and immune development. A fish oil supplement in pregnancy should contain at least 300 mg DHA per daily serving.
• It’s OK to watch your weight during pregnancy. “Eating for two” is really a misconception when we’re discussing calories. In fact, your late pregnancy caloric needs are only about 10% greater compared to pre-pregnancy requirements. While weight loss isn’t recommended during pregnancy, modest weight gain is recommended for women who were overweight when they became pregnant. This can help you prevent gestational diabetes and protect your child from the risks of high birth weight, including increased risk for obesity and diabetes later in life.
• Even if you’re not yet pregnant, a daily folic acid supplement is recommended to ensure you have enough of this nutrient (a type of B-vitamin) in your body to help your baby’s spinal cord develop normally in the event that you do become pregnant. This stage of development happens in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman realizes she’s pregnant. Try a prenatal multi, a basic B-complex, or separate folic acid supplement providing 400 mcg to 1 mg of folic acid (or folate).
Research on the incredible impact of prenatal diet on children’s future health is developing continually. This is one of the aspects of naturopathic medicine that inspires me the most. Stay tuned for more info, or book a visit to have your nutritional needs assessed on an individualized basis.
Dr. Elizabeth Cherevaty ND