More than any other time in our lives, we’re most conscious about what we eat as soon as we find out we’re pregnant! A varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, eggs and fish are all essential to nourishing ourselves and our bumps too. Buy organic if you can to minimise pesticides and herbicides (to keep toxins to a minimum) and to maximise nutrient content.
My first priority is to help my patients eat as nutrient rich as possible… in the easiest way possible. So often we think that our ‘balanced diet’ is giving us the nutrients that we need, but it often falls short especially in minerals such as magnesium and iron. In pregnancy we need more nutrients – especially quality protein (the building blocks of the body), folic acid, essential fats, iron, B Vitamins and minerals such as zinc. Remember to stay clear of too much sugar – I know this is often difficult when energy levels are low but sugar highs and lows create a greater need for more sugar. Sugar also depletes the body of essential nutrients such as Vitamin C and B Vitamins which arn’t stored that well in the body so a daily intake is essential.
The key to staying one step ahead of your cravings is to have healthful options to hand by batch cooking. Falafel, hummus, coconut yogurt, soups, chicken drumsticks, melon (already cut up), left over curries/tagines, rice/bean salads, stuffed peppers are all great to cook up and have in the fridge for easy fixes. Batch cooking is key – always make more than you need to be used the next day or be put in the freezer. Smoothie making using our Morning Elixir is a perfect quick fix for protein, fibre and as a micronutrient hit. All made up in 5 minutes. Eggs too are a great protein and B vitamin fix. If having porridge then add some ground linseed to increase the protein content to keep you fuller for longer and reduce those blood sugar crashes.
Morning Elixir is perfect for pregnancy. It provides 40µg, providing 10% folic acid recommended in pregnancy in natural folate form (non pregnancy RDA is 200µg, which equates to 20% RDA per serving). Because it’s a food not a supplement, it also benefits from naturally providing synergistic nutrients including iron and B12 to also help support energy and the changing stages of development. Morning also has pro-Vitamin A activity. The body converts only the amount of Vitamin A it needs from beta carotene which is abundant in Morning Elixir, so there are no concerns with toxicity like there are with synthetic Vitamin A during pregnancy. It also benefits from including psyllium husk which helps to reduce constipation, a common symptom of pregnancy.
Some key nutrients….
The UK Department of Health recommends women planning a baby should take a supplement containing 400mcg of folic acid from the start of trying to conceive until the 12th week of pregnancy. Folic acid is needed to support cell division, DNA synthesis and foetal bone development. Greens are a great source of folic acid along with synergistic B vitamins which help it’s absorption. More research is showing it’s just as important to have plenty in your diet throughout your pregnancy.
Folic acid is also a B Vitamin but has been listed separately due to it’s importance. They’re often known as the ‘stress vitamins’ as they’re used up during the ‘stress cascade’ which is often higher during pregnancy.
Essential fatty acids
Oily fish is the best source of omega 3, as well as linseed oil (linseed/flaxseed is the most abundant omega 3 from plants, aside from algae). Omega 3 is essential for your baby’s brain development – and to help reduce our baby brain too! Our stores of DHA and EPA (the vital elements of Omega 3 fats) are directly used for our baby’s brain and eye development.
Not advisable to take as a supplement and instead through food, namely plants, during pregnancy. Beta carotene from brightly coloured plants (including green and white!) converts to Vitamin A in the body as and when the body needs it so is safe to have during pregnancy. Beta carotene is a potent antioxidant (like Vitamin A) so is therefore protective during pregnancy.
Needed to support healthy oxygenation and fatigue. Food sources include spinach, chard, pulses, brown rice, lean beef and chicken (especially darker cuts).
Hugely important mineral for the reproductive system. Zinc rich foods include lean beef, prawns, pumpkin seeds and spinach.
Magnesium is often known as nature’s tranquiliser, great to help calm us during pregnancy. It’s essential for bone development and a healthy heart. Magnesium rich foods include spinach, chard, almonds and pumpkin seeds.
We also love the pregnancy range from Wild Nutrition www.wildnutrition.com
Common side effects of pregnancy
It can be relieved by keeping blood sugar in check by eating little and often and having complex carbohydrates to hand to keep blood sugar in check. Ginger too is helpful – add to hot water with a little lemon and honey.
Constipation is something that often occurs during pregnancy – make sure that you are eating half your plate as vegetables at least twice a day to help supply the body with gentle soluble fibre. Psyllium husk is great for massaging the gut on the way down and created a mucilage which helps with constipation.
This can be caused by pregnancy hormones relaxing the valve between the foodpipe and the stomach causing regurgitation of stomach acid. Try not to eat large meals, especially at night. Chew your food thoroughly, and eat plant based foods, and cooked rather than raw foods in the evening, as these are easier to digest.
Words by Karen Newby, nutritional therapist and Alchemy founder.