Good Nutrition During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when most women are especially concerned about nutrition and diet as moms-to-be want to give their newborns the best possible chance to survive and thrive.

There are also many dietary restrictions placed on pregnant women, as well as many pregnancy-related symptoms that can affect the ability to eat a balanced diet, making pregnancy a challenging time for many women. But, there are many steps you can take with your diet to ensure you will have a healthy and successful pregnancy.

Eat Nutritious Foods Throughout Your Pregnancy

Good nutrition during pregnancy should be based in whole foods as well as provide adequate calories and nutrients for both you and your developing baby, particularly from protein and healthy fats. Pregnancy is not a time to cut back on calories or try to lose weight.

If you are overweight at the start of your pregnancy, discuss with your doctor how much weight gain is appropriate for you. A woman who starts out at a healthy weight should aim to gain approximately 25-35 pounds during the entire pregnancy.

It is a myth that moms should try to “eat for two” during pregnancy. Most women need about 200-300 extra calories per day to support the growth of a healthy fetus. More calories are needed during the last trimester when the baby is growing the most. Just adding 2-3 extra ounces of chicken or half an avocado to your day will give you the additional calories you need to support the growth of your baby.

The quality of the extra calories you consume is also important, as the baby is also eating everything you eat.  Try to eat every 3-4 hours and include protein, high fiber carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats into every meal.

Green leafy vegetables are particularly important because they contain folic acid which helps prevent neural tube birth defects. Include eggs in your diet as they are a great source of carotenoids, which help with eye development and choline that helps improve brain function.

Focus on Healthy Fats

Fat is critical for brain development of infants. Babies need essential fatty acids, such as monounsaturated fats and Omega-3 fats to help their brains develop properly.  Most women do not consume enough omega-3 fats, specifically DHA, leaving their babies at risk for a poorly developed nervous system and brain.

Omega-3 fats are mostly found in fish. But, there is a significant concern with the mercury content of many species of fish available on the market. Mercury is a toxic chemical that causes brain damage, especially to developing brains.

The best thing you can do to get your critical Omega-3’s is to familiarise yourself with the list of low-mercury fish provided by the Natural Resources Defence Council and choose fish from that list.

Pregancy Supplements Can Help

Since women have so many specialised nutrition needs during pregnancy, it is difficult to meet all the requirements with diet alone, therefore some supplementation may be necessary.

Most doctors recommend women taking a prenatal vitamin which provides folate, iron, and other important nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy.  You may also want to consider increasing your intake of probiotics, or healthy bacteria during pregnancy, due to the connection between probiotics and reduction of childhood allergies.

Consider getting probiotics from food, instead of supplements, such as yogurt, kimchee, tempeh, miso, Kefir, or sauerkraut.  Be cautious of over doing it on supplements during your pregnancy as many dietary supplements are not appropriate for pregnant women. Discuss with your health care provider what supplements are best for you and your baby.

During pregnancy, there is no specific diet to follow, just a few simple rules to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible. A well-balanced diet with just a few modifications along with a few additional vitamins and minerals, will insure a healthy pregnancy for the both of you.

 

Fish Oil – Is It Important to Take & Why?

When it comes to fish oil, experts are divided regarding the usage and safety in the general population. Research has long shown the benefits that eating fish and other seafood, but the benefit may not just lie in the type of fat found in fish, but other nutritional factors found in these foods. Fish and fish oil supplements contain specific types of omega-3 fats: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

These omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced by the human body, which means they must be consumed through the diet. Plants and seeds, although they contain omega-3s, they do not contain the specific types of omega-3s found in fish, DHA and EPA. Plants such as spinach, spirulina, flax seeds, walnuts, and chia seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA has been deemed inferior to fish oil because the human body must convert ALA to DHA and EPA; the conversion every ineffective, only about 12% is converted.

Fish OilThere are a number of benefits to consuming an adequate amount of omega-3s; they play an important role in brain function, growth and development, and inflammation. These beneficial fats can also be anti-inflammatory, improving overall immune function.       Deficiencies in omega-3s been linked to cardiovascular disease, some cancers, mood disorders, and arthritis.

It is also important that a woman consumes adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in her diet during pregnancy for proper development of the baby’s brain. Unfortunately, women have been told to avoid fish due to the threat of mercury toxicity. But, there are many types of fish that are high in omega-3s, but low in mercury that can still be safe for pregnant women. The Environmental Protection Agency provides a list of low mercury fish that are safe for pregnant women. A supplement may still be recommended for pregnant women—especially if they are not eating enough fish.

The research on fish oil has shown the greatest benefits are found with the consumption of omega-3 rich foods such as fish, walnuts, and chia. The same benefit has not been seen from supplementation alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends the consumption 1-2 servings of fish (200-500 mg of DHA and EPA per serving) per week to prevent heart disease and stroke. To put this number into perspective, a 3-ounce cooked salmon fillet contains over 1,500 mg of omega-3 fats. Wild Yellowfin Tuna, on the other hand, contains less than 200 mg of omega-3s per 3-ounce serving.

There is a large consensus that consuming an adequate amount of fatty fish, nuts, and seeds is the optimal way obtain an optimal amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. The numerous benefits of omega-3s from food have been well established in the current research. But, although foods may be perfectly safe and beneficial, there is a need for continued research on the safety and efficacy of supplements. Before consuming fish oil supplements, consult your doctor and/or dietitian to determine the best option for your health.

Part 2: Supplements to Boost the Immune System

supplements and your immune systemIn the last part of this series nutrition and your immune system, we discussed changes you could make to your diet to help boost and strengthen your immune system.  This included eating sufficient protein and healthy fats, as well as limiting sugar, and including some foods high in immune boosting vitamins and minerals.

Now we wanted to talk a little about supplements to boost the immune system, in addition to following a healthy diet. Remember, no supplement will override a terrible diet, lack of exercise, excessive stress, or poor sleep habits so you still have to have an overall healthy lifestyle. We will discuss lifestyle issues in the third part of this series.  

Probiotics and Your Immune System

Shockingly, over 90% of the cells in our bodies are not our own, they are actually bacteria cells. This may seem frightening to those who believe that all “germs” are dangerous, but most of the bacteria is quite helpful to our immune system.

The balance between health and illness is a very delicate interplay between bacteria and our immune cells. In the right balance, “good” bacteria help prevent disease-causing bacteria from taking over our bodies. Certain bacteria may also help improve the function of immune cells, called T cells. The research in the area of how exactly bacteria interact with our immune system is still relatively new and scientists are still trying to figure out the details of this complex system.

Since the science of probiotics is still new, it is difficult to make an exact recommendation of how much and what type of probiotic to take for optimal health.  Common bacterial strands that are generally considered healthy are called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, so look for those on the label. Look for probiotics that need to be refrigerated and that contain a large number of bacterial strains, a billion or more. I love the broad spectrum probiotic Bioceuticals Ultrabiotic 45 – which has 45 billion bacteria per capsule.   Metagenics Ultraflora Immune is also terrific.  Both of these contain specific strains that have been shown to promote the growth and increase the number of beneficial bacteria within the digestive system which may assist in the maintenance of a healthy immune system.  Alternatively, you may also want to consider getting probiotics from fermented foods such as Kefir, yoghurt, kimchee, tempeh, miso or sauerkraut.

Herbs: Andrographis, Echinacea, and Olive Leaf

There are several herbs that can help boost your immune system and keep you healthy during cold and flu season. Andrographis, Echinacea, and Olive Leaf, all immune boosting herbs, can be found in the Bioceuticals ArmaForce supplement, along with some vitamin C and zinc. This supplement, or something similar, would be a great addition to your cold and flu prevention regimen.

Andrographis is a plant commonly found in India and Sri Lanka that is ground up and used to prevent colds and and the flu.  It has also been used to treat several other medical conditions such as diarrhea, liver problems, and even infectious diseases such as leprosy or tuberculosis. There is some evidence that Andrographis may help improve sore throats and reduce the duration of the common cold.

Echinacea is an herb native to North America that has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy. It is most commonly used to help fight the common cold and other types of respiratory illnesses. It has been shown to help reduce the severity of cold symptoms, although it is not known to actually prevent illness. People with ragweed allergies should avoid taking Echinacea because it could trigger an allergic reaction.

Olive Leaf Extract has been found to help suppress several viruses, including those of colds and flus. The specific extract from the olive leaf is called, Oleuropein and is removed during processing of the olive plant. This extract is thought to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiprotozoal effects. It may also help enhance the function of immune cells called natural killer cells. There is no specific recommended dose for olive leaf extract, but it may help the next time you have a cold or flu.

In addition to a healthy diet, you now know what supplements can also help boost your immune system during cold and flu season. In the next installment of this series, we will discuss how your lifestyle has an effect on your immune function.

 

Please note, this post is NOT sponsored by any companies – I recommend these supplements and brands purely because I think they are great and see fantastic results with my clients. If you’d like to order any of these Bioceuticals supplements, you can use the Patient code C10248-04 via their online ordering system.