By Elaine Doucette, the Herbal Mama Certified Herbalist
For thousands of years in traditional cultures, prior to this age of obesity, cancer and diabetes, pregnant women would feast on organ meats, seafood, eggs, herbs and high fat foods. It was common practice that for 6 months prior to conception, couples would go on a special diet of organic liver and other organ meats, fish eggs and other seafood, eggs, high quality butter, cream and fermented milk products. These were considered sacred foods and were naturally “organic” and free from chemicals.
Today pregnant women are told to be so careful about what they ingest in way of vitamins, herbs and seafood, but what they do eat may not ever be talked about except for in jest of their ice cream and massive sugar cravings! Sugar and ice cream cravings are really shouting: “Feed me fat and protein!”
Six months before conception is an important time to enhance digestive system functions and include nutrient-dense foods. Eliminate or moderate all empty calories including: tobacco, sugar, white flour, hydrogenated and rancid oils, caffeine and alcohol. A little self-sacrifice and a step up in living standards are the first part in becoming a better parent and steward for the next generation.
Out of these top ten essential pregnancy foods listed, this modern day world of convenience has led us to capsules, soft gels and purified spoonful’s. These new food forms are necessary for most of us who are unwilling to consume or source organic organ meats, for example and for everyone needing to consume enough fish oil to build smart healthy babies and avoid toxins and heavy metals found in our polluted oceans. Fish oils by the spoonful are molecularily distilled to contain no harmful toxins and are flavored for her pleasure.
[apane title=”1. fats!”]
Fish oil contains DHA and EPA, omega 3 fatty acids that literally build brain cells and nerves plus many other critical body functions. Build a healthy, smart baby with a fish oil supplement. All fish oil supplements contain no mercury or other toxins, so it is safer than eating fish during pregnancy. There are plant based products that contain DHA and EPA on the market, but if you can tolerate fish oils I strongly recommend it! The most food based fish oil products are krill oil and cod liver oil for their naturally occurring antioxidants and Vitamins A & D in fish liver oil; creating a nutrient dense whole food synergy.
Omega 6 fatty acids with high GLA content are also important for reducing the harmful effects of inflammation and they offer essential building blocks for hormones. The best forms are: Evening Primrose oil, Borage seed oil and Black Currant seed oil.
Saturated fats are also important. Just like omega 3 fatty acids, they have many essential jobs including: the building of intestinal walls; the cholesterol that will build hormones, brain cells, nerves; keeps blood sugar balanced, protects the body from viruses, toxins, inflammation; keeping cell membranes plump and permeable, etc.
Healthy fat sources: NKO Krill oil, Nordic Naturals cod liver oil, fish oils, Borage seed oil, Wheat Germ oil, Evening Primrose oil, Black Currant seed oil, organic extra virgin Coconut oil, organic butter, healthily raised animal fats, nitrate-free bacon fats, avocados, egg yolks (pasture fed, free run, organic feed that is non-soy), Olive oil, organic nuts and seeds that are soaked and prepared properly.
[/apane] [apane title=”2. Probiotic cultures!”] Keep the digestive environment friendly and healthy for better bowel movements, less inflammation, and clearer skin. As well as including fermented foods in the diet; if constipation, skin issues, food allergies or Candida symptoms are prevalent; taking a high potency supplement in the form of a capsule may be essential. High quality brands such as: Renew life’s Ultimate Flora, Metagenic’s Ultra Flora Plus DF if you have dairy issues, Natren’s Healthy Trinity, and DDS are all quality brands. Recommended fermented food sources: Beet kvass, plain organic yogurt, Miso soup, raw sauerkraut, Kefir, Kombucha drinks, Bio K. [/apane][apane title=”3. Protein!”]
Every time you put something in your mouth think: “Where’s my protein?!” Prevention of gestational diabetes, pre-eclempsia, low energy, aging and mood imbalance may all be prevented through this simple macro-nutrient. Enough protein and fats will help to lower sugar cravings. It is best to source meat from healthfully raised animals that are local, organically fed, pasture fed, free range and soy or corn free feed. Wild meat is also a clean source. Legumes, nuts, seeds and grains need to be soaked and fermented properly for the body to absorb all the macro-nutrients, including protein. Soak all nuts and seeds in a sea salt water bath for a minimum of 7 hours, then dehydrate or roast them; this will increase absorption of all the nutrients, decrease irritation to the gut and increase flavour. Legumes and grains are to be soaked and fermented properly before eating.
Besides properly preparing and sourcing foods so that your body can absorb the protein better; I recommend adding a high quality protein powder into food. This will help to balance blood sugar and give the body extra amino acids hard to find in most foods for added immunity, liver support and energy. Protein powders today are delicious and mix easily. Add a scoop to organic milk or yogurt to pour onto your sprouted oatmeal, add some to a kefir smoothie or make your own chocolate ice cream with protein powder, organic milk and ice cubes for a nutrient dense treat! Protein powder sources: Isolated whey protein powders, fermented Goat whey, Vega Whole Food powder, Rice Protein powder and “Prozone”.
[/apane][apane title=”4. Hydration/Water!”]
Our bodies are made up of 85-90% water, the easiest way to internally bathe and cleanse is to feed the body a clean, pristine mineral rich water source. Add chlorophyll rich, oxygen carrying, greens to maximize the fluids that you drink for a much happier and healthier cellular response. Everyone needs proper hydration for survival and during pregnancy these needs will double!
There are many ways to increase the hydration effects of your water:
-Find a clean water source… and that’s not Edmonton tap water! Charcoal filters are the minimum; ionizer machines are the maximum and you will find every other device in-between. Finding a local spring that runs deep and comes out clean is the most optimal. Distilled and reverse osmosis waters are devoid of most toxins but also all the minerals are missing too!
-Add electrolytes/minerals in the form of: Trace mineral drops, organic unrefined sea salt (Grey or pink in color indicates mineral richness), ‘Greens’ powders (Spirulina, Blue Green Algae, concentrated sea vegetable powders, Alfalfa leaf, Barley grass, Wheat grass), herbal teas, green leafy vegetables.
Coffee, Black tea, sugar, diuretics, toxins all use up mineral deposits and will dehydrate the body; boost up your mineral sources if these are consumed at all. If you are new to ‘Greens’ powders, start slowly and know your body. These powders can be added to fruity protein power smoothies. If you have never been a “healthy eater” or have had some health issues, you may want to start with dark green leafy vegetables, good fats, healthy protein and clean water with added trace mineral drops to start.
[/apane][apane title=”5. Prenatal Multivitamin!”]
A high quality multivitamin should contain the following ingredients: Folic acid levels up to 3 mg, calcium & magnesium, B vitamin complex, vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Iron. I recommend a fermented whole food Multivitamin such as: New Chapter’s Multi For Two. The fermenting process is important for enhanced digestibility of all the nutrients. Take any multivitamin with food to avoid nausea. Avoid the giant Once-A-Day Multivitamins for obvious nauseating reasons! Read the label, if your Multivitamin contains any dyes, shellac, talc powder, etc. toxin; throw it away!
[/apane][apane title=”6. Herbal Teas!”]
Raspberry leaf, Nettle leaf, Alfalfa leaf and Ginger root are all safe and effective nutrient dense super tonic herbs that can help all areas of pregnancy nutrition. Herbs have been used traditionally by midwives and grandmothers with no concern but for the health of the baby and mother during pregnancy and childbirth. In tea form it is the most gentle and user friendly way to drink to your health.
Raspberry leaf is an excellent uterine tonic that will help to keep the muscles toned and relaxed when needed. This is helpful for preventing muscles spasms, headaches, Braxton Hicks contractions, labour pains, etc. Raspberry leaf is also a potent antioxidant and lactation helper; helping to increase the flavor of the breast milk for baby and will help to increase milk flow.
Nettle leaf is helpful for alleviation of itchy skin conditions that may be caused from allergies or liver upsets. It is also an excellent overall tonic that is rich in minerals including Iron and chlorophyll.
Alfalfa Leaf is a herbal multivitamin, it is the most nutrient dense herb in the land, the ‘king of the herbs’ it is called. Alfalfa is helpful for any bleeding conditions with food source vitamin K to regulate blood flow. It has also been traditionally used for treating addictions and mood disorders.
Ginger root is great for any time nausea whether it be morning, evening, after food, whenever. I had ginger chew candies in my hand bag at all times. Fresh Ginger root is suggested to be avoided during the first trimester by some professionals, it is unnecessary to use fresh anyways because the dried root tea is sufficient for nausea treatment.
If you are new to using herbs for food medicine, start slowly and know your body. If you start drinking more herbal teas than before, while being pregnant, start by steeping the herbs for less time and build up gradually. A good rule to follow is 1 cup/day in the first trimester, 2 cups/day in the second trimester and 3 cups/day in the third.
[/apane][apane title=”7. Vitamin D!”]
Most pregnant women don’t sun bathe or expose most of their skin to the sun; it is best to protect yourself during this sensitive time. Vitamins D is most richly sourced from sun exposure so it is imperative to take it in supplement form. When I was pregnant, I took 4000 iu/day.
Vitamin D has been proven to help immunity, reduce allergy symptoms, help keep teeth and bones healthy and strong and prevent deficiency. Not everyone may need that high of an amount, best to get tested or talk to a certified health practitioner to assess your optimal levels through lifestyle analysis.
[/apane][apane title=”8. Iron!”]
All the excess blood flowing in a pregnant body makes Iron a most important mineral to consume. Organic chicken livers are incredible for boosting energy, natural iron and protein levels. Organic molasses, nettle leaf tea and cast iron pans for cooking are other good iron food sources.
Natural Iron supplements are available in liquid or soft gel form and they will not constipate. Enzymatic Therapy’s B12 liquid liver fraction is a favourite for food based iron and B12 to further help red blood cells. I always have Prairie Naturals Iron Solutions on hand in the fridge for when my eyes are sore and I need a pick me up. Try a spoonful anytime and see if it gives you a lift, most women can use an iron booster every once and awhile, especially during pregnancy or menstruation.
[/apane][apane title=”9. Calcium & Magnesium!”]
These minerals do a lot more for the body than simply increasing bone density. These partner minerals help to promote healthy muscle contractions, including relaxing painful muscle cramps. They will help promote cellular energy, increase heart pumping action and help in the regulation of blood sugars. These are essential minerals that are important for anybody including a pregnant body. It is especially important to take these minerals in equal amounts as well as the other trace minerals as suggested in the hydration sources previously! Take this in supplement before bed and away from iron supplements.
Food sources: Dark green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, organic dairy products, organic unrefined sea salt, Nettle leaf tea, Alfalfa leaf tea. I recommend taking an eco-harvested Coral Calcium supplement; this includes all the electrolyte/minerals that a body needs for proper hydration.
[/apane][apane title=”10. Homeopathic Remedies!”]
Homeopathic remedies are one of the safest and most effective ways of getting through any uncomfortable symptoms from flu pain to nausea. Homeopathic remedies are dilute forms of potentized substances that, like a snowflake, hold each unique energy pattern (think: Messages in Water by Dr. Emoto).
Helpful Homeopathics to have on hand are: Boiron’s Oscillococcinum; for flu symptom relief. Boiron’s Coryzalia for cold symptoms. Boiron’s Stodal for cough relief. Heel’s Nux Vomica Hommachord for morning sickness, digestive and nausea relief. Arnica montana 30ch for pain relief.
Flower Essences for emotional healing and cosmic connection to this new life growing inside can be wonderful and meaningful. Like Homeopathics they are also very gentle and vibrational in nature. They are nature’s psychotherapy. Create your own blend or contact a practitioner for a “Flower Essence Session” to help you create a custom blend.
Based on traditional wisdom and personal experience, this is my top ten foods list necessary for optimal pregnancy health. I personally included more than 10 food medicines during my pregnancy and have been gifted with a vibrant baby boy, who has abundant energy and a joyful disposition. For those new to taking supplements and just starting a more conscious dietary lifestyle, I recommend starting with the top 5 food medicines and going from there.
Everyone is unique and a top ten foods list for pregnancy may differ from person to person. Anyone that has further questions and wants to design their own personal top ten foods list for pregnancy may want to book an appointment with a certified health practitioner specializing in nutrition and herbs.