So you or your partner are knocked up. Congratulations! How amazing... Please don't raise a muppet.
I'll try not to either. My fiance and I are expecting in September 2016. Hopefully our little GIRL is neither a muppet nor unhealthy. Hopefully she doesn't have Dad's pale white skin or the processed foods addiction that he held for 20+ years.
Turns out, health starts before the gruesome beautiful birth. If you want a baby Einstein, and a healthy Mum, you need to watch what you eat during incubation.
I've done the homework on what nutrients, and therefore what foods, Mum must eat. You're going to think I'm Father of the Year reading this bad boy. Truthfully, I didn't crack the dietary whip and start being a thoughtful chef until about six months in. When Lindsay's iron and platelet count was dire. However, in fairness to my procrastination, you try insisting on blue green algae smoothies when the only thing your pregnant woman will accept is comforting carbs.
Anyway... Back to the nutrients. If you want to stimulate brain development and form a healthy, strong baby, then focus on these:
8 Essential Minerals For Pregnancy
1. Iron Woman
One of the most important minerals in pregnancy is iron. Iron helps produce new blood for Mum and baby, and it also transports oxygen from the lungs.
Lindsay was on the verge of iron infusions before we focused on this essential mineral.
The best iron sources are typically animal proteins:
- Chicken liver (not safe in pregnancy due to listeria concerns)
You simply can't do as well with veggies but the best sources are:
- Cooked soybeans
- Blackstrap mollasses
The challenge with iron is that you need a mammoth 27 milligrams per day. So even the most diligent iron eater should still consider supplements. We needed them.
2. Folate's Time To Shine
The forgotten B vitamin becomes a superhero in pregnancy. Particularly in the early stages of development. Folate, or folic acid, is critical for spinal development and helps avoid birth defects of the brain.
The best sources of folate include:
- Beef liver
- Boiled spinach
- Black eyed peas
- White rice
- Cooked spaghetti
I had to make this list a little longer because there are a few surprise inclusions. Spaghetti, cereals and white rice don't normally make any Green Press list. Unless we're talking about carbs to avoid. Despite the folate density, I still recommend the raw plants as they contain other valuable nutrients as well.
3. Calcium, Without The Milk
Calcium will help your babies bones and teeth become strong. It will help the development of the heart and it can reduce the risk of hypertension and preeclampsia.
Thankfully, calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. So you don't have to be as conscious of your calcium consumption as you do with the other minerals listed here.
The best sources of calcium are milk products. But that doesn't take into consideration that we don't absorb the calcium from cow's milk at the same volume as it's measured. Cow's milk is an inflammatory that actually depletes our calcium storage. So while most calcium lists will recommend every version of cow's milk, I won't be. The only dairy product I recommend is greek yoghurt because it's fermented with probiotics. Making it inflammation neutral. As well as protein dense and good for your gut.
So here are the best non-milk sources of calcium:
- Greek yoghurt
- Boiled soybeans
4. Vitamin D
Calcium requires vitamin D to build those healthy bones. Vitamin D will also help improve Mum's mood, which is important as depression can often occur during the pregnancy roller coaster.
The best sources of vitamin D, closely resembles calcium:
- Tuna (stay away from because of the higher levels of mercury)
- Shitake mushrooms
- Beef liver
Don't forget to include sunlight too. Going for a walk each day will do wonders for your mood and health.
Just like when you want to grow big and strong, your baby needs protein to do the same.
Fortunately, most of the foods we've already discussed are full of protein. Salmon, beef, almonds, eggs, tofu, tahini etc. Protein will take care of itself when you are focusing on iron, calcium or vitamin D.
6. Vitamin C
We know vitamin C's role in boosting the immune system. Which is important as pregnancy is hard enough without being sick. And we don't want a sick baby either. Additionally though, vitamin C is critical in the absorption of iron.
The best sources of vitamin C are fruit and veg:
- Kakadu plum
- Red capsicum (peppers)
- Kiwi fruit
- Leafy greens
7. Vitamin B6
Another vitamin that is great for both parties. Vitamin B6, aka pyridoxine, helps with Mum's nausea as well as baby's brain and nervous system development. Plus it's great for helping the baby break down protein and carbs.
The best sources of B6 are proteins, both animal and plant-based, as well as starchy fruit and veg:
- Beef liver
8. The Good Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for brain development. But it's a tricky ingredient to consume for pregnant women because the most popular source is oily fish. Like salmon and ocean trout. And oily fish is either deterred or recommended as no more than twice a week because of mercury concerns. So it's each to their own with this one.
As you can see with this article, salmon contains almost every nutrient and mineral a pregnant women needs so as soon as Lindsay was craving it, I started cooking it. That was only once or twice a week. Our local supplier has the brightest wild caught salmon I've seen and online resources confirm its a low mercury fish.
Alternatively, here's some other dense sources of Omega 3:
- flax seeds
- chia seeds
- fish oil supplements
- radish seeds
With Our Powers Combined
Ok, so the list of nutrients and minerals can be a little overwhelming. Thankfully there's a lot of crossover. And most of these recommendations are part of a normal healthy diet anyway. So pregnant Mum and partner can, and should be, eating the same meals.
Here's some delicious multipurpose mineral meals that have been getting a run at my house:
- Grilled salmon (wild caught) with a spinach, tomato and strawberry salad (tahini dressing)
- Fresh fruit with almond butter
- Raw vegetables and hummus
- Greek yoghurt and Cereal Killer granola (or any sugar free granola)
- Lentils and roast vegetables
- Papaya, spinach and almond butter smoothie
- Grilled scotch fillet and sautéed broccoli
Let me know if I've missed any winners. And if you have any awesome baby food recipes, I'll need those in six months too. There's no chance in hell my kid is having the Kit Kat palate I had for the first 20 years.