The day I found out that I was pregnant with my first child I immediately headed to my chiropractors office. Even though I work in the modern medical world, I am still a firm believer in traditional nutritional wisdom, and let me tell you, my chiropractor is a wealth of knowledge in this department! I am very lucky to have her! She told me to go pick up a loaf of real sourdough bread and some grass fed butter. I was instructed to eat that entire chunk of butter over the course of a few days. Yikes…and YES PLEASE! I love butter and she had just given me the green light. Done!
Now comes the part that made my nose turn up, fermented cod liver oil (FCLO). Yep, fermented liver from fish in a liquid/gel form. Talk about morning sickness. She was even more adamant about getting that in than she was about the butter. But, being the good patient that I always am…I bought a bottle and headed home. Every morning I took my FCLO without fail. But why did she insist that I be eating these fats every day? Isn't a high fat diet BAD for us? Nope. Definitely not. Especially when you are growing another human inside you.
Let me tell you why.
Our Brains Are Made of Fat!
Our brains are made up of about 60% fat. It makes sense that when you are trying to grow a baby and encourage proper brain development, that you would need to provide the necessary tools. You need to eat healthy fats in your diet to provide your baby with the fats it needs to build a healthy brain. You can't build a brick house out of sticks and leaves, right?
You Need The Right Kind of Fat
So why is cod liver oil so important as a fat source? Because the fat in our brains is mostly made up of omega-3 fats. Fermented cod liver oil is an omega-3 fat that is highly absorbable and intact, due to its no-heat processing method. This cool temperature fermentation process allows the cod liver oil to maintain its Omega-3, Vitamin D and Vitamin A content. This also makes the nutrients more absorbable to the body. Cod liver oil has higher levels of DHA per serving (the most important omega 3 for brain function) than any other supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids, can help boost your baby's brainpower. In a study from Harvard Medical School, the more fish women ate during the second trimester, the higher their babies scored on a mental-development test at 6 months of age. So taking cod liver oil daily will ensure that you are getting your much needed omega-3 fats. No, you cannot get this from taking flax seed oil (but that is an entire blog post in itself), trust me.
Cod Liver Oil Doesn't Only Contain Omega-3's
But omega-3's are not the only benefit of taking cod liver oil. It is also full of Vitamins A and D. This was especially important to me because I live in a northern climate and typically get a lot less sun than the average person, which also means lower levels of vitamin D production. Vitamin D deficiency is tied in with a whole host of childhood illnesses such as autism, asthma, and diabetes. It even helps with proper gene expression and prevention of diseases later in life, such as cancer. This is one powerful vitamin (it is actually, technically a hormone!). Vitamin A is necessary for the proper development of eyes and vision. So, just some more very important reasons that cod liver oil is an excellent supplement to take when you are pregnant!
Cod liver oil has been used for hundreds of years in traditional cultures and was even something that every mother and grandmother swore by for immune support and brain development. Until recently. After the second world war a study came out by Ancel Keys, that vilified fats in our diet and led to the new fad of the low-fat diets. Everyone became afraid of fats and sadly, people stopped eating cod liver oil and healthy fats like butter and cream. Does this trend tie in with the rise in mental health issues and mood disorders? Well, that is my hypothesis, but I will let you form your own beliefs. It all comes back to giving your brain the building blocks it needs to build a healthy brain: cod liver oil.
Fish Oil Supplements: A wolf in sheep's clothing
But, why can't I just take the fish oil supplements that I find at my local drugstore? Well, because those are not near the quality or absorbability of cod liver oil. Often times the oil in those giant fish oil capsules comes from farmed fish, that can be full of all sorts of toxins. Many times they are even combined with another oil, a filler, to make the pills bigger and to seem like you are getting a larger dose of the oil. Unfortunately, they can also be contaminated with heavy metals (due to the fish farms). Mislabeling has even become a big issue with fish oil companies! One study found that [fish oil] products contained levels of omega-3s that were, on average, 30 percent less than stated on their labels. Fermented cod liver oil is processed in a way that does not damage the fats, and also enhances the nutrient content. You can read more about the process HERE.
What Kind of Cod Liver Oil Do We Take?
I have tried just about every fish oil, krill oil, cod liver oil, and even green-lipped muscle oil on the market and I always return to Green Pastures brand. They really have the gold standard when it comes to a quality product. I have personally met Dave, the founder of Green Pastures, and he is such a nice man! It really helps when you can shake the hand of someone who's supplements you are relying on for the health of your family and see it in their face that they are a genuine person with a passion for their product.
My husband and I cycle between two different cod liver oil supplement types:
- The Fermented Cod Liver Oil and Butter Oil Blend Capsules
- The Cinnamon Tingle Cod Liver Oil Liquid
My kids take (and actually like taking!) a chocolate flavored cod liver oil:
- The Fermented Cod Liver Oil Chocolate Gel
You can find your FCLO HERE. If you enter the coupon code: REALFOOD at checkout you will save 10% off your order too!
A Note on Dosages and Dangers
If pregnant or pregnancy is possible, limit cod liver oil intake to not more than 30,000 IU of Vitamin A per day. Two tablespoons of regular cod liver oil, one tablespoon high-vitamin cod liver oil is a dose that is safe and adequate for pregnant women and, in fact, all adults. There is no indication that anyone needs a dose of cod liver oil exceeding two tablespoons except in certain special circumstances. More is not better.
Do you take cod liver oil? What benefits have you noticed from taking it? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!
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None of these health benefits have been evaluated or approved by the FDA. They should not be used in place of personal judgment or medical treatment when needed, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. (Only your doctor can diagnose and treat disease.)Read my full disclaimer.