When I went to my very first doctor appointment during my first pregnancy I was shocked at the lack of nutritional information that they offered me. I asked them what I should be eating to ensure a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby, the response I was given was brief and vague: don't eat lunch meat, fish or raw milk. That was about it. I also was given a pamphlet that detailed why these foods were so bad.
I went directly from my doctor appointment to my chiropractor. She had a very different story to tell. She told me to eat butter (lots of butter!), and liver, and FISH! She handed me a copy of the book Nourishing Traditions and told me to go home and read it while enjoying a fresh piece of real sourdough bread dripping with grass-fed butter. I knew I was in the right place. I went home and did exactly as she told me. Then I called my doctor and transferred all of my care to a local midwife group. The midwives were much more tuned into nutrition. My new team of professionals were exactly the people I needed to help me through this most important time in my life. Here are the key things they taught me about nutrition for pregnancy and beyond!
Traditional cultures have known these foods for millennia. If you page through Nourishing Traditions, you will learn all about the special diets for the mothers-to-be.These include nutrient dense foods like fish eggs, liver, bone marrow, raw milk, egg yolks and other animal fats. Very different from the dietary recommendations I was given from my OB appointment!
While there are many foods that I included in my diet while pregnant to nourish my body and my growing baby, I wanted to break it down here into what I believe to be the top five pregnancy superfoods.
- Grass-fed dairy: not skim milk, whole milk! It is rich in saturated fat, which is especially beneficial for fertility and proper brain development. It’s also a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2. If you want to take it up a notch, ferment your milk into kefir and yogurt. The fermentation transforms your milk into a great source of beneficial bacteria. This is important because a baby’s first exposure to bacteria is in his/her mother’s birth canal, and the mother’s gut health has a significant influence on the lifelong health of her baby. If you want to learn how to make your own kefir and yogurt, you can find my recipes HERE and HERE. Also, eat grass-fed butter. Put butter on everything. I have been known to eat spoonfuls of butter when pregnant — the baby made me do it!
- Egg yolks: egg yolks are a great source of B vitamins, choline, and vitamins A and D. Studies suggest that 86% of women don’t get enough choline in their diet. This is significant because choline helps protect against neural tube defects. Consuming choline during pregnancy assists in fetal brain development and protects against fetal brain defects.Two large egg yolks provide a little over 230 milligrams of choline, or about half of your daily needs. Choline aids brain function by helping maintain the structure of brain cell membranes.
- Cod liver oil: this was another immediate recommendation from my chiropractor. Cod liver oil is a sacred fertility and pregnancy food that fell out of favor during the last couple of generations, but is making a comeback. According to Nourishing Traditions, it's an excellent source of Vitamin's A and D. Vitamin A is very important for eye development during pregnancy. Vitamin D promotes proper development of the bones, especially during the 3rd trimester when the fetal skeleton begins to grow rapidly. Cod liver oil is also a good source of EPA and DHA. So, combine this with some salmon and you should have an excellent brain-building diet for your little baby! I wrote another post all about the kind of cod liver we take, you can read it HERE.
- Cold-water, fatty fish: yes, fish. Isn't that one of the foods I was told to avoid? Not so fast! Seafood is high in the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. DHA is very important for fertility and pregnancy. It’s also crucial to the formation of neurons, which are the functional cells in the brain, and to protecting the brain from oxidative damage. Salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are excellent sources of DHA. Many women worry about the mercury content of the fish they are consuming. While some fish have higher levels, they are typically fish not commonly consumed. This article by Chris Kresser explains more about the mercury content in fish and how that affects our health. He explains that the studies he reviewed not only found that fish consumption during pregnancy was beneficial, but also noted neurological and developmental impairments among children whose mothers had avoided fish consumption! That's pretty significant!
- Liver: one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Often referred to as “nature's multivitamin”. It’s loaded with fat soluble vitamins like retinol (pre-formed vitamin A) that are crucial for reproductive health, and difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet. No, orange vegetables are not an excellent source of Vitamin A. They are a good source of beta carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A. Liver is also a great source of highly absorbable iron, which helps prevent miscarriage and maternal anemia, and B12, which is required for proper formation of red blood cells and DNA. Liver is also a good source of bioavailable protein, zinc, and folate. Contrary to popular belief, the liver is not the storage center for toxins — it is the filter for toxins. They come and go through the liver, they do not linger or store there.
While all of this information might sound wonderful, not everyone loves to actually eat these foods. I confess, I do not like to eat liver. I also do not like every kind of fish. Especially sardines –YUCK! Well, I was determined to get these foods in, one way or another. I thought I would share my methods here so others can benefit from them too.
Liver and Fish Cubes
- Grass-fed beef liver (or you can use lamb)
- Wild caught sardines (in water or olive oil)
- pinch sea salt
- 2-3 Tbsp lemon juice
- I use a 1:1 ration for the liver and fish, but you can switch it up if you'd like — to your taste preference
- In a food processor, process all of the ingredients until a smooth paste forms
- Scoop into ice cube trays using a handy cookie scoop
- Freeze over night (or up to two weeks if you are worried about parasites in the liver)
- Put cubes into a freezer bag and store in freezer
- Each night I take one cube out and put it in a small dish in the fridge. In the morning the cube is a nice soft mush-ball of liver and fish. YUM! I scoop it up with a spoon and chase it down with kombucha to hide the taste. I have even been known to chase it with a small piece of chocolate. Hey, it's good for the baby!
Watch the video below to learn more about my method (to my madness)