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November 16, 2012

Which Foods are Best for Your Baby’s Brain & Yours? ~ Kate Leinweber

The terms “pregnancy brain” and “baby brain” are quite familiar in my life right now.

Many of my friends have either had babies recently, or are getting pregnant all over the place. With these new baby-parasites, my friends seem to be losing their minds, from forgotten plans to misplaced items, the list goes on.

The baby-making women in my life are becoming a little flaky!

So, I write this blog post for them. This piece is dedicated to the amazing women in my life who have indeed created life! Now, let’s raise awareness about how to feed mama’s brain, while also providing the necessary nutrients to baby’s brain.

During pregnancy, everything a woman takes in, first goes to the baby. They are like little parasites inside the womb. This means the necessary fats, vitamins and minerals mom would normally use for her brain are being sent directly to the baby.

Mother Nature pretty much does as much as possible to ensure the baby is healthy. This continues beyond birth into breastfeeding, as everything continues to come from the mother for the first months, or year, of life.  To ensure the development of a healthy baby brain, we must make sure mom is taking in the right foods to transform into nutrients for the baby.

I will focus on whole food sources of nutrients, because what nature provides is always superior to what can be chemically synthesized. When the following nutrients are added to the diet on a daily basis, new mamas can help keep their brains high functioning while also growing the next potential Einstein.

Fat

Fat is the building block of the brain. In fact, 60 percent of the brain is comprised of saturated fat! Fat is also where most of mom’s energy comes from, and as a new mother you need all the extra energy you can get! Fat provides energy for endurance, as opposed to the quick-fix energy which comes from carbohydrates.

Plant-based saturated fat is found in coconut oil. Animal-sourced saturated fats are found in dairy, eggs and meats. It is imperative that organic animal products are consumed during both pregnancy and breast-feeding. Pesticides are stored in fatty tissue, so if animals are eating grass or grains treated with pesticides, those pesticides stored in the animals’ fat end up in what you feed your baby.

Unsaturated fats are also very important for brain function. If you can, buy grass-fed meats because they are high in anti-inflammatory and brain supportive fats, like Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), and omega-3s, like DHA and EPA.

Fish and fish oil supplements are great, although you should try to avoid larger fish which are higher in toxins. Click here for a reference you can carry in your wallet.

Other healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados and olives. Please only cook with coconut oil, butter, olive oil or grapeseed oil; everything else is too delicate and turns into free radicals when cooked.

Carbohydrates

Glucose is what the brain uses for energy. Indeed we need glucose, but it must be high quality. When we eat refined grains like white bread, white rice or sugar, our body then needs to take vitamins and minerals from the bones and other areas of the body to aid in digestion. This robs your body of vital nutrients which could also support your growing baby. Empty calories not only don’t give us any vitamins and minerals, but they also take them from our body.

Focus on whole grains, and use sweeteners like raw honey and maple syrup sparingly. I know raw honey is controversial with pregnant women, but I would never recommend pasteurized honey to anyone, let alone a pregnant woman. Raw honey sourced locally from a farm you trust is an amazing source of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

Protein

Protein is what builds the neurotransmitters in the brain. These little guys send messages from one cell to another. We don’t need a ton of protein in our diets, but we certainly need some. Most pregnant and nursing mothers find protein intake is fairly intuitive, and you will likely be drawn to whatever it is your body needs.

I do not recommend being vegetarian, vegan or a raw foodie while growing a baby. These diets are focused more on cleansing which is the last thing you want to do while building new life.

As mentioned above, animal-sourced proteins need to be organic, and ideally, grass-fed. Protein from vegetable sources needs to be consumed in wide variety. This will ensure all the amino acids are present, which aids in complete digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Consuming a variety of legumes complimented with grains is ideal.

Vitamins

My favorite whole food vitamin supplement is Chlorella. This is the only Blue-green algae I recommend for new mamas. Spirulina and Wild Blue-green algae are cleansing and can result in toxic release which can build up in a baby.

My second favorite vitamin supplement is Organic Grass-fed liver. Let’s be clear, I am not talking about conventional liver overburdened with toxins. I’m talking about a healthy liver from a healthy animal. This is an amazing supplement for women. Liver is high in iron for blood building, vitamin D for calcium use in baby’s development, vitamin A for skin and visual development and vitamin B12 for the brain.

Minerals

Minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron, amongst others, are very important to a mama’s diet. It is impossible to focus on one mineral over the other, so I resort, as usual, to whole food multi-mineral supplements.

Seaweed is a great source for all the minerals our body needs. Including a piece of seaweed in every soup, legume, grain and as a snack will ensure your body gets the necessary minerals.

Using organic bones to make soup stock is another source of minerals, and also great healthy fats. Use your own bone broth as a base for soups, stews, sauces and as the cook water for grains.

Zinc deficiency is highly associated with disorders like ADHD, so you can boost this mineral with oysters and pumpkin seeds.

~

Editor: Jennifer Spesia

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