There are some groups of nutrients and that deserve special mention because you so rarely get good information on how to eat them.
Fermented foods - the food you eat impacts the quality of your microbiome, the friendly and useful microbes and bacteria living in your gut and your vagina. During the birth, your baby’s body will be colonized with your friendly bacteria, which will be the permanent base for his or her own system of friendly bacteria, which we know have a great impact on physical and mental health. Studies show that varied diet of real food and especially fermented food (yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso or kimchi) improves the odds of having a stable, healthy microbiome.
Proteins - proteins help stabilise your blood sugar, prevent headaches and nausea and are the building blocks of your baby’s body. They come in many forms that are all equally needed for your body, so it’s important to get them from a variety of sources. Your goal for the first half of pregnancy should be about 80g/day and 100g/day during the second half of pregnancy.
Fats - fats have a bad reputation and it’s important that you know that fats don’t make you fat.
That said, not all fats are created equal – you should avoid vegetable oils and human-made trans fats like margarine, and concentrate on good-quality fats (see the illustration above for ideas on good-quality fats). During pregnancy you have an increased need for good-quality fats and so does your baby - you need fats in your diet so you can digest fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients essential to pregnancy (vitamin A and choline need fats in your diet to be absorbed, for example). Your baby’s brain, which you are building during pregnancy, is about 60% fat.
Sugars and carbohydrates - sugars (found in sweets, packaged foods, juices and carbonated drinks) and “white” carbohydrates (found in crackers, cereal, pasta, bread) both make your blood sugar spike and then crash. That change in your blood sugar can cause long-term health problems for you and baby. That’s why trying to have balanced blood-sugar levels is important. You can do this by lowering the amount of bread, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables you eat (like potatoes, peas, corn) and eating more low-starch vegetables.
Alcohol - many public health authorities recommend that you avoid all alcohol during pregnancy. This is because we are not sure what amount of alcohol is safe in pregnancy and for some women, even a small amount has caused problems with their baby’s development. The bottom line is, we don’t know and you should be cautious and severely limit your alcohol intake.
Caffeine - it’s not just coffee and tea, caffeine is found in cola and energy drinks, too. Limit your caffeine intake to 200 mg per day or less. In general, that means having only one or two shots / mugs of coffee a day (espresso, instant or filter) or two mugs of black tea. Colas and energy drinks are basically a mix of sugar and caffeine and should be avoided all together.
Vitamin D - a vitamin that comes from some food sources (fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese, liver) but that your body also makes from sunlight. More research is showing that this vitamin is crucial for health, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding. We don’t know exactly how much time in the sun we need to make enough vitamin D, but aim for 10-30 minutes, a few times a week, with arms and face uncovered, possibly more for people with darker skin.
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