What is proper maternal nutrition? And is the Primal Blueprint diet safe during pregnancy?
Perhaps the more appropriate question is whether the Standard American Diet is safe. Infertility rates are already high, and they’re increasing at an alarming rate. 1 in 7 women today have trouble conceiving, and a recent study in the U.K. predicted that number could more than double (to 1 in 3) by 2020. While there are probably several reasons for this dramatic increase in infertility, the Standard American Diet is almost certainly one of the most important.
How can you supercharge your fertility and ensure a healthy pregnancy and lifelong health for your baby?
The Primal Blueprint diet is an excellent starting place for those wishing to conceive, or for women who are already pregnant or nursing. But within the context of the Primal Blueprint diet, there are certain foods and nutrients that are particularly beneficial during these periods.
Traditional cultures have known this for millennia. That’s why they have sacred fertility foods they feed to mothers-to-be and even fathers-to-be. These include nutrient dense foods like fish eggs, liver, bone marrow, egg yolks and other animal fats. For example, the Masai tribe in Africa only allowed couples to marry and become pregnant after spending several months drinking milk in the wet season when the grass is lush and the nutrient content of the milk is especially high.
With this in mind, here are the top 5 “superfoods” I recommend for fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Liver. Ounce for ounce, liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. 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. 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.
- Egg yolks. Like liver, egg yolks could be considered “nature’s multivitamin”. But they are especially rich in a nutrient many people have never heard of: choline. 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. It also plays an important role in brain development, helping to form cholinergic neurons and the connections between these neurons that are so crucial in the first few years of life.
- Cold-water, fatty fish*. Seafood is the exclusive food source of the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. DHA is particularly important for fertility and pregnancy. It is preferentially incorporated into the rapidly developing brain during pregnancy and the first two years of infancy, concentrating in the grey matter and eyes. 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.
- Cod liver oil. Yep, grandma was right! 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. It’s one of the highest dietary sources of vitamin A, which we discussed above. It has more vitamin D per unit weight than any other food. Vitamin D is crucial to fertility and pregnancy, and studies show that up to 50% of women are deficient in it. 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 the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA.
- Grass-fed dairy. While dairy is not strictly a Primal food, it’s a great choice for fertility and pregnancy for those who tolerate it well. Dairy is rich in saturated fat, which is especially beneficial for fertility. It’s also a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K2 & E) and a healthy, natural trans-fat (not to be confused with artificial trans-fats, which are harmful) conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Fermented dairy products – like yogurt and kefir – are also great sources 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.