Life is a wonderful journey and a woman being pregnant is, undoubtedly, the most amazing and memorable experience! Let’s look at what you need to know to cherish this journey and make it pain-free and yet nutrition rich for your love of your life!
Folate and Folic acid
Folate and folic acid (both commonly known as Vitamin B9) has been used interchangeably when it comes to nutrition, but in fact, there are important differences between folate and folic acid. Both of them metabolite in the body as 5-MTHF (L-Methylfolate) which is a vital nutrient in development of neural health, especially during the first few months of a developing baby. It prevents neural tube defects (congenital disabilities of the spinal cord and brain).
Folate and folic acid differ in their pathway in metabolism though: folate (which is the natural source) metabolism takes place in the small intestine. Folic Acid (the synthetic form) metabolism requires a much more complicated process – it gets metabolized in liver first before it gets to the gut, it requires methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) to complete its metabolic process to 5-MTHF. Deficiency in the methylation process will lead to both deficiency of 5-MTHF (L-Methylfolate) as well as competition with the folate receptors. There has been increasing studies on the accumulation of non-methylated folic acid is contributing to specific types of cancer. Hence, you will want folate over folic acid supplement for the best neural development of your baby. On the contrary, excess natural folate can be excreted in urine without overloading your system.
Foods rich in folate include:
- Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, beet and beet leaf, broccoli, choi sum, etc.)
- Legumes and lentils (adzuki beans, red kidney beans, black beans, lentils, etc.) – it is highly recommended to sprout your beans before cooking to increase its nutritional value as well as reducing its purines which may cause gas and bloating for some people
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, etc.)
- Asparagus, Fennel, Brussel sprouts, etc.
- Avocado, Papaya are fruits that are high in folate.
Incorporation of folate-rich foods should start as soon as you are planning for pregnancy as folate is especially important in the first few months of the neural development. So, don’t wait until you know you are pregnant. It may become too late!
Another important vital nutrient is essential fatty acids. Omega 3 gets a lot of attention in recent years and it is, inarguably, one of the indispensible nutrient to support healthy brain development. Making continuous demand, pregnant mother may also be losing this important fatty acid to its baby. When you are feeling forgetful after your pregnancy, you know it was the deficiency in Omega 3.
Here are a few tips to help you to choose the best Omega 3 supplement on today’s supplement market:
- Essential fatty acids are highly susceptible to damage under heat and light, so choose those that are stored in dark bottles away from sunlight. I have seen a lot of omega 3 or essential fatty acid on the storefront of local pharmacies that make them highly vulnerable to damages.
- Deep-sea fish are rich sources of omega 3, yet the ocean today is heavily contaminated, especially contaminated with heavy metals. Choose the smaller fish when it comes to omega 3 supplement (eg, anchovies, sardines over salmon and tuna source). If it doesn’t specify, you can reliably assume that it is not from small deep sea fish. Algae based omega 3 can also be an alternate choice.
- Chia seed has the highest omega 3 content in the plant kingdom – Choose organic cold-pressed chia seed oil as your best source.
Comprehensive Nutrition for Strong Immune Development
To enable the best immune system development, your immune system is the foundation of your baby. And remember that your gut contributes to 70-80% of your immune system, strengthen your gut is your everyday’s mission. Here are some food categories suggestion for a healthy gut:
- Vegetables: Apart dark leafy greens, you should incorporate rainbow colour diet. Specific vegetables like carrots, bell pepper, pumpkin, beet, and tomato are rich in vitamins, fiber, carbohydrate and antioxidant. In particular, beet is rich in potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, B6, B9 (folate), C, and hence suitable for regular consumption.
- Fruits: apples, grapes, avocado, berries (eg, blueberries, strawberries, etc) are rich in vitamins, antioxidant and fibre. Organic fruits are highly recommended as most of their skin contain the highest nutrients.
- Whole grain and legumes: sprouted beans are rich in fiber and protein, quinoa, buckwheat and other whole grain are all rich in nutrients as well as supporting healthy gut flora. A small amount of organic meat serve as a good B12 source.
Here is a nutrition chart that summarized our recommendation:
Lastly, we recommend getting all to-be-mom to get nourished at least 3-6 months before conception. This will help to prepare the best nutritional environment for your baby. Getting into the healthy habit will also give you peace of mind in going through this wonderful lifetime journey!