The Better Pregnancy Diet

Myths abound about the perfect diet for pregnancy yet the bottom line is that at no other time does the quality (and quantity) of food eaten have a greater impact on health.

1. Craving or desperate?

One myth is that a woman craves what they need. Most cravings are for stimulants like tea and coffee, or chocolate and biscuits, bread and other high sugar foods. These foods aren’t ‘needed’ as such – in fact, high coffee consumption increases risk of miscarriage – it’s just that the mum to be is so tired and craves stimulants or sugar that provide a short term pick-me-up but lead to even more exhaustion in the long run. Man is a knackered ape, said one schoolboy in an exam howler and never is this truer than in pregnancy. The ‘cure’ is to graze not gorge, eating little and often, choosing foods that release their energy giving carbohydrate slowly – this means fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains like oat flakes, oat cakes, wholewheat pasta or Japanese ‘soba’ noodles, beans, lentils and tofu. Gone is the pain au chocolate and expresso – in fact breakfast is better eaten at home. These foods, on the other hand, are readily available in Thai, Chinese or Indian food.

2. Mummy I Shrank Your Brain
Indian food, however, often has too much of the wrong fats and nothing is more important during pregnancy than getting the right kind of fats. The brain of the baby to be is no less than 60 per cent fat, and during pregnancy the ‘hard-wiring’ of intelligence is being laid down. Each brain cell literally grows roots which connect to around 10,000 other brain cells. These brain cells need essential ‘omega-3’ fats found in fish and also in flax seeds. That’s why fish is genuinely good for the brain. In fact, research by Professor Michael Crawford at the Institute of Brain Chemistry in Holloway has shown that the omega-3 fat levels of a new born infant correlates with their intellectual performance as children. This may also explain the recent finding by researchers at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London that found that women’s brains shrink in pregnancy. The most likely explanation is that the foetus robs the mother of every ounce of essential fats, which means that pregnant women should definitely avoid very low-fat diets.

3. Eat Fish with Teeth
The classic ‘junk-food’ diet of fast food, hamburgers and processed meats and fried food such as French fries provides all the wrong fats. If deficient in essential fats these damaged and saturated fats get used instead for building the brain, but they don’t work as well – the result is slow development, learning difficulties and poor mental and physical coordination. The remedy is eating fish, especially fish with teeth. Fish that eat fish (tuna, mackerel, herring, salmon) have the highest omega-3 fats so head for the sushi bar, or order a swordfish or salmon steak in your favourite local restaurant. Ideally, fish should be eaten two to three times a week during pregnancy. The squeamish can take an omega-3 fish oil capsule such as Seven Seas, and hardened vegetarians can have a tablespoon of flax seeds on their morning cereal (flax seeds are small, slippery customers and are best ground in your now redundant coffee grinder.)

Talking about squeamish, many pregnant women, especially during the first three months, can suffer from pregnancy sickness. When feeling nauseous herrings are much appreciated. However, pregnancy sickness is largely to do with changing hormones which tend to settle down after three months. B vitamins help the body to adapt and for this, and other reasons, a pregnant woman is wise to take a high strength multivitamin containing all the B vitamins, including 400mcg of folic acid

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