After I gave birth to Noah, I was eating very clean from the start with the idea that we would start trying to conceive when he was 6 months old, and the recommendation is to start a preconception diet at least 3-6 months before you would like to conceive. Once we started having feeding issues with Noah, we decided to wait to try a little longer so we could focus on him, but I was still thinking about my nutrition for my health and because I am breastfeeding. Then, once we decided that at 9 months we would try, both Brendon and I really talked about eating healthy.
Here are the components of a preconception diet that I think are important:
a) Supplements – a food based prenatal vitamin and/or folate (not folic acid because folate is better absorbed, especially if you have MTHFR)
b) Fertility foods
- brazil nuts (rich in selenium)
- avocados (rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, magnesium, and Vitamin E) – reduces inflammation and shown to triple IVF success rates
- egg yolks (rich in Vitamin A and D)
- cinnamon (stabilizes blood sugar and promotes ovulation)
- fruits and vegetables (rich in glutathione)
- grass-fed meats and dairy, wild caught fish, liver – because hormones stabilized in fat
- turmeric (promote ovary health)
- fermented vegetables (helps body process hormones)
- bone broth – rich in zinc, reduce inflammation
- cod liver oil (rich in Vitamin A and D)
d) Increase your micro-nutrient stores (I’m just going to touch on a few):
- Vitamin A – The heart develops before we even know we are pregnant and we need tons of fat soluble Vitamin A so that the messages are communicated to create every organ. Liver, egg yolks, and grass-fed butter are great sources. Many plant sources contain the precursors to Vitamin A (like beta-carotene), but the ability to utilize these precursors vary from person to person. So, it is best to get it from sources that contain the actual Vitamin A to make sure you are getting enough.
- Vitamin D – promotes strong bones, muscle development, reproductive function, proper growth, immune function, insulin production, and nervous system function. Incorporate cod liver oil, grass-fed butter, pasture raised egg yolks, and lard into your diet.
- Iron – Iron is essential to healthy blood, and in pregnancy, our blood volume increases significantly. Eat foods rich in iron like grass-fed steak, greens, and broccoli.
- Healthy Fats – These help hormonal health and provide nutrients for your baby’s growth. Avocados are rich in Vitamin E, and monounsaturated fats reduce inflammation. Also, egg yolks, grass-fed butter, and raw cheddar cheese are great sources of fat soluble vitamins.
- Folate – It is important to distinguish here that folate not folic acid is much easier utilized by the body. So, get your folate from real food and food based supplements. Eat lots of greens for adequate folate.
e) Lifestyle choices:
- reduce or eliminate caffeine – The limit in pregnancy is 200 mg of caffeine so you should be at or below that before pregnancy. Also, caffeine raises cortisol, and cortisol is a precursor to progesterone. So, if you have severe adrenal fatigue or high cortisol this may affect your ability to carry a pregnancy. I personally love coffee, but I struggle with high cortisol as a busy mom and runner. So, I switched to an organic swiss-water processed decaf coffee to enjoy the experience of coffee without the caffeine.
- eliminate alcohol – Since I am nursing, this is a pretty easy one for me. However, if you are currently drinking a few times a week or more, now is the time to start weaning yourself off of alcohol and finding a fun substitute.
- exercise – Exercise is great in pregnancy. However, it is important to work out the level of activity with your doctor. It should never increase in amount compared to before you were pregnant, and if you were an endurance runner for example (like me), you may have to reduce your mileage to get your cortisol in balance so that your body can produce enough progesterone to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
- choose natural cleaning and beauty products (nail polish, makeup, hair dye) – During my first pregnancy, I started researching natural products, and here are some of my favorites –
f) Support your mitochondria (your cell energy) by eating these each day:
- 3 cups of greens
- 3 cups of sulfur rich veggies
- 3 cups of colorful produce (fruits and veggies)
g) Focus on a paleo/primal/wild/hunter gatherer type of diet:
- mostly veggies (aim for 10 servings of non-starchy vegetables a day)
- moderate protein
- high quality fat (3-6 servings per day
- nuts and seeds (This includes nut flours)
- cooking fats: grass-fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil
- real food starches (squash, sweet potato, taro, daikon radish, plantain, white rice, quinoa)
- low fructose fruits (i.e. berries)
- real food sweeteners (honey, dates, maple syrup, monk fruit, stevia)
h) Read The Better Baby Book and information from the Weston A. Price Foundation for fundamental principles of a healthy pregnancy diet.
The Weston A. Price Foundation is a real food diet that is not about restriction. It is about showing people healthy ways to have all the delicious food that they love by choosing traditional sources and cooking methods.
Weston A Price Diet Principles of A Healthy Diet
- Avoid processed foods (industrial oils, trans fats, poor quality meats)/ Eat real, whole foods
- Eating animal foods is important for human health (local, organic, grass-fed ideal) – meat, organ meats, raw milk, bone broth, eggs
- Naturally sourced fats are important – fat soluble Vitamins A, D, E, K (grass-fed butter, lard, beef tallow, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil- both saturated and unsaturated fat)
- Combine your produce with fats
- Eat your fruits and vegetables (ideal – 3 cups greens, 3 cups sulfur rich veggies, 3 cups color [veggies, berries])
- Soak your grains – eat only unrefined ones
- Avoid refined grains and sugars
- Sweeteners – stevia, raw honey, maple syrup
- Ferment your foods, probiotics (feed the good bacteria, not the bad)