Chia Coconut Pudding

Omega-3 fats are essential, meaning that our bodies can't synthesize them - we must get them through our diets. They are crucial anti-inflammatory agents and are particularly important during pregnancy, helping with everything from fetal brain development to postpartum mood. Getting sufficient omega-3s can also help prevent menstrual cramps. The easiest way to get omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is through fish, but given concerns about mercury content, fish isn't always the safest choice.

Enter chia seed. Like flaxseed, chia is another food source of omega-3 fatty acids, and it's less apt to go rancid than its seed counterpart. Plus, it's kind of a fun science experiment to cook with: it becomes mucilaginous when wet, kind of like mini tapioca balls. And it's pretty flavorless, so it lends itself to being sprinkled on all sorts of dishes, from cereal grains to smoothies.

I found this chia pudding recipe online and adapted it for ease of use. As you can see from the photo, I get my chia seed from the bulk bins at Whole Foods and store them in a recycled pasta sauce jar in my cupboard. If you're ever in need of an omega-3 boost, this simple pudding should do the trick. It's yummy and easy to make. But beware - it's so rich! I couldn't even finish mine. Enjoy!

Chia Coconut Pudding

1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup dried coconut, shredded & unsweetened
1 cup almond milk (check out my recipe here)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 T. coconut milk (optional)
Chopped fresh fruit (optional)

Place chia and coconut in a bowl. Heat the milk(s) & cinnamon in a small saucepan until steaming but not boiling. Pour milk over seeds, stir and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Top with fresh fruit if desired & serve.

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Almond Milk Recipe

Almond Milk Recipe

We in the US are some of the only adults in the world who consume unfermented dairy after the age of 4. Mother's milk is absolutely essential for your growing baby, but cow's milk has become more trouble than it's worth for kids & adults. This article does a fantastic job of describing many of dairy's dangers.

I support the consumption of fermented dairy products like cheese and yogurt, as long as they're made from organic dairy (raw is preferable). And I also understand why people like milk, cream and all its yummy offspring. Personally, if I could stomach it, I would subsist off whipped cream, cheese, and ice cream. Sadly, I can't - nor can anyone else, without serious health risks.

With dairy intolerances & allergies on the rise in the US, it's no wonder that dairy substitutes have popped up everywhere. Soy, rice, coconut and almond milks line the shelves at Whole Foods and beyond. The problem with many of these dairy replacement options is that they are full of sweeteners and other unhealthy additives.

To make a long story short, I've taken to making my own almond milk. It's so yummy over oatmeal, in teas or hot cocoas, or straight out of the bottle. And it's easy to make, to boot. All you need is almonds, water, and dates (vanilla optional). Enjoy!


Easy Almond Milk
1 cup almonds
2 cups filtered water
4 dates (use more or less depending on desired sweetness)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients on high until almonds are completely pulverized. You could actually drink the mixture at this point if you don't mind the granular texture. Otherwise, use a nut milk bag or doubled cheesecloth to strain the contents of the blender into a reservoir. A rubber band around the mouth of the reservoir helps. (I like to recycle glass peanut butter jars for this purpose). Leave mixture to drain. Squeeze out the pulp. You can save the almond pulp for other treats (try mixing it with coconut, honey and rolling in cocoa for an easy dessert). Refrigerate and enjoy the almond milk within a few days.




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Eating for Two? Hold the Sugar

Copyright All rights reserved by culinarycory
OK, so this might be the only time in your life when you can gain weight and blame it on someone else. Unfortunately, poor eating habits don't just contribute to weight gain - they can make you & your baby sick.

Sugar, in particular, wreaks havoc on your body - whether you're pregnant or not. Refined carbohydrates like sugar contribute to belly fat, lethargy & fatigue, and even wrinkles. Over time, excess sugar consumption can lead to the development of diabetes. And if you're pregnant, eating sugar can make your baby predisposed to obesity & diabetes - and can lead to problems like gestational hypertension and preeclampsia for you.

Keep in mind that flours are also refined carbohydrates, so your body treats breads, pastas & pastries essentially the same way it treats sugar.

It's easy to avoid refined carbohydrates once you get the hang of it. And usually, the first couple of days are the hardest. For tips on keeping your blood sugar stable and enjoying the holidays without going overboard, check out my articles below.

Obesity Prevention Begins in the Womb

Holiday Survival Guide

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Holiday Survival Guide


I wrote this article for non-mamas-to-be on the Can Can Cleanse blog. While some of the tips don't apply to my Natal Nutrition clients & readers, many of the suggestions ring true regardless of what's going on in your uterus at the moment. And even if you are an A+ nutrition student, chances are, someone in your life could benefit from these tips (ahem, husbands!).

If you're having trouble implementing these tips & tricks on your own, you're not alone. That's why I always lead a clean eating program after the holidays. Click here to learn more and join up.

Check out the article below, and have a very happy - and healthy - holiday season.

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Pumpkin pie. Hot toddies. Stuffing. Cookies. Cocktails. More than any other time of year, the holidays pose the greatest challenge to our willpower - and our waistlines. But fret not! Try a few of these simple, easy tweaks to enjoy the holidays to the fullest without sabotaging your health... (Read more)

Just Use Sugar?

I'm thrilled to be partnering with the one and only Can Can Cleanse on monthly blog articles! My first one went up last week. You'll want to read this one - I give permission to do something this holiday season that no nutritionist will ever give again!

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The holidays are approaching, along with that spare tire that seems to appear around your waist this time of year. You’ve heard that sugar is the latest enemy in the war against weight gain, so maybe you’re considering baking your holiday pies with Splenda or using Equal in your pumpkin latte to help avoid those extra seasonal pounds.

Want a nutritionist’s perspective? Just use sugar.

No, that’s not a typo. If you’re going to use a sweetener anyway, it’s my professional opinion that you should just use regular, old-fashioned sugar.

“What?!” you may ask. “But how will I ever lose weight by using sugar?”

Well, to be fair, you won’t. But you won’t lose weight by using artificial sweeteners, either. There is no evidence that artificial sweeteners help anyone lose weight. In fact, they may increase weight*! Think about it: I bet you know plenty of overweight people who drink Diet Pepsi.

How do lower-calorie sweeteners cause weight gain? This excellent article suggests that they confuse your brain. Their sweet taste prepares your body for an insulin surge that never occurs, but your brain still craves that energy boost. You end up eating more carbohydrates to satisfy that craving - and you gain weight. According to the article’s author, “In one study, people who used artificial sweeteners ate up to three times the amount of calories as the control group.” Perhaps that’s why the obesity epidemic has perpetuated despite the plethora of diet foods on grocery shelves.

Worse still, artificial sweeteners may also pose serious health risks. Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) is carcinogenic. Splenda users have reported stomach pain, headaches and skin rashes. Aspartame (NutraSweet) affects mood & behavior, and may cause seizures, migraines, hives, and nerve disturbances* - not to mention its link to diabetes**.

If artificial sweeteners aren’t proven to make a difference to your waistline AND they’re potentially toxic, then there is no reason to use them.

Don’t mistake this for an endorsement of table sugar. Sugar isn’t healthy - unless you’re comparing it to artificial sweeteners. Sure, there are natural alternatives to sugar. You might try stevia, honey, or fruit to sweeten your holiday dishes & drinks. But the single best thing you can do to lose weight and maintain good health is to change your taste for sweets. Stop using sweeteners - even if they’re natural. Once you retrain your tastebuds, you’ll find you don’t need additives to satisfy your sweet tooth - and the pounds will begin to melt away.

It’ll take time and willpower - especially during the holidays - but breaking your dependence on sweet flavors could be the best thing you do for your health. And it may be the only thing that makes a dent in that holiday spare tire.

Sources:
*Murray, M., Pizzorno, J. & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Safe Eating. New York: Atria.
**Ross, J. (2002). The Mood Cure. Out With the Bad-Mood Foods: Ridding your diet of emotionally hazardous edibles. New York: Penguin Books.

Prop 37: Labeling GMO Foods

October is GMO Awareness Month - the perfect precursor to the Proposition 37 vote in November. The National Association of Nutrition Professionals, of which I am a member, compiled the following resources to educate and assist the public.


About GMOs & Proposition 37 

Learn what a GMO is, which foods are genetically modified, and why we should care.

Learn more about Prop 37 and what it entails, and why it should pass.

Read about GMOs and why we should label them in this article by The New York Times' Mark Bittman.

prop_37
Updated Infographic            
The Cornucopia Institute has updated its infographic, which shows which companies have financially supported or opposed Proposition 37, as well as the amount donated.  View the updated pdf by clicking here.
 
Non-GMO Shopping Guide Resources

Shop NoGMO by Plum Amazing
A non-GMO shopping guide to download to your iPhone or iPad

Pocket-size downloadable shopping guide featuring over 150 brands currently signed on to the non-GMO project

Take Action

Learn how you can show your support by donating, participating, or volunteering with Yes on 37
 
Find out more about GE foods, sign a petition to tell the FDA that you have the right to know what is in our food, and more!

Natural Ways to Boost Fertility

My first article for HealthBubble:

Infertility can be a frustrating and painful challenge. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, natural ways you can increase your odds of conceiving.

The first step is to see your doctor. Many cases of infertility are caused by unknown factors, but both partners should be evaluated for potential medical issues to rule out known issues like pelvic inflammatory disease, low sperm count, endometriosis or other health problems. Identifying a problem can make it easier to tackle.

Hormone imbalance can also contribute to conditions that reduce fertility. ...(Read the full article).

Butter is Better! (sometimes)

Photo by Casey Hussein Bisson

Cook with the right kind of fats


Fats & oils are some of the most misunderstood nutrients in today's health community. Conventional wisdom teaches us to cook with 'light' polyunsaturated oils, while saturated fats have been all but demonized. Yet heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the US, and chronic inflammation has been identified as a contributor to diseases like arthritis, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's.

New research suggests that perhaps not all the blame lies with the type of fats we're eating (saturated or not), but their quality and chemical stability. Free radicals contribute to inflammation, so fats that are susceptible to oxidation are particularly dangerous.

To understand which fats are most easily oxidized, a quick chemistry refresher: each type of fat (saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated) has a different chemical structure. Saturated fats are structurally rigid because every carbon molecule is "saturated" with a hydrogen molecule. Monounsaturated fats have one "unsaturated" carbon, which forms a double-bond to the next carbon atom on the chain. Polyunsaturated fats have more than one double-bond.

Fats are most susceptible to oxidation at double-bonds. Therefore, the more double-bonds a fat has - the more unsaturated it is - the more easily it will oxidize and create free radicals. And when you eat rancid fats or oils, their free radicals create oxidative stress in your body, contributing to aging, damaging blood vessels, increasing inflammation and setting the stage for many degenerative conditions and diseases.

Exposure to heat, light, and air hastens the rancidification process, so cooking with unsaturated oils just increases the likelihood that those oils will oxidize and cause health problems. Some unsaturated oils are rancid before you even buy them: processing techniques can heat them before they’re bottled, and clear packaging may allow further damage from light. Saturated fats, on the other hand, are more stable and can withstand higher heats. Perhaps this is why Great-Grandma always cooked with butter or lard.

We tend to forget that some saturated fats are healthy and necessary for good health. According to Dr. Jeffrey Bland, “all saturated fat is not the same. …Short-chain fatty acids (like butyric acid, which is highly concentrated in butter) play such a critical role in supporting the healthy of the intestinal cell lining” (Bland et. al., 2004). That said, moderation is key. Saturated fats stiffen our cell membranes and affect their permeability. This is important because cell membrane function directly affects health or disease. According to Dr. Michael Murray, “Alteration in cell membrane function is the central factor in the development of virtually every disease. … Without the right type of fats in cell membranes, cells simply do not function properly” (Murray, Pizzorno & Pizzorno, 2005).

Now, this doesn’t mean that I advocate removing unsaturated fats from your diet. They have many health benefits, such as the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood, chia, flax and walnuts. I recommend getting healthy unsaturated fats from whole foods like avocados, nuts and seeds. And personally, I buy extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle on my salads.

The bottom line: if you’re going to purchase unsaturated oils, ensure that they’re cold-pressed and packaged in dark containers - and don’t use them for cooking. Otherwise, rely on small amounts of saturated fats for cooking, and ensure they're organic to avoid added hormones, pesticide residue, and antibiotics.

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Sources:
Bland, J., Costarella, L., Levin, B., Liska, D., Lukaczer, D., Schiltz, B., … Lerman, R. (2004). Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach. Gig Harbor, WA: The Institute for Functional Medicine

Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria.

Four Important Nutrients For Pregnant Women

Photo by jenskozdrave
Many (but not all) daily nutrient requirements increase during pregnancy. Whether you’re choosing a prenatal vitamin or selecting a snack to curb your pregnancy cravings, keep in mind that your body needs more of these four when you’re eating for two:
  • B-vitamin complex - especially folate: While the recommended intakes for most B vitamins increase during pregnancy, the DRI for folate (Vitamin B9) in particular jumps dramatically. Folate is a crucial component of any mom-to-be’s diet, as it may prevent autism. Beware the synthetic form called folic acid - studies have shown that it is associated with maternal infection and an abnormally slow fetal heart rate (Hudson, 2008). It’s safest to supplement with a whole-foods source (look for “folate” on the label) or get the proper intake through food sources like leafy greens (think: foliage), black-eyed peas, brewer’s yeast, liver, or beans.

  • Magnesium: The RDA of magnesium is between 350-400 mg/day for pregnant women, but many nutritional experts feel it could be even more, and insufficient intake is common (Murray, Pizzorno & Pizzorno, 2005). Deficiency is associated with preeclampsia and poor fetal growth. You can try an absorbable supplement form such as magnesium glycinate, or you can simply add lots of magnesium-rich foods to your diet such as pumpkin seeds, sea vegetables, almonds, cashews, brewer’s yeast and leafy greens.


  • Iron: Even a slight deficiency can lead to learning disabilities in the developing child, but don’t take an iron supplement unless your doctor recommends it (Murray, Pizzorno & Pizzorno, 2005). Excess iron isn’t easily excreted, and just like iron rusts when it’s left outside, it can also oxidize in the body to create free radical damage and inflammation. You can easily get sufficient iron from eating animal products like clams, steak, shrimp, turkey and chicken.

Sources:
Hudson, T. (2008). Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Pregnancy. McGraw Hill: New York.

Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods.Designing a Healthy Diet. New York: Atria.

Obseity Prevention Begins in the Womb

From my latest article on DietsInReview.com:

Nearly 10% of infants in the US are overweight. As they get older, this percentage grows along with them: almost 70% of US adults are overweight or obese. But weight gain is largely preventable - and prevention begins in the womb.

Mama-to-be? Keeping your blood sugar steady can prevent your baby from having an excessive birth weight. It can also help your baby stay lean throughout his life. High maternal blood sugar prompts the fetus to develop more fat cells, which can make it easier to become fat later in life. ...(Read the full article here)




A Nutritionist's Take On the Stanford Organic Study

Photo by Josh Moody
By now, you've probably heard all the hubbub about the Stanford study that showed organic food to be no more nutritious than conventional food. And you've probably seen the subsequent backlash of scores of bloggers and health advocates defending organic food as a means to avoid toxins. 

Of course, avoiding toxins is important, but as a nutritionist, I couldn't help but step back and re-examine the study's basic claim that organic foods aren't as nutritious. 

Because it's total bullshit.


America is stuck in a cycle of denial when it comes to health, and this study just contributes to a completely whacked lack of perspective. 


Let's examine the actual study and I'll give you some examples.


Firstly, this wasn't a study in the sense that the authors actually went into the fields, picked some organic apples and some conventional ones, and measured nutrition content. It was a "systematic review" of 240 previously conducted studies. The 240 actual studies that were reviewed were conducted as far back as 1966 and were sourced from groups such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's database. 


I mean, you can almost stop right there. Studies conducted in the 60s, 70s, 80s or even the 90s don't tell us much about the nutrition content of conventionally-grown foods today. Conventional farming technologies have changed drastically even in the past 10 years. And it's not unreasonable to wonder whether the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a vested interest in funding or aggregating studies that 'prove' that conventional produce is as nutritious as organic. If organic was proven to be more nutritious, taxpayers might be dismayed that their money was subsidizing low-quality food and thereby potentially contributing to malnutrition, chronic illness and rising health care costs.


For lack of a better word, it really is a clusterfuck.


But for the sake of this blog post, let's assume that the data that was aggregated was current and that it came from wholly unbiased sources.


6 of the reviewed studies measured blood and urine for antioxidant levels (carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamins E and C content) and found no difference between subjects on an organic diet versus those on a conventional diet. They were randomized, controlled trials - the best kind - so the data may be valid. Let's look closer at one, just for fun. I didn't look at all of them, I just chose this one randomly, so maybe I just got lucky. But here's an actual statement from the abstract of one of these 6 studies:


"When results were expressed as fresh matter, organic tomatoes had higher vitamin C, carotenoids, and polyphenol contents (except for chlorogenic acid) than conventional tomatoes." (Caris-Veyrat, C. et. al, 2004)
That sounds like more nutrition to me!

The abstract of this study goes on to reveal that the scientists then took these tomatoes, pureed them, and fed them to two groups of subjects - one organic, one conventional (I couldn't find any information as to how big the two groups were - larger sample sizes always equate to more reliable research findings). After 3 weeks of consumption of 96g/day of the tomato puree (about 3.4 oz, or less than half a cup), "no significant difference ... was found between the two purees with regard to their ability to affect the plasma [blood] levels of the two major antioxidants, vitamin C and lycopene."

Aha - so the organic tomatoes are actually more nutritious, but after 3 weeks of eating less than 1 serving per day, no difference could be determined in blood samples. OK, wait. I have a few questions: what else were the study subjects eating? Were they all eating the same diet every day to maintain consistency so that the tomato puree was truly the only variable? And is 96g really a large enough serving to see a significant difference? How long was the tomato puree stored before it was consumed? Different diets could conceivably confound the results of the study, and exposure to oxygen could have denatured the antioxidant content in the tomatoes before they even got to the subjects to eat.

As you can see, evaluation of these studies is trickier than it looks. If I had all the time in the world, I would love to go through each one of the reviewed studies, email the scientists and get answers to all my questions. But while that would be interesting and educational, I could also simply rely on all the other evidence that eating organic is more nutritious - and save myself a lot of time.

The Rodale Farming Systems Trial, a 30-year ongoing comparison of organic and chemical agriculture, found that organic soil is better equipped to hold onto and store nutrients. The Rodale Institute stops short of claiming that organic produce is more nutritious, but reason suggests that it must be if it's grown in soil that's more nutritious.


Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, naturopathic doctors and leading health experts, claim in their book The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods that there are more nutrients in organic food and soil: 
"In a 1988 review of thirty-four studies that compared organic with conventionally grown foods, organic food was found to have higher protein quality in all comparisons, higher levels of vitamin C in 58 percent of all studies, and 5 to 20 percent higher mineral levels for all but two minerals. ... Organically grown foods also contain higher amounts of plant-protective compounds, such as flavonoids and caotenoids, which are highly desirable for human consumption."
In addition, they suggest that free-range animal products contain less fat overall, more omega-3 fatty acids, and "ten times as much conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) as grain-fed animals." CLA is an anti-cancer compound and may also reduce the risk of heart disease. (Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L., 2005).

And despite the headlines to the contrary, the Stanford review did find several organic items to be more nutritious than their conventional counterparts. The study reports that "organic milk may contain significantly more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids" and "organic chicken contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than conventional chicken." In addition, organic foods were shown to contain significantly more phosphorous (essential for growth, bones, detox, energy & DNA) and phenols (antioxidants that prevent against free radical damage, chronic illness and degenerative disease).

And the Stanford review found other benefits - for example, "children who consumed dairy products of which more than 90% were organically produced had a lower risk for eczema at age 2 years than children who consumed dairy products of which less than 50% were organically produced." Regardless of nutrition content, we want our kids to be healthy, right?

Then there's the problem of antibiotic resistance, which the CDC calls "one of the world's most pressing public health problems" and the WHO calls an urgent "growing threat." According to the study, "Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposures to ... antibiotic-resistant bacteria." 


To make a very, excruciatingly long story short (by the way, thanks for reading this far), it is this nutritionist's belief that, based on the research, eating organic actually IS more nutritious. In addition, eating organic is known to protect against disease, lower your toxic load, and be more environmentally sustainable.

Which brings us to the final barrier: cost. Organic can be SPENDY! But don't fret - I have some helpful tips. First, the Environmental Working Group publishes an excellent resource called the "Dirty Dozen" that will help you prioritize which foods to buy organic. In addition to the produce they list, meats and dairy products should be at the top of your list, since conventionally-raised animals not only eat non-organic feed, but may have been treated with hormones and antibiotics too. You might also consider a Community-Supported Agriculture share. CSAs will deliver local produce to your doorstep at prices much lower than those you'll find at Whole Foods. Find one near you here. And don't forget about your local farmer's market. Talk to the farmers - even if the food there isn't certified organic (it's a lengthy, challenging and costly process to become certified organic), the farmers will tell you if they grew it without pesticides. Sometimes if you go at the end of the day, you can get great discounts on the food that didn't sell that morning. You can also become an advocate for organic food - if U.S. agriculture was truly a free market, it's less likely that organic foods would cost so much more than conventional. You can "vote with your fork" by buying organic, but remember that you can also vote with your vote by supporting legislators who will help make healthier food accessible to everyone.


Bottom line: don't be fooled by poor journalism. Eating organic will always be a powerful step towards a healthier you. Mangia!


Sources: 
Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Designing a Healthy Diet. New York: Atria.





4 Healthy Ways to Curb Pregnancy Cravings

From my article on DietsInReview.com:

Chips, crackers, doughnuts, bagels, candy … these easy-to-grab comfort foods are a quick way to relieve pregnancy’s hunger pangs. But caving to your cravings isn’t necessarily healthy for your baby. Processed foods in particular are some of the most unhealthy and potentially dangerous options for moms-to-be, because they make your baby more likely to have health problems. According to Dr. Weston A. Price, your baby is at risk for health problems even if you ate processed foods before conception, even if it wasn’t you but the baby’s father who ate them, and even if you ate well but the foods you consumed were grown in depleted soil (Singer, 2004)...(Read more)

5 Nutrition Tips for A Healthy Mom & Baby

I've been tapped to write weekly articles for DietsInReview.com, a great online health resource. I'll be Tweeting/Pinning/Facebook-ing them once they're published, but will also provide links to them here for multiple easy access points. Enjoy!

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Photo courtesy of DietsInReview.com

5 Nutrition Tips for a Healthy Mom & Baby

We’ve all heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” This concept is even more important during pregnancy. Not only are you what you eat, but your baby is what you eat. As soon as conception occurs the embryo requires nutrients for developmental processes like cellular division and protein synthesis to occur. The baby’s growth and development are extremely rapid, and if the appropriate nutrients aren’t available when the baby needs them that part of its development will be abnormal or could even fail completely. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how nutrient deficiencies can seriously compromise your baby’s health ... Read the full article here: http://www.dietsinreview.com/diet_column/08/your-baby-is-what-you-eat-5-prenatal-nutrition-tips-for-optimal-health/

Super Easy, Super Healthy Summer Gazpacho

Keeping your blood sugar stable and eating a nutrient-rich diet are two important hallmarks of proper prenatal nutrition. But when you're eating for two, it can be a challenge to satisfy your growing appetite without sacrificing quality (or taste). That's why I love, love, love this simple recipe. It's packed with vitamins and minerals (especially if you use organic ingredients) and it couldn't be quicker or easier to make. Plus, perhaps best of all, it's DELICIOUS and you can eat as much of it as you like without feeling guilty. Enjoy!

Simple Gazpacho
4 large heirloom tomatoes
2 cucumbers
1 green bell pepper
1/2 red onion
1 garlic clove

Salt & pepper
2 avocados (opt.)
Olive oil (opt.)

Wash & coarsely chop first 5 ingredients. Add to a food processor and pulse to desired consistency. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Top with chopped avocado and/or a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4.

Preventing Preterm Delivery

A recent study found that a high intake of sweetened beverages - whether sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened - is associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery.

Premature newborns face an increased risk of complications such as immature lungs, pneumonia or intraventricular hemorrhage.

Aside from the risks surrounding preterm delivery, sweetened beverages also increase a baby's (and its mother's!) odds of developing more fat cells or becoming obese or diabetic later in life. They can also increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.

So what to drink? Filtered water is always a great option, as are herbal teas. If you must have something sweet, try no more than 4 oz. of a freshly-squeezed fruit juice, and consider diluting it with a bit of water to minimize blood sugar spikes.


Sources:
1. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/labornbirth/complicationspremature.htm/
2. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=199317
3. http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/wellness/pregnancy/story/2011-10-02/Eating-sweets-early-in-pregnancy-can-mean-obese-baby/50637776/1
4. http://www.naturalnews.com/027713_gestational_diabetes_soft_drinks.html

Free Prenatal Nutrition Basics Class 8/25

I'll be teaching a free prenatal nutrition class at Natural Resources in SF on Saturday August 25 from 2:30-3:30p. Details below and on my Classes page. Please stop by and tell your friends!

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AUGUST 25, 2012
2:30-3:30
Prenatal Basics
In this class, you will learn how your diet impacts your baby's lifelong health. We'll discuss choices you can make to prevent disease, minimize complications and enhance your baby's well-being. You'll also learn what you can eat to help prevent some common prenatal ailments & concerns. This introductory class is fun, educational and interactive - attendee participation is welcomed!
1367 Valencia St. (at 25th St.)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Cost: Free

Eat Omega-3s to Support Your Baby's Brain

You've probably heard of omega-3 fatty acids and know that they're good for you. These polyunsaturated fats, found in foods such as fish, flax, chia, and walnuts, are also called "essential" fatty acids (EFAs) because our body cannot synthesize them itself - we can only get them through our food. Omega-3s have powerful properties: they are cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory, support strong bones, prevent depression and lower menstrual pain. 

Omega-3s are also crucial to fetal development. They're so crucial, in fact, that it is common for fetuses to pull them from the mother's body and leave the mother deficient (welcome to motherhood!). Omega-3 metabolites play a role in the development of the baby's:
  • central nervous system
  • brain
  • eyes
  • immunity
Maternal omega-3 deficiencies can result in a baby with a low birth weight, shorter attention span, lower IQ, allergies, autoimmune diseases like eczema, and a poorly developed central nervous system. Proper maternal intake can reduce the incidence of premature delivery and preeclampsia, as well as support good moods and improve cognitive capacity in mothers.

New research suggests that adequate salmon consumption during pregnancy also increases the omega-3 concentration of breast milk, thereby increasing delivery to the newborn. Non-water matter in human breast milk is approximately 54% fat; omega-3s are an important part of that percentage.

If you're going to get your omega-3s from fish, it's imperative to select low-mercury choices. Mercury has severe effects on fetuses and small children, ranging from developmental delays to autism, cerebral palsy or mental retardation. Some excellent resources for selecting low-mercury fish:
Additional sources:
  1. Hudson, T. (2008). Women's Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. New York: McGraw Hill.
  2. Jacobson, H. (2004). Mother Food: Food and herbs that promote milk production and a mother's health. Rosalind Press.


Preventing Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) occurs in 2-10% of pregnant women. However, in many cases it is preventable. A new study confirms that adherence to a healthy diet is crucial in order to avoid GDM. While prevention of GDM can be helpful in the short term, it is especially important because women with GDM have a high chance (35-60%) of developing diabetes in the future. In addition, their babies are more likely to be obese or develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Untreated GDM can even lead to fetal mortality.

What is a healthy diet? This study observed the alternate Mediterranean (aMED), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and alternate Healthy Eating Index (aHEI) dietary patterns and found significant benefits to all three. These diets all support the need for complex carbohydrates and healthy proteins and fats.

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Sources:
http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/statistics/#Gestational
http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/gestational_diabetes.cfm
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gestational-diabetes/ds00316/dsection=complications

Get Your Rays: Maternal Vitamin D Status Linked to Overweight Children

I'm always fascinated by how a mother's choices influence her baby's health. A recent study found that low maternal Vitamin D status may be linked to adiposity (aka fatness) in children. In other words, if you sit out in the sun for a few minutes a day without sunscreen on, you might help your baby stay lean throughout his life! Wow!

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Can Greens & Beans Prevent Autism?

We all know how important folate is for pregnancy - the RDA for folate nearly doubles for pregnant women. But a new study suggests that getting enough folate BEFORE conception (as well as after) might decrease the risk that your baby will develop autism. The importance of perinatal nutrition doesn't begin at conception!

As I've noted before, synthetic folic acid can be dangerous, so if you're choosing the supplement route, make sure you're getting true folate. Of course, if you want to increase your folate intake naturally, you can always just eat more greens and beans - two of the foods that are richest in this helpful vitamin.

Do You Really Need A Prenatal Vitamin?

Leafing through my May Glamour magazine, I came upon an article debating the need for vitamins. Three experts weighed in on different sides of the issue, but two of the three basically said "no."

Of course, during pregnancy, nutrient requirements for many vitamins & minerals increase - especially for folate - and we want to make sure our babies get what they need for proper development. So, do you really need a prenatal vitamin?

Theoretically, we should be able to get all our nutrition from our food. That is how our ancestors survived & thrived. In today's world, however, industrial farming practices strip the soil of its vital nutrients, leaving us with food that is less nutritious than the food our ancestors used to eat.

One option is to eat organic produce to ensure you're getting those nutrients. According to the Organic Consumers Association, organic farming practices result in food that is 25% more nutritious in terms of vitamin and mineral content. The Rodale Institute's 30-year Farming Systems Trial concurs that healthy soil (measured by carbon content) is better equipped to "hold onto" vital nutrients for the plants. Folate food sources include leafy greens (think: foliage), beans & lentils, and liver(1).

Attempting to get vitamins through your diet is a tricky proposition. You must be willing to commit to a varied diet that is heavy on the veggies. You can't "forget" to eat or skip lunch to work on that proposal. And organic food ain't cheap (though, if money is a concern, I highly recommend CSA boxes, which bring local organic produce to your door at less-than-retail prices. Find a CSA near you here). Stress or illness can also deplete nutrients, so in these situations, you'll need to eat more to replenish your stores.

In the US, popping pills to solve our problems is practically a national pastime, so many people may opt for the ease of a multivitamin. This, too, poses a challenge - which multivitamin should you select? Many drugstore brands use synthetic forms which aren't as absorbable as the nutrients found in food. In addition, some vitamins denature over time with exposure to air, light or heat, so the dosage listed on the bottle may not end up being what you receive. The safest bet is to use a whole foods multivitamin, but I haven't found one yet that provides adequate amounts of the necessary vitamins in absorbable forms. One that comes close is Designs For Health's Prenatal Pro capsules. Designs for Health is one of the only companies using folate instead of folic acid. Many health professionals consider these interchangeable, but there is an important distinction. Folate occurs naturally in food, while folic acid is synthetic and may increase your odds of developing cancer(2). This product is only available through licensed providers, so visit my store to purchase it.

Bottom line: If you're really, really good, you may be able to fulfill your nutritional needs through organic food without a multivitamin. For most of us, however, a combination of a healthy diet and an effective, absorbable, whole-food-based prenatal vitamin is probably a smart idea.

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Additional References:
1. http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=63
2. http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/your-breakfast-giving-you-cancer