Can Autism Be Prevented?

Photo: Subhadip Mukherjee
One of the staggering facts I shared with the Expectant Mamas' Group on Monday was that the
Center for Disease Control now claims that 75% of all healthcare spending goes towards the treatment of preventable diseases - most of which are linked to diet.

In a world where women are usually responsible for, well, everything - from birthing to bringing home the bacon (and then making sure that it's perfectly cooked) - hearing that we are also responsible for preventing disease can just add another layer of stress.

If you're like me, one way of dealing with that added pressure is to ignore it. That's what I did, for years, until my body literally shut down and forced me to listen.

As women, we tend to put others' needs before our own. I put the needs of my job wayyyy before my own, and it finally caught up with me. My body didn't appreciate my work hard, play hard lifestyle.

But I couldn't (or didn't want to) face the prospect of adding even more tasks to my plate. Working out, food shopping, cooking ... these things take TIME. And time is a precious commodity these days.

Luckily, what I've learned since then is that taking better care of myself wasn't really as hard as it seemed. Which brings me back to my current stance on disease prevention: why bother kicking the can down the road when you can take small actions now that will help your health later?

A great time to do that is when you're pregnant, because it's so much easier to justify taking care of someone else instead of yourself.

Studies suggest that pregnancy super-nutrient folate can prevent autism - even when consumed BEFORE conception!

The tricky thing about folate is that supplements usually include the synthetic version, folic acid. Folic acid has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, maternal infection, and low birth weight infants. In addition, an estimated 40% of the population has a genetic variant that prevents the metabolism of folic acid.

A better choice is true folate.

In supplements, that means 5-methyltetrahydrafolate (or 5-MTHF). The prenatal supplements I like contain this kind of absorbable folate, but you can only order them through a practitioner (head to my store to check them out).

Luckily, absorbable folate is found abundantly in beans and greens, among other food sources.

The bottom line? Choosing folate-rich foods and taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin are two easy steps you can take to help prevent autism. There are many other factors in the development and prevention of this disease, but starting with small, easy modifications is the best way to make lasting change.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." While it's not easy to add prevention to your list of things to do, these simple steps have a potentially powerful outcome.

And hey - we might even be able to change those CDC stats.

How to Dine Out ... and Stay Healthy

Photo by Andreas Krappweis
Dining out is an integral part of a busy person's schedule. Between work, errands, and raising a
family, it's an easy way to make life easier while giving yourself a little 'treat.'

That said, it's well-known that dining out isn't always the most healthy or affordable option. Many people turn to cheap takeout like pizza or even fast food restaurants to ease the burden on their wallets, but those kinds of places are usually the least healthy to eat.

So what's a health-conscious person to do?

There's no perfect answer, but here are four easy steps I take to make sure I can enjoy a night out without sacrificing my healthy eating:
  1. Refuse the bread basket. When you're hungry and it's in front of you, it's impossible to resist. It's much easier to tell your server no, and have them take it away. Remember: refined carbohydrates like those found in bread spike your blood sugar and signal your body to store fat! (Not to mention the problems caused by gluten sensitivities). Just say no!
  2. Always start with a healthy salad. Make sure you get your vegetables!!! This is so crucial. Leafy greens are excellent, but the other night while I was out, I enjoyed a raw shaved beet salad that was divine, too. If there is a seasonal option, go for it. But even if it's just the standard iceberg and tomato salad that the local pizza joint offers, GO WITH IT. It will fill you up with healthy complex carbohydrates and lots of good-for-you nutrients. Sure, cost-wise it may seem counter-intuitive, but think about it this way: you'll eat less after you've finished a salad. For example, after my beet dish, I was happy to finish my meal with just another appetizer. So my dinner bill was actually about the same as if I had only ordered an entree.
  3. Order a side dish of vegetables. Yet another great and yummy way to get in your greens or a seasonal veggie. And have you noticed how delicious they always sound? We had a brussels sprout side dish the other night that was amazing. What if your takeout place doesn't offer side dishes? You can always try adding veggies to your order - for example, pizza topped with mushrooms, olives, peppers, onions and tomatoes.
  4. Choose fish. Fish is usually the healthiest option on a menu - unless it's a fried fish-wich or fish & chips, that is. If you don't like fish (like me!), head for grilled chicken or pork. Those are lean options that are guaranteed to be hormone-free.
Got other ideas on how to eat healthily while you're dining out? Leave a comment on the Facebook page to share your best tips!

Happy holidays!