What is nutrition? Why do we eat?

According to Wikipedia, “nutrition (also called nourishment or aliment) is the provision, to cells and organisms, of the materials necessary (in the form of food) to support life. Many common health problems can be prevented or alleviated with a healthy diet.”

Many of us are well aware of how good (or not so good) we provide for ourselves the nourishment that our bodies need. During pregnancy we become even more acutely aware because now we are faced with the responsibility of growing another living being. How cool is that! We have a very important reason to educate ourselves about food!

Using the above as a working definition of nutrition, let’s look at the importance of nutrition during pregnancy. We need to provide ourselves with food that supports life. Well, now we’re supporting two lives. While we should get more quantity that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should eat for two but more so that we should be keenly aware of the quality of our food. During pregnancy a healthy diet can prevent most of what are now called the “common discomforts of pregnancy” (heartburn, nausea, vomiting, backache, headache) as well as some more major illnesses as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, smaller than gestational age babies, larger than gestational age babies and many others. What’s that you ask, “how do you make sure your baby gets what he/she needs to grow healthy and strong?”

Here are a few pointers:

  1. Avoid all drugs, tobacco, alcohol (beer, wine,or liquor) and stimulants such as caffeine. Caffeine is found not only in coffee but also in soft drinks (i.e. soda), chocolate, and some kinds of tea
  2. Avoid JUNK FOODS: candy, cookies, cakes, chips, they have no nutritive value and only provide us with sugar that gives us a quick high and a plummeting low that our bodies don’t need. Insulin levels should ideally be maintained within a close minimally wavering range to avoid the highs and lows.
  3. Avoid processed foods such as breads, cereals, packaged products and fast foods as much as possible
  4. Do eat as much protein as you want. Our stomachs have a naturally built in mechanism to prevent us from eating more protein than we need, unlike eating carbohydrates, which go through our stomachs so quickly that we can never get enough!
  5. Eat whole grains such as brown rice, millet, quinoa, and buckwheat
  6. Consume dairy to your individual body’s agreement to it. Many people are sensitive to dairy mostly because of its pasteurization. Try raw milk and raw milk products.
  7. Try to eat organic fruits and vegetables as commercial fruits and vegetables have been sprayed with pesticides that are detrimental to our health. Optimally, try to eat locally grown foods either from a nearby farm or your own community garden.
  8. Drink to thirst or up to half your body weight in ounces of water daily. For example if you weigh 150lbs. you can drink up to 75 ounces of water daily. Certainly, with the normal weight gain of pregnancy the numbers will change
  9. Consume lacto-fermented foods and drinks daily to increase digestive flora and enzymes. Examples of these foods are kim-chi, sauerkraut (not the commercial kind), chutney, kombucha
  10. Eat good, natural fats and oils like butter, coconut oil and olive oil
  11. Read and inform yourself. Our bodies go through a breaking down and building up process every day to maintain healthy cells and homeostasis. Have a general idea of what each food group supplies to your body:

               Protein- supplies the building material (the bricks) necessary to replace the ones that have completed their life cycle. In pregnancy it supplies the new material needed as your little one forms and grows

               Carbohydrates- supply the energy the body needs to perform all its processes. Think of carbohydrates as the spark on the log that gets the fire going for a short period of time

                Fats- supply a concentrated source of energy in the diet. They also supply the  building blocks for our cell membranes and hormones. They are assistive to the absorption of nutrients from our food because they slow down the digestive process and act as carriers for the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K

                 Fruits and Vegetables- supply the essential vitamins and minerals that we need from plant sources such as Vitamin C, and the minerals Calcium, Magnesium, Selenium, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium

As a Clinical Nutritionist, a health professional who focuses on the role of nutrition in chronic disease, including prevention or remediation by addressing nutritional deficiencies before resorting to drugs, I have tools that I use to assist the body to restore good health. Pregnancy is such a critically important time to eat well for the prevention of chronic disease for your child as well as for yourself. I am committed to assisting you on this educational, possibly lifestyle changing, journey. Feeding your baby well starts before conception and continues throughout their growing years.

In Love, Light and Optimal Health for you and your baby,

Memaniye Cinque, CNM, CN


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