Pregnancy is a natural physiological state of being. Our bodies prepare for it as soon as we hit puberty. The reproductive body parts grow healthy and mature only if accompanied with the right mental preparation. When the time comes, and a woman bears a child, there is a lot of fuss about what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, will it lead to weight gain that I won’t lose or will my body shape change forever?
But if done in the right way, there are easy food rules and straightforward guidelines, that are unnecessarily made complicated. These food rules will ensure:
This is the core of the food rules. As digestion slows down during pregnancy, the process of cooking ensures that the food is actually pre-digested. The whole point of eating is to get the nutrients from the food that will nurture your body as well as that of your baby’s.
In terms of science, cooking grains, pulses, and vegetables ensure removal of anti-nutrients, like phytates and oxalates that come in the way of nutrient absorption when consumed raw. The foods that are easy to cook are also the ones that are hydrating and keep acidity down, which is a common symptom of pregnancy.
What we eat plays a major role in maintaining hydration levels and keeping the acidity down. The water balance is really important during pregnancy as placenta and amniotic fluid depend upon it. The total blood volume goes up and there is more frequent urination as well as thirst.
Kidneys play a very important role here. When supported by right eating and drinking they ensure that BP and acidity levels are kept under check
Some of the very common food ingredients that when taken in excess amount can leave you dehydrated and hyper acidic whereas when consumed in the right amounts can help lower both.
You might have heard that as soon as you become pregnant your protein intake should be increased. This is true as to compensate you as are growing fetus as well as your own needs. But what kind of proteins should you include in your diet?
These proteins must be easy for your body to assimilate and absorb.
There is a thing called ‘PROTEIN TURNOVER’ which means the total protein that is broken down and built up in your body in a day. If you take less protein in your diet, the breaking of protein is more than building up of protein on that particular day, which leads to muscle and bone loss.
But when we think to increase our protein what exactly should we eat and what exactly should we avoid?
Some of you might have heard of taking a protein-rich diet in one major meal of the day (usually dinner), but the trick is to divide good protein sources all throughout the day and keeping at least one of the food items that are rich in protein. They may include legumes, pulses, dairy products, eggs, chicken, meat, etc.
But protein assimilation is kicked faster by the presence of other nutrients and micronutrients such as fats, vitamins, and minerals. So rather than taking plain protein supplements, it’s a good idea to depend upon natural food sources that also allow the intake of other nutrients along with protein.
THE ESSENTIAL AMONO ACID: LEUCINE
Leucine is probably the most important amino acid during pregnancy as just the act of eating leucine improves protein synthesis and prevents muscle loss. Leucine plays an important role in hormone signaling and therefore has an important role before and right after delivery. Leucine improves insulin response, helps the lower blood pressure level, reduces serotonin, and therefore lowers the feelings of drowsiness and fatigue that is common during this time.
Leucine is found in legumes, pulses, milk and milk products, eggs, fish, and meat.
Micronutrients like folic acid, calcium and iron we all know of, but a healthy pregnancy needs an area of micronutrients from phytosterols to the lycopene, the flavonoids to phytoestrogens, and anthocyanins. Foods rich in micronutrients leave you energetic, happy, and glowing.
These food rules will hopefully help you simplify dizzyingly complicated food choices and serve you a clear and straight vision for your nutrition during pregnancy.
M. Sc. Gold Medalist