I’ve been having a lot of conversations with patients recently about getting back to basics. What I mean by that is: really taking an objective look at what the fundamental habits for health look like for the person I’m sitting with, and seeing where we can optimize things.
Because, yes, the latest and greatest supplement protocol will give you a leg up, but there is no protocol that can out-supplement a diet that’s too high in sugar. No vitamin can make up for a lack of exercise. And there is nothing the body wants more than a solid regular 7-9 hours of sleep during the circadian sweet-spot.
The fundamentals of health include the five “free” therapies: diet, exercise, rest, sleep and community. If the body’s basic needs in each of these categories are not being met? That supplement protocol won’t do much for you.
After the three long years that many of us have been in survival mode, it seems appropriate to come back to basics - and I almost always start with diet.
Food is information to the cells of your body. It is fuel and it is energy and it is communication. It has an incredibly powerful impact on our biochemistry that must not be overlooked when it comes to all aspects of your physical and mental health.
I like to highlight the things to focus on (rather than those to avoid) as much as I can when it comes to conversations about what we eat. And when it comes to nurturing your fertility, your pregnancy, and the early years of mothering, there are so many good nourishing things we can focus on.
Foods that nourish mothers are nutrient dense. They need to be high in either protein, fat or fiber, and offer a particularly dense source of some critical micronutrients. They also need to be enjoyable, and satiating, and bonus points if they’re easy to prepare.
Here are my top 8 foods for nurturing a mother - whether you’re trying to conceive, carrying a pregnancy, or nurturing a small child, I recommend incorporating these foods into your routine on a regular basis.
Eggs: their nutrient density nearly unparalleled, I consider eggs to be one of mother nature’s multivitamins. They’re rich in protein and fat, and are a potent source of choline, a critical nutrient for baby’s neurological development and mum’s postpartum recovery.
Liver: so, so nutrient dense. Liver is a great source of protein, and an amazing source of B12, choline, iron, folate and zinc. It’s not high on most people’s list of ‘delicious’ foods but if you can find or make a good pate, that’s a great place to start.
Nuts and seeds: hello protein, fat and fiber (triple threat). Nuts and seeds are ultimately satiating, they’re an easy on-the-go snack, and they’re rich in many minerals like zinc and selenium, and particularly rich in magnesium.
Leafy greens: great for everyone because of the fiber content, leafy greens are especially good for mothers because they contain bioactive folate, lots of magnesium, and a decent amount of iron and vitamin C. They’re also a great non-dairy source of calcium.
Avocados and bananas: fantastic fiber sources, both of these fruits are also dense in B vitamins and magnesium. They make an awesome creamy smoothie base, a quick way of getting a nutrient dense meal on-the-go.
Oily fish: I love salmon, sardines and anchovies because they’re the only source of pre-formed EPA and DHA (omega3 oils that humans are notoriously terrible at creating from precursor fats). Hugely important omega3 fats, EPA and DHA nourish both mum and bubs’ nervous systems.
High quality red meat: because it’s so high in protein, anti-inflammatory fats, iron, zinc, vitamin A and B12, grass fed red meat hits my top 8 foods for mothers. To cook, prioritize low and slow methods like slow cooking over grilling, to avoid the production of harmful AGEs (advanced glycation end products) that accelerate strong and create cellular stress.
Dark chocolate: yes, I said it! Dark chocolate is a mama’s best friend. It is rich in magnesium and decently high in fat. It’s delicious and satiating, and can provide a subtle energy boost.
If you are planning on becoming a mother, growing a babe, or nurturing a newborn, I implore you to start with the basics. Creating lasting change in your daily habits - the fundamentals of health including diet, exercise, rest, sleep and community - will not only foster health and vitality for you as a mother, but will set the foundation for health in the next generation.
Thanks for reading, as always.