ENP: Food for the Brain During Pregnancy
The ENP research on early childhood nutrition shows that nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life affects the health of your child. Take this opportunity and ingest a nutrient-rich diet, the future health of your baby is in your hands!
Did you know that our genes do not affect the long term health of your child in a greater extent as previously thought? The genes only affect 20 percent of your child’s health and, the remaining 80 percent is affected by external factors. The latest findings from the ENP research on early childhood nutrition shows that diet plays a decisive role, particularly during the sensitive phase of development in the womb and during the first two years after birth. The diet is crucial in the first 1, 000 days due to the rapid development of your child’s and his central elements of the body: the brain, immune system and metabolism. For you, as an expectant mother, this opens up a great opportunity as your diet during pregnancy can start to affect the future health of your child positively.
Early Life Nutritional Programming: The ENP research on early childhood nutrition examines the impact of nutrition of mother and child on the future health of the child.
During the first 1,000 days, the quality and quantity of nutrients affect your child’s brain development. The ongoing construction and renovation as well as the non-stop communication between the neurons (nerve cells) will require high intake of energy, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. You now have increased demands for essential nutrients to support you and your baby’s development, particularly, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, folic acid, vitamins A, B6 and B12.
Between the 21st and 28th day of pregnancy, the neural tube of the embryo, the brain is developed and the spinal cord closes. Thus, the complete closure requires the presence of folic acid stores, hence its importance. Insufficient folate supplied to the baby could lead to neural tube defects. A daily intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid is recommended. A folate rich diet helps to prevent neural tube defects. The need for folic acid is nearly doubled during pregnancy; your doctor will advise you and folate supplement might be prescribed.
What foods contain folic acid?
Folic acid is present in foods such as spinach, asparagus, egg yolks or whole wheat bread.
Unique fatty acids: LCPs
LCP are long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids. The most important are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid) and arachidonic acid (AA, an omega-6 fatty acid). The essential fatty acids linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid cannot be self-formed and therefore need to be taken about the diet of the organism. From these, then the LCPs are formed. During pregnancy, they are essential for the child’s brain structure, the interconnection of nerve connections and for eyesight. In addition, LCPs are an essential component of all cell membranes.
It is recommended for pregnant women to consume 1 to 2 fish meals per week. Food products that are rich in these LCPs are found in sea fishes that are naturally fatty; such as salmon, herring and mackerel.
Rich sources of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are mainly marine fishes such as mackerel, herring, sardines, salmon and tuna. They are suitable to be served steamed, boiled or grilled and are good sources of iodine. Sources of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids of vegetable origin are sunflower and safflower oil (Omega-6) and canola, walnut and flaxseed oil (Omega-3).
The trace element iodine cannot be manufactured by the body and must be obtained from food. It is important for the production of thyroid hormone, the energy metabolism as well as for the brain development; which are involved in many metabolic processes. Therefore you will need to increase iodine intake from 200 to 230 micrograms per day. You will be able to help meet the demand with the consumption of 1 to 2 fish per week. In addition, nutritionists advise the use of iodized salt in moderation. Your doctor may also recommend you to consume iodine tablets.
Vitamin C enhances the absorption of Non-heme Iron (plant based food)
A glass of orange juice is best to complement with your whole-grain cereal or whole-grain bread for breakfast. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of non-heme iron and sources can be from potatoes and green leafy vegetables.
Iron helps to provide a smooth transport for oxygen in the body. You now have higher iron requirements as your blood volume increases, to provide blood and to supply all the nutrients to your child. You should include lean meat in your diet because iron is best absorbed by the body from the consumption of animal foods. Your doctor will prescribe iron supplements if your iron level is too low.
You can help to shape the future health of your baby with the nutritional information provided to contribute to his brain development and create the foundation for his future health.
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