Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pregnancy Superfood Series - Part 1 - Eggs

Check out other posts in my Pregnancy Superfood series!
Liver / Dark Leafy Greens / Salmon

Pregnancy Superfood: EggsToday I am kicking off a brand new series of posts about pregnancy superfoods. Each week we will be discussing one of my top foods for pregnancy and we are going to start it all off with my tip top pregnancy food, EGGS!

During pregnancy eggs are where it's at! There is a reason why eggs have been called nature's perfect food...actually, there are quite a few reasons so let's dig right in.

>> Eggs are super for baby's brain development

Eggs are an egg-cellent source of choline, a water soluble B-complex vitamin that is essential for a healthy pregnancy. Large amounts of choline travel across the placenta to your baby during pregnancy, and even through your breast milk after delivery so it is critical to include in your diet. Why is choline so important? Choline plays a part in the structure and signaling of all cell membranes, which are rapidly multiplying as your baby grows during pregnancy. As your baby's brain is developing, animal studies have shown that adequate maternal choline levels ensure proper development of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory (1).

There are serious risks associated with choline deficiency during pregnancy. Pregnant women who consume less than 150 mg/day of choline have a significantly greater risk of having a baby with neural tube defects or an orofacial cleft than women who consume the recommended levels of choline (2).

The current RDA (recommended daily allowance) of choline during pregnancy is 450 mg/day (3) and just one large egg provides nearly one-quarter of that!

>> Eggs are super for baby's growth

Eggs are packed with protein, and proteins are literally the building blocks of all of the structures in your baby's body; from muscles, bones, and internal organs, to hair, nails, and skin. Enzymes, hormones and other important cell components are also made up of proteins. Protein is necessary for the proper growth and maintenance of all of these structures and, because pregnancy is a time of growth, your protein needs increase in order to facilitate this growth.

It isn't only your baby who is growing during your pregnancy; your body also needs protein to support your growing placenta, uterus, and breast tissue. Proteins are made up of small molecules known as amino acids. There are twenty widely recognized standard amino acids, but only nine are considered essential, meaning they cannot be manufactured in the body and must be consumed through your diet.

There is even evidence that adequate protein consumption during pregnancy can help to ease morning sickness. Studies have shown that changing hormone levels during pregnancy can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, allowing stomach acid to come back up into the esophagus, causing acid reflux. Eating enough protein can help to tighten the lower esophageal sphincter and relieve feelings of nausea (4).

Remember those amino acids I was talking about? Just one large egg contains 6 grams of protein and ALL nine of the essential amino acids. The current RDA for protein during pregnancy is 71 grams per day (5), but if you are active, carrying multiples or nursing you may need more. I advise women to consider 71 grams per day as a baseline and make sure you are consuming at least that much, or sometimes more depending on your lifestyle.

>> Eggs are super for full-term pregnancies

It has been said plenty of times by now, but please, please, please EAT THE YOLKS! If you want to learn why (and so much more about what we've been getting wrong when it comes to health and nutrition) check out Liz Wolfe's book of the same name. There is ton's of good stuff in the yolk including vitamins, minerals, all of the choline, almost half of the protein and all of the cholesterol. Hopefully you don't still think of cholesterol as a big, scary, evil word. In case you do, let me tell you why it is oh so important during pregnancy.

pregnancy superfood: eggsCholesterol is 100% necessary for the production of the steroid hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, that are essential for carrying a pregnancy to term. Estrogen supports the growth and maintenance of the uterus and progesterone does the same for the placenta. This is why you may have slightly increased cholesterol levels during pregnancy, but they typically fall back within the normal range after delivery. Low cholesterol levels during pregnancy have been linked with preterm birth (delivery prior to 37 weeks gestation) (6), which carries an increased risk for infant mortality, low birth weight, insufficient nutrient stores, and health problems throughout life, including predisposition for chronic disease (7, 8).

One large egg has 187 mg of cholesterol and it is all in those beautiful, golden yolks!

Eggs are so awesome that their nutritional benefits can't be summed up in one short blog post.

If so, we might be here all day! They also contain a decent amount of selenium, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, folate, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 - all of which are also important for pregnancy. Eggs can help you to meet your requirements for these nutrients during pregnancy using whole foods instead of relying on supplements, which we will discuss in an upcoming post.

Eggs from pastured hens are always going to be your best choice, as they have been shown to have a higher nutrient content than conventional eggs (9). Happy chickens make happy eggs, and happy eggs make happy babies!

If you can't eat eggs (or have major morning sickness and just can't stomach the thought of eggs) there are lots of other REAL foods that can help you get the nutrients you need during pregnancy and we will discuss those in future posts. You can also pick up my book, The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book for a full rundown of all the important nutrients you need during pregnancy, where to find them, and, of course, tons of tasty egg-lovin' recipes.

Stay tuned for part two in my Pregnancy Superfood series where we will be discussing...wait for it...LIVER!

Images courtesy of stoonn and foto76 and at FreeDigitalPhotos.net