I’m an Expecting Mom and Trained Holistic Health Coach—This Is My Surprising Pregnancy Superfood
by Laura Fisher
Getting unexpectedly pregnant turned my world on its head, in a million ways. One surprising minefield was the world of pregnancy nutrition. After all, I’m a trained holistic health coach who feels pretty confident that I’m going above and beyond day-to-day in meeting my nutritional needs (with the occasional ice cream cone and pizza night, of course). But as I started to comb the internet for how I should be changing up my diet now that I’m growing a little mini me, I felt lost in the recommendations.
One thing I heard over and over was the benefit of consuming omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy. Studies have shown that increased intake of omega-3s (the two crucial ones to look for being DHA and EPA) helps prevent preterm labor, lowers the risk of preeclampsia, and is critical in helping your babe’s eyes, brain, and nervous system develop properly. Inadequate amounts of omega-3s can even lead to impaired development and behavioral issues once the baby is born. Without a doubt, I knew I needed to focus on packing more omegas into my prenatal meal plan.
Omega-3s are found in some foods like flaxseeds and walnuts, but by far the richest concentration comes in seafood. Sure, you can take fish oil supplements, but I prefer to get as many supplements as I can through my diet — and Harvard Medical School agrees with that philosophy.
“Getting your omega-3 fatty acids from food is always preferable to a supplement,” Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, professor of medicine and the Michael and Lee Bell Professor of Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School explained to Harvard Health Publishing. “Not only do you get the marine omega-3 fatty acids from the fish, but you also potentially replace less healthful foods in your diet, such as red meat, processed foods, or refined grains.”
Plus, I was already taking so many pills, between my prenatal vitamin, extra iron, and extra choline (all choices I made in partnership with my doctor based on my unique needs), that the idea of swallowing another pill was, quite frankly, repulsive to me. I also had one bad experience of burping up a fishy taste after taking a fish oil pill, so I definitely can’t go back.
The next decision became what kind of seafood to add into my diet to up my fatty acid quotient. Pregnant women are cautioned against eating certain fish due to concerns about mercury levels, mostly large fish such as bigeye tuna and swordfish. Fish that are lower down on the food chain, such as cod, salmon, and — yep — sardines, have much lower concentrations of mercury and are deemed “best choices” by the FDA. I happen to love wild-caught salmon, but after a few weeks of sending my partner out to get dinner at $30 a pound, we realized this was not a cost-efficient way for me to reach my omega-3 goals on a regular basis.
Enter: the incredible sardine! Sardines are a complete nutritional powerhouse, and this $16 six-pack on Amazon turned out to be the answer to all my omega-3 woes as well as being a rich source of protein, calcium and iron — all imperative prenatal nutrients. The low mercury content of sardines is due to the fact that they only eat plankton, and as an additional bonus, this makes the superfood environmentally sustainable. Finally, sardines are one of the least expensive, high-quality seafood sources you can find, and buying the canned version means you can stock up without worrying that they’ll go bad before you get around to eating them.
To ensure high quality, I looked for sardines that are caught using sustainable practices to protect our oceans and companies that are transparent about where their fish are caught. The only brand I consume is Wild Planet. I’ve researched their practices and feel comfortable feeding myself and my little bean their products.
I totally understand if the idea of consuming sardines on the regular is not super appealing to you right off the bat, but give the little guys a try! I’ve found the texture and taste to be quite similar to tuna when flaked, and they make the perfect protein topper to my salads. I’ve also been frying them up in the olive oil they’re packed in and using them to top a bowl of roasted veggies or avocado toast, or I put them in a sandwich with crusty bread and cheese. Bonus: I’ve been sprinkling the leftover oil from the can onto my dog’s food at night, and her coat has never been so shiny and soft.
When it comes to our whole family’s nutrition, we’ve gone the way of the sardine, and we aren’t looking back.
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