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Prenatal Vitamins Part Three

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Prenatal Vitamins Part Three

Prenatal vitamins is always a hot topic in pregnancy land! And that’s why I’m writing an extensive series on this topic. If you’ve not read Part One or Part Two, go read them now.

We’ve talked about what prenatal nutrition needs to be, eating real foods for vitamins and minerals and today we’ll cover using herbs as prenatal vitamins!

Red Raspberry Leaf

First up is RRL = Red Raspberry Leaf! Typically taken as a tea, this herb is rich in nutrients such as iron, magnesium, potassium and B vitamins.

This herb is beneficial for women on many levels, not just pregnancy. Red Raspberry Leaf can aid in fertility. It also helps tone and strengthen the uterine wall.

RRL is also ideal for postpartum to help restore hormones and boost breastmilk. Even aid in the management of postpartum bleeding!

Note: because of the uterine toning benefits Red Raspberry Leaf provides, it can cause contraction-like sensations. If you have a history of miscarriage it is recommended to wait till 2nd or 3rd trimester to start drinking RRL and adjust the amount of leaves you use when brewing.

To use Red Raspberry Leaf, buy loose leaf. I use this one. Add a few tablespoons to a quart glass mason jar. (I just eyeball amount.) Bring pure water to a boil (do not use fluoridated water!) and then pour into the jar. Let steep overnight. In the morning strain with a nut milk bag and either reheat the tea or drink at room temperature. You can add a little raw honey if desired.

Note: I use my mason glass jar as a drinking glass and use this to drink from.

Nettle Leaf

This herb isn’t as widely known, but it really needs to be!

Nettle Leaf, also known as Stinging Nettle Leaf, is rich in minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, potassium, calcium. The vitamins that Nettle Leaf contains include A, C, K and B. In the phytonutrient profile, you’ll find chlorophyll, quercetin, beta-carotene and lutein.

The healing properties of Nettle Leaf include but not limited to pain management, decreasing inflammation, help fight off a variety of infections, stabilize blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.  It also helps milk production!

To use Nettle Leaf, make sure it’s high quality tea leaves. Again, I recommend this brand. Follow above brew directions for Red Raspberry Leaf. Consider mixing the two leaves together for a RRL+NL tea blend!

Peppermint

This herb is more widely known than the two above. Peppermint is not spearmint, same family but different plant.

The nutrient profile of peppermint contains manganese, copper and vitamin c.  

Peppermint is helpful for colds and coughs, nausea, can help soothe oral inflammation, ease digestive discomfort and even boost energy levels!

Peppermint is typically used as a tea but you can also explore other ways of using it. Add crushed leaves to a water glass (again, make sure water is pure!), as an essential oil and in food dishes (how about a Pineapple Mint Salsa?!).

Want a little variety in your herbal uses? I take and recommend Nourish Her from Earthley. This tincture contains red raspberry leaf, nettle, catnip, spearmint and alfalfa. So many nutrients packed into this tincture! This herbal tincture is great to use in place of a prenatal pill-form vitamin.

You can also explore additional herbal tea and tincurte options from Wish Garden Herbs and Mountain Meadow Herbs.

Some other great herbs to mix into your routine include Hibiscus (great for the immune system!), Rooibos (very nutrient-filled including iron, calcium, magnesium), Dandelion (a gentle laxative), Chamomile (relaxing before bed), Ginger (soothing for digestive system), Cranberry (keep urinary tract healthy), Rose Hips (calcium, iron, magnesium to name a few of the nutrients), Alfalfa (iron!) and Echinacea (beneficial for the immune system and/or if you are feeling sick).

The wonderful thing about herbs- typically used as teas- is that they are caffeine free. I’ve always loved herbal teas. A fun tidbit about myself is that I’ve not ever made drinking coffee a habit. If you are removing coffee from your life, pregnant or not, (and I highly recommend you do so) is that it’s nice to start the day with a warm mug of herbal tea. If you are used to a hot cup of coffee in the morning this can ease the transition for you.

With the above herbs you can create a wide variety of choices everyday!  

One note: if you are using tea bags for some of the herbal teas make sure you using reputable tea brands. I use and recommend Buddha Teas because they use unbleached tea bags which is really important!  

So, what herbs are you going to start using first?!  

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Prenatal Vitamins Part Two

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Prenatal Vitamins Part Two

Hopefully you’ve read part one of this series! If not, you can read it here.

To recap, prenatal health begins long before the woman is pregnant. It starts three generations back! Additionally, how the woman lived and the wellbeing (or disease) choices she made before she was pregnant matter a great deal and play a role in not only her health while pregnant but the baby in utero and earth-side as well. So, if you aren’t pregnant, this is for you just as much as it is for the expecting mama!

Real food+herbs as vitamins and minerals?

Yes! Our body would rather absorb the nutrients from real food+herbs instead of a heavily concentrated pill.

Many women experience constipation or upset stomach during pregnancy due to the concentrated minerals (iron being one) in their prenatal vitamin. This can generally be avoided when real food is used instead. (I’m about to give birth and have not experienced this common problem!)  

Here a few examples of what prenatal vitamins from real food look like. Remember, these foods+herbs should ideally be part of your daily/weekly nutrition lifestyle long before you conceive.

Hemp

One of my all-time favorite superfoods! I primarily use hemp hearts (seeds) but hemp protein powder is also rotated into my weekly hemp nutrition rotation. 3 Tablespoons of organic hemp hearts a day is a wonderful prenatal vitamin. Hemp is a complete protein, healthy proportions of omegas 3 & 6, contains folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, fiber, healthy fats. Hemp is also abundant in Gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA) and this helps to reduce inflammation in the body, regulate body temperature, stabilize blood pressure and balances hormones. Hemp is also great for skin health. Perhaps this is why I always receive so many compliments on my skin, pregnant or not?!

You can eat the hemp seeds raw or add to a smoothie, shake, soup, salad or sprinkle on top of whatever you are eating.

(If you’re wondering, no, hemp seeds won’t get you high or test positive on a drug test.)

3 Tablespoons of hemp seeds a day is ideal.

Spirulina

This is another one of my favorite superfoods. It’s hard to pick just one! 

Spirulina is an algae but don’t let that scare you off. This nutrient-rich “vitamin” contains iron, vitamins B1, B2 and B3, vitamin K, is a complete protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium, GLA, omegas 3, 6 and 9. Spirulina helps the body naturally remove heavy metals (so needed in this day and age!), boost the immune system, decrease inflammation and is a powerful antioxidant.

Spirulina also contains chlorophyll which builds blood and gives energy, both of which are needed throughout pregnancy and giving birth. 

I recommend using spirulina in powder or tablet form. I personally enjoy how it tastes but if you are newer to the flavor, make a smoothie and spirulina to start with.

To make sure you are getting a quality spirulina, buy this one. (This is the one I use.) 

6 tablets or 1 teaspoon of powder a day is recommended.

Blackstrap Molasses

This may be a new one for you. I actually grew up consuming blackstrap molasses. We made “molasses milkshakes”, we added a tablespoon of blackstrap to a glass of (plant-based) milk and mixed well. Me and my siblings thought they were delicious! Now years later, I’m still using blackstrap as part of my excellent nutrition lifestyle!

Blackstrap molasses is the what remains after the extraction of sugar from raw cane sugar. It’s not refined sugar but instead contains essential nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and selenium. Besides being a fantastic “prenatal vitamin”, it’s also great for athletes (which I can attest to)!

A few benefits of blackstrap molasses are healthy skin, aids in the stabilizing of blood sugars, helps with stress (because of the B vitamins), manages PMS symptoms, healthy bones and is anti-inflammatory.  

I take a tablespoon a day. You can also add to smoothies or to a bowl of warm steel cut oats.

Make sure to buy the right kind of Blackstrap Molasses, not all created equal.  

Seaweed

Seaweed is another real food vitamin that is often overlooked. Seaweed contains iodine (a trace mineral) which is needed for the brain development of the baby and a healthy thyroid in the mother. To make sure it doesn’t contain heavy metals, always buy organic seaweed, such as this one. Aim for 3-4 servings a week. 

Cacao

Who doesn’t love chocolate?! Cacao (the unprocessed version of cocoa) contains iron as well as calcium, protein, magnesium, EFAs, and thiamin, to name a few. Cacao is also a powerful antioxidant, more than 20 times of blueberries!

I make a hot cacao drink in the morning or add cacao nibs to a nut and seed mix. You may also enjoy this cacao bar

Remember, not all chocolate is created equal so you have to make sure it is cacao. Reese’s, Hershey’s, Lindt, etc are not healthy chocolate and quite frankly, should never be consumed.

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If you’ve noticed, all of these “prenatal vitamins” are real food. And that’s the point. We should always aim to get our essential nutrients from real food first and foremost. Yes, there are some vitamins and minerals that are good to supplement our lifestyle with, but in single form versus concentrated form.

The foods listed above aren’t an extensive list, there are literally hundreds of real foods we need to be eating for optimal nutrition! The ones listed above are a good place to start though and do provide our bodies with strong nutrient-dense building blocks.

In part three we’ll cover herbs as vitamins. You don’t want to miss reading this! Herbs are so amazing and not enough people incorporate them into their nutritional lifestyle.

Part four will cover what supplements are beneficial to take.

Part five...answering your questions?! I know you have them. :) Send me an email or leave a comment below with questions you have and I’ll write a Q&A.

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Prenatal Vitamins Part One

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Prenatal Vitamins Part One

As soon as the expecting woman sees two lines on the stick, she immediately rushes out to purchase a prenatal vitamin.  

However, is this the right thing to do?

Personally, I don’t believe so due to the following four reasons. Keep reading!

#1) Prenatal nutrition starts with your grandmother

What many women don’t realize is that nutrition begins with our grandmother. That’s three generations of establishing our health even before we are born! So suddenly taking a prenatal vitamin isn’t going to catch up the mother up on the nutrients she and baby needs. This also means that the mother is already establishing the health of her grandchildren since she the moment she was conceived and then of course into childhood and adulthood.  

#2) Majority of prenatal vitamins are synthetic

The second thing to know is that almost all prenatal vitamins (and vitamins in general for that matter) are synthetic. The body can’t metabolise synthetic ingredients. Which means it doesn’t make much sense to take something the body can’t process! 

Besides synthetic ingredients, prenatal vitamins also contain toxic additives and fillers. These additives and fillers are linked to many health ailments such as cancer, heart problems, mood problems, etc. 

#3) Almost all prenatal vitamins contain synthetic folic acid

Folic acid is synthetic and causes a wide variety of health complications for the baby. Folate from real food sources is what our bodies (and babies!) need.

Folic acid can actually increase the risk of cancers.

Dr. Stephanie Senff, PhD, a senior researcher at MIT has this to say about folic acid: 

 

Additionally, Dr. Senff has this to say about folic acid.

Dr. Fuhrman also has a great read on this topic.

Lastly, there has been some recent connection of the increasing number of babies born with lip/tongue ties and folic acid being the trigger for them. Lip and tongue ties cause a variety of health issues, the most notable one being proper latch for breastfeeding and growth.

*Note: it’s not just prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid, it’s multivitamins and other fortified products. Read labels very carefully.

#4) Prenatal vitamins aren’t a hail mary for poor lifestyle choices

Popping a prenatal vitamin under the impression that you are fulfilling your nutrition for the day is a setup for a health disappointments, most notably during pregnancy. It’s far better to eat nutrient-dense, whole foods that are organic and non-gmo. (I’ll give you a full list of what vitamins from real food+herbs looks like in part two.)

The takeaway is to stay away from prenatal vitamins in pill form and stick to nourishing whole foods! 

I personally do not take a specific prenatal vitamin in pill form. I do however, nourish my body for two! My primary source of vitamins and minerals are from real, organic, whole foods and herbs. There are a few specific supplements I do take and I’ll outline those in part four.

You can read Part Two and Part Three here. 

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