The Basic Postpartum Diet

Whole foods, preferably organic

Essential Fatty Acid Analysis
The essential fatty acid analysis is one of the most useful tests of nutritional status. It gives a clear picture of the amounts and ratios of many key fats found in an individual's blood and tissues.

No doubt you can see why we favor evaluating the fatty acid reserves of any woman who is pregnant or is contemplating pregnancy, and why we often do so postpartum. In fact, the majority of patients we see have significant fatty-acid imbalances. This is largely due to the widespread use of vegetable oils in cooking, as well as the processing of oils to eliminate or reduce the amount of easily spoiled, stronger-tasting omega-3s. Most of our patients are notably deficient in the omega-3 fats DHA, EPA, ALA, and GLA, and have too much of other, less healthy, more inflammatory saturated and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (like arachidonic acid, or AA) in their blood and tissues. When the levels of all of these types of fats are brought into balance, both through diet and the use of supplements, many patients experience relief from pain, depression, and mood swings.

Eat Whole, Preferably Organic, Foods
To ensure that you are getting plenty of the nutrients that help build your baby's body and maintain your own health, eat a well-rounded whole foods diet throughout pregnancy and postpartum. Whole foods have undergone little or no processing before they arrive on your plate; they are as close as possible to the way nature made them. In general, whole foods are found around the outer edges of the supermarket – fresh fruits and vegetables, bulk foods, some dairy foods (those that have undergone the least processing, such as butter, soft and hard cheeses, and unsweetened yogurt), and meats are whole foods. Whole foods do not contain "empty calories." Every calorie is accompanied by vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients. During pregnancy and nursing, you are indeed eating for two, and the more nutrient-dense and wholesome your diet is, the healthier you and your baby will be.

If a food comes in a package and the label lists ingredients you do not immediately recognize, it isn't a whole food. The presence of added preservatives, dyes, sugars, flavorings, and oils generally means that something has been processed enough to require extra flavor or improved texture or color. Artificial preservatives generally mean that the natural preservatives – antioxidant vitamins – have been processed out. It is fine to use some time-savers, such as canned beans and frozen vegetables, but generally, the fresher your food is, the better.

Become a label-reader. If you need an advanced degree in chemistry to decipher the label on a food product, put it back on the shelf. Do you like strawberry ice cream? On the label of one brand we looked at, we found forty-three ingredients, including substances called amyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, and ethyl heptanoate. And you thought all you needed to make strawberry ice cream was cream, strawberries, and sugar!

The truth about food additives such as artificial flavorings is that, in most cases, we do not know whether these ingredients can cause harm or how they interact with one another in the body. There are hundreds of additives that are commonly used in processed foods. However, when their safety is evaluated, they are studied individually (in rodents, not in humans) and for no longer than two years at a time. Such tests cannot possibly take into account how all of these chemicals interact in the human body over a lifetime of use. Neither do they take into account how they might change during the cooking or further processing of foods that contain them. If you would rather be safe than sorry, it makes sense to minimize the amounts of such substances present in your diet.

When you eat meat, eggs, or dairy products, choose organic, free-range varieties. These are more nutritious because the animals that produced them are better nourished, and they are relatively free of the pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones that contaminate conventionally raised varieties of these foods. Wild fish and game and range-fed livestock, which have fed on omega-3 rich plants, are much higher in the important omega-3 fatty acids than are conventional, farm-raised fish or grain-fed livestock.

You are also much better off with organic vegetables and grains. They taste better and are more nutrient-dense because they are grown in healthier soil that is richer in minerals. If for some reason you cannot purchase the organic versions of all types of foods, however, it is more important to buy organically produced animal-based foods. Toxins are much more highly concentrated in these than in plant foods.

More on: Postpartum

excerpted from:

From A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health by Dean Raffelock, Robert Rountree, and Virginia Hopkins with Melissa Block. Copyright © 2002 by Dr. Dean Raffelock. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.

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