Nutrients are the building blocks of life. They help nourish our cells and keep every cell in our body healthy and fully functional which reflects on us by us feeling more energetic, feeling fresher, having better mental clarity and a sense of well being. But does nutrition really matter and what impact does it have on your growing baby?
Let me start by saying nutrition is crucial during the gestation period particularly if you want a healthy, intelligent and well behaved child .
During pregnancy stored nutrients are absorbed by your body and used to help create new life. What you eat BEFORE and DURING pregnancy all contributes to the development of fetal brain and body structure. Nutrition during pregnancy directly impacts your child’s learning capacity and behaviour later on in life. The expression “you are what you eat” should be taken quite literally as every food you eat is absorbed and becomes a part of your body as it interacts with certain cells. The food you eat during pregnancy becomes a part of your developing baby.
Pre and post natal nutrition is a broad subject so for the purpose of this post I will focus specifically on the effects on your child of iodine deficiency and junk food consumption during pregnancy.
what is iodine?
Iodine is a chemical element, its a trace mineral our body needs in minute amounts but we can not produce it ourself. Iodine is Greek for purple due to the colour its elemental iodine vapour. Its responsible for maintaining healthy thyroid function as it helps produce thyroxin hormones which are produced in the thyroid gland. A typical deficiency can cause hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) which basically equates to a slow and sluggish metabolism. Sufferers of this condition will feel fatigued and lethargic and may suffer with depression and mental slowing. An under active thyroid encourages weight gain and sufferers will find it hard to lose weight or stay slim. Iodine deficiency in children or babies is also a preventable cause of mental retardation. Information processing, fine motor skills and visual problem solving are a few things that can be improved by Iodine repletion in children that are even mildly Iodine deficient.
But why is it important to you when your pregnant?
A recent 9 year study provided evidence that children of women who were just mildly iodine deficient during pregnancy had a reduced learning capacity. The study compared the children of mothers who were mildly iodine deficient against the children of mothers of weren’t iodine deficient during pregnancy and found there was a significant difference in learning ability between the 2 groups of children. The children of the iodine deficient mothers during pregnancy had reductions of 10% in spelling, 7.6% in grammar and 5.7% in English literacy compared to children of mothers who were not iodine deficient during pregnancy.
It’s important to note that these statistics were not changed by sufficient iodine intake after birth during childhood. What this means is once you go through pregnancy with a iodine deficiency, the damage is done and you will not reverse the damage done to your child’s learning capacity by ensuring adequate iodine intake during childhood.
These numbers are significant and could mean the difference between a pass or a fail on certain tests. This raises awareness of the importance of sufficient iodine intake during pregnancy for your child’s learning potential during childhood and to prevent the damage to fetal brain damage.
A similar study was also done in the UK. Out of a 1000 British women they found 2/3’s were iodine deficient and they linked this iodine deficiency to lower IQ and poorer reading in their children.
Reports from the NHS have also shown that a whopping 7 out of 10 teenage girls are iodine deficient, which puts more unborn children at risk.
Junk food is junk
There are also strong links between eating junk food during pregnancy and the impact it can have after birth on your child’s behaviour. Eating junk food which mainly comprises of high saturated fat and/or high sugar content has an impact on your child’s brain structure during pregnancy, it effects the hippocampus and is associated with being a causing factor in conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia later on in life.
So now you might be thinking ok, ok, so ditch junk food while I am pregnant or at least cut back to a large extent… but where can I get iodine from?
Well I have taken the liberty in researching some of the best sources iodine for your practical pleasure and have provided you with specific amounts according to certain guidelines…
Top sources of iodine:
Kelp – is a form of seaweed considered in japan as a super food. Depending on the brand it has very high concentrations of iodine so only needs to be consumed once a week in a fruit smoothie. Hijiki seaweed provides about 629 mcg/gm, dulse 72 mcg/gm, wakame 32 mcg/gm and nori less than 20 mcg/gm. But most kelp or kombu contains around 2500 mcg/gm so be aware of the brand.
Milk – Amounts of iodine in milk also vary, go for organic milk during pregnancy to avoid any hormonal toxins or pollutants from poorly kept commercially farmed cows. 1 glass (200ml) of semi-skimmed milk will provide a child of 6 years with 96% of their daily requirement for iodine and an adult (19-50 years) with 44%. These figures are for winter milk, which may contain slightly higher levels of iodine than summer milk.
Eggs – Amounts of iodine in eggs can vary from hen to hen, depending on how much iodine they consume before they lay the egg. A conservative estimate would be somewhere between 13 and 70 mcg in each large egg weighing approximately 50 grams (medium egg), it should be noted however that hens given an iodine rich diet may lay eggs containing as high as 200 mcg. When possible always opt for free range eggs.
Watercress – 80g of watercress contains 12mcg which is 8% of the RDA. It doesn’t contain massive amounts, but is one of the easiest ways of getting iodine in. Buy half a dozen small pots of the stuff next time you go shopping and you can have it on your salads, smoothies and in sandwiches.
The National Institute of Medicine has set Adequate Intake (AI) of iodine for infants: 0 to 6 months, 110 mcg/day; 7 to 12 months, 130 mcg/day.
For children and adults, Recommended Dietary Amounts (RDA) have been set: children 1 to 8 years, 90 mcg/day; For adults 150mcg/day; For pregnant women, the RDA is 209 mcg/day, and breastfeeding women, 290 mcg/day.
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL), the highest level of intake that is not likely to cause unwanted side effects, for iodine intake have been set: children 1 to 3 years, 200 mcg/day; 4 to 8 years, 300 mcg/day; 9 to 13 years, 600 mcg/day.
For adults older than age 19 including pregnant and breastfeeding women, the Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 1100 mcg/day
Poor eating habits are known to affect the way your baby grows and develops. Bad food choices lead to nutrient deficiencies. This has long term adverse effects on fetal neuro-cognition which relates to a lower learning capacity and behavioural problems as they grow up.
This only solidifies the importance of a healthy and natural nutrient rich diet during the gestation period if you want to give your baby the best chance in life. We all know maternal instincts are a powerful thing. A healthy diet gives way to a healthy body which produces a healthy baby.
links to the studies…