Postpartum Power Foods
We all know that growing a new life requires so much from our bodies physically. We spend way more time during pregnancy thinking about our health than any other time in our lives. We are so good about taking our prenatal vitamins, drinking water, eating our greens and saying no to those things that aren’t “good” for baby. We know that this other little life depends on our food choices and even born and raised Dr.Pepper lovers (like myself) can say no during pregnancy thanks to the overwhelming guilt of ruining our precious prodigy in utero. So, during pregnancy we add in a few extra calories , 200-300 ish extra and trust that our bodies will let us know what we need. The postpartum time is a little different. There isn’t as much info on what to eat, or what foods are good vs foods to avoid. And honestly, this is a time when many families are busy adjusting and opt for quick delivery or processed foods because they are just trying to keep their heads above water.
So the big question is, what foods promote postpartum healing and health and how do new families make this happen? I love having short simple lists that can help families’ breakdown a big topic into manageable bites that they can use, so we will go with:
4 powerful postpartum foods and how to get them in your life.
· Bone broth is the number one healing food that I would recommend for all families. Bone broth is amazing on so many levels and has been used historically for healing everything. But why after birth? Bone broth is made from cooking the bones of animals down for a long time or in a pressure cooker to extract vital ingredients for your body – collagen,minerals, amino acids, bone marrow… The list goes on with the benefits of bone broth and it has become so popular you can easily find out more here or here. The bottom line is that while your tissues are healing the collagen in broth boosts your own collagen production for healthy tissue repair and tightening skin. The minerals (magnesium and calcium are the stars here) replenish your stores that are drained in the hard work of birth and as you are nursing. These minerals are vital to healthy bones, tissue repair, muscle and nerve function and more. Throw in some garlic and you are adding immune boosting properties too! There is so much to be given from bone broth to help new families and it is also easy to consume. You can drink it, use it in soups, or for the liquid in rice or potatoes. Its easy to prepare and can be made from the leftover bones from a previous meal. Look out for my video on making bone broth for birth and postpartum.
· Healthy Fats are my next food to highlight. They are filling, they help regulate hormones, and you cannot produce essential fatty acids so you must consume them. So, how do they do all of this plus more? Fat helps your cells to me more hydrated and therefor helps them communicate better and regulate your hormones. Your body needs the cholesterol in fat to function. But wait aren’t fats bad for you??? (so says the media) No. All you need to know is what fats to consume. The goal should be unsaturated fats and here is a link with a better explanation than I can give. Here are some suggestions: avocados, coconut oil, cold water fish, nuts, seeds and eggs. It should be easy to stick these into many different meals with little to no trouble. A bag of nuts at your nursing station to snack while you rest, eggs for breakfast, burrito bowls with avocado for dinner and maybe some apples cooked with cinnamon and coconut oil for dessert. If all of this sounds too much, buy a bottle of Cod Liver oil (I recommend mint) and take as directed.
· Probiotics are all the rage these days and having a healthy gut is proving to be important to the rest of our body functions (read this). We want to encourage the growth of good bacteria and deter bad bacteria. This benefits our digestive system, it is vital to a healthy immune system and effects the ability of your body to breakdown and absorb nutrients. Your baby is also receiving the health benefits of probiotics if you are nusring. I would say those are all significant reasons to be aware of your inner flora and fauna. Foods that promote good bacteria growth contain bacteria with cultures and fermentation. We all know yogurt carries good probiotics, but don’t be fooled into buying the ones full of sugar and fruits. Some flavoring is ok but the bad bacteria in your gut will feed on the sugar so make it a point to buy a healthy brand full of many different cultures and little to no sugar. You can also buy plain yogurt to mix yourself or use in savory dishes instead of sour cream. The second option is fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi. Not just any pickles will work, they should be fermented not just pickled. You can look for these in the cold section, but be sure they say they are fermented. The most popular brand is Bubbies but if you cannot find these at your local grocery store head to a health foods store and they are sure to have them or point you in the right direction. You can grab a bottle of probiotics and some Cod Liver Oil while your there. Throwing some kimchi on a bowl of Asian style soup made with bone broth would be a lovely dinner, pickles are a great salty snack, you can even throw some sauerkraut with some sausages for a filling meal everyone in the family can enjoy.
· Leafy Greens. I know, I know, you have heard it 100 times to eat more veggies, eat more salad, eat more green!! So, here’s to the law of the 17th mention, eat more leafy greens! You have just delivered a baby and there was bleeding during birth and that will continue for around 6 weeks. You iron has taken a hit and you need to help your body to replinish it. Iron helps your body produce hemoglobin and therefor helps the transfer of oxygen in your blood. Getting enough iron will dramatically help postpartum fatigue. Green leafy veggies include Spinach (the best source), swiss chard, collard greens or kale. These give even more iron if you eat them cooked so don’t always just go for a quick salad. Try sautéing some spinach with bacon and get some fats and greens together. Kale is easy to throw with some veggies into a stir fry or skillet, or any of these can be thrown into a pan of some Italian sauce and made into a casserole and frozen for later use. Again, if all of this feels too much you can buy a bottle of chlorophyll from your local health food store, but I guarantee its not as tasty.
I hope these prompted you to think about how you can stock your home for your postpartum recovery. It shouldn’t be too difficult and it can make you feel so much better and heal quicker. Your ability to heal and return to strength depends on the fuel you put in, so choose wisely and prepare accordingly. For a great read on preparing for your postpartum recovery I highly recommend the book The First Forty Days by Heng Ou. May your posptartum table be full of love and delicious food.