When most women find out they are pregnant, they immediately begin cleaning up their diet—shunning alcohol, caffeine, and popping that once-daily prenatal vitamin. But research shows women should take better care of themselves and begin a healthy pregnancy diet long before that pregnancy test comes back positive—before their eggs are even fertilized.
When to Begin a Healthy Pregnancy Diet
There is evidence that even when an egg first begins to mature, when it first leaves the ovary, it is subject to nutritional deficiencies that can be passed onto a child. The most recent study on the topic shows diet prior to pregnancy can actually alter a woman’s DNA and these changes can be passed along – showing why a healthy diet long before pregnancy is really important.
“As parents, we have to understand better that our responsibilities to our children are not only of a social, economical, or educational nature, but that our own biological status can contribute to the fate of our children, and this effect can be long-lasting,” according to Mihai Niculescu, Ph.D. and study author from the Nutrition Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This latest study was conducted on mice—looking at female mice before pregnancy and giving one group a diet low in ALA fatty acids and one a regular diet. They kept the calories constant and simply changed the type of fats. This diet altered the DNA of the mothers and these changes were then passed onto the offspring, indicating that pre-pregnancy diet may be just as important as what you eat when you are carrying a child.
How can we apply this to our daily lives? With the realization that our food changes us, from a molecular level. Eating foods that are known health risks for you, could affect the long term health of your future children. And a healthy pregnancy diet won’t only positively affect your child, but will also change your own life for the better.
When you consider the standard American diet (SAD) over the past several decades and the growing incidence of lifestyle related diseases (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, etc), there’s no doubt the two are connected. But when you look at the growth of other diseases that aren’t immediately apparent as lifestyle-related (ADHD, Alzheimer’s, cancer, etc.), it’s not a leap to surmise that we have ultimately changed the human genome through our diets.
One study shows how diet can be so important by revealing how vitamin D in pregnancy is essential for child brain development. And what you should know is that accumulating this vitamin D before being pregnant will have the greatest affect. And once you are pregnant, the health of the fetus goes beyond diet. Medication during pregnancy, and even exposure to cell phones and other electromagnetic chaos can have negative consequences.
Could this research concerning a healthy pregnancy diet pre-conception lead to additional findings about the interconnectedness between diet and genetics: absolutely. This and other studies are paving the way for even more evidence that we truly become what we eat and we need to eat better—if not for our own sake, then for the sake of future generations.