Pregnancy is stressful, parenting is stressful. Of course we live in a generally stressed-out world, but going through the major physical changes of growing, birthing, and nurturing another human is a lot of work.
Yes, millions of women have and continue to do this, but that doesn't make it any less of an amazing (or all-consuming) feat! The pressures of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting can be enough to wear even the toughest of women down, so during this season it's critical to nourish the whole body for the wellness of the mind.
Stress comes at us from many directions, and no amount of healthy eating can undo it all, but it can certainly give us solid ground to stand on when everything else in life seems fluid, or like it's trying to drown us. Several foods and herbs have an almost uncanny ability to help keep a mama calm in the midst of hormonal shifts and major life changes, and here we look at the best of them:
An herb known for its calming properties, it is also beneficial for promoting restful sleep. While lemon balm shouldn't be consumed in large doses by pregnant or breastfeeding women, it is safe in smaller doses for acute episodes of anxiety, sleeplessness, and stress. Additional benefits?
Lemon balm promotes increased immunity and healthy digestion, making it a well-rounded addition to your herbal arsenal. Long after the kids have graduated from diapers, lemon balm will be useful for any mother's busy schedule.
Chances are you've heard of this recent health trend, if not made it yourself already. Made from boiling the bones of livestock or poultry, nutrients like collagen, minerals, vitamins, and health fats are extracted from the bone. It's more nutrient dense than basic soup stock, and it's like drinking a multi-mineral while having the bonus of being warm and filling.
It might be an acquired taste, but for those who really can't stand it, it is easily mixed into soups or stews--even kids can reap the benefits of bone broth without being the wiser.
And what are the benefits? Apart from being jam-packed with the aforementioned nutrients, bone broth is especially rich in calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, making it an excellent choice for bone and tooth health, while also being nourishing for the cardiovascular system, digestive system, and reducing overall body inflammation.
Okay, so we've all heard about how great probiotics are, and the benefits haven't been exaggerated. Since our bodies contain more bacteria than actual cells, we owe it to ourselves to make sure we've got plenty of the good bacteria fighting for us. While supplements can definitely get the job done, meeting the body's nutrient needs with whole foods is always preferable, and sauerkraut happens to be an excellent source for probiotics, containing more live organisms that yogurt, and far less sugar.
Probiotics influence many body processes, from hormone balance to mood balance to stress balance. Without the right levels of beneficial organisms in our guts, we can be more prone to sickness, stress-related symptoms, and poor quality of sleep, just to name a few. Probiotics also aid in proper digestion, which can influence the level of nutrients passed to a baby in utero, as well as levels of probiotics and other beneficial micronutrients in breastmilk. Even if you don't have a small human taking nutrients from you, it's hard to overlook the amazing benefits that probiotic foods can have on our overall wellbeing as health-conscious women.
Mmmm, sardines. Perhaps not one of the more common phrases you'll hear, but did you know that sardines aren't only rich in protein, omega 3's and vitamin B12, but they're also an excellent source of selenium, calcium, and vitamin D? Selenium, which is essential for proper thyroid function, is an important nutrient for women, who are eight times more likely than men to have thyroid glands that don't produce enough hormone. Calcium isn't only good for bone health, but it's also critical for hormone balance and proper electrolyte regulation within the cells. Vitamin D, of course, has numerous benefits (immunity, mood, bones, etc.) but has few food sources. While supplementation may still be needed, one serving of sardines does contain 40% RDA of the sunshine vitamin.
Beyond the obvious health benefits of sardines, they're also quick and easy, which make them an ideal quick snack or meal for busy moms who have a hard time remembering to eat for themselves. They can also easily be disguised as "tuna" in a salad or sandwich and kids won't be the wiser.
Not just your pesky backyard weed, dandelion greens contain a wealth of nutrients that support liver function in the body. Since the liver has a to-do list longer than the busiest mom on the planet, including but not limited to clearing out hormones, metabolizing drugs, removing toxins from the body, and aiding in blood sugar regulation, if your liver isn't at full capacity, you won't be either. While your liver will detox and do its jobs with or without your support, its always a great idea to regularly consume nutrients that won't hinder the process.
Dandelion greens are rich in calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and iron--twice as much iron as spinach, as a matter of fact. You can eat the greens in a salad, sauté them in chicken stock and garlic for a tasty side dish, or even drink dandelion tea for an alternative to morning coffee.
In the age of the internet, there's no shortage of knowledge about how healthy leafy greens are for you. But did you know that there's more to greens than spinach and kale? Watercress, in fact, has more vitamin K than all the other greens, while also being rich in vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is beneficial for vision and immunity, while vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can help give oxygen to the cells, boosting energy levels and helping mothers to keep up with the energetic pace of their kids.
Of course it's also important to include plenty of other dark leafy greens, quality fats, protein, fiber, and water, as well as positive and energizing lifestyle habits, like yoga, walking, getting as much sleep as possible, and having creative outlets for stress. When you combine great habits with the above nutritional powerhouses, you'll find yourself far better equipped to face the world not only as a successful mom, but also as a confident, radiant woman.
Writer Aimee McNew has a Master's in Holistic Nutrition Therapy (MNT) and is also a Certified Practitioner of Nutrition Therapy (CNTP).
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.