Many Mumma Bears notice a big change in mood and memory during pregnancy, after birth and whilst breastfeeding. In fact, recent research suggests that pregnancy alters a mother’s brain in both size and structure, and “baby brain” (where did I leave those keys?) is a real phenomenon. Couple that with sleep deprivation and it’s no wonder that Mumma’s feel their brain function is impacted. Here are some ways to use food-as-medicine to help boost your mood and memory during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Consume Choline for Concentration
Now I know the humble egg doesn’t seem like much of a mood booster, but these little gems are packed full of vitamins and minerals, which are so good for our health. Amongst other things, egg yolk is packed full of choline, a little powerhouse which nourishes the brain and nervous system.
Small amounts of this key nutrient are synthesised in the liver but we do need to get much of it from our diets. This wonder nutrient is also super important during pregnancy and lactation as it plays a key role in fetal development of the brain and nervous system. Interestingly, some research has also found that increasing maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester has significant cognitive benefits for babies in terms of their mental development. Most pregnancy supplements don’t contain enough choline so you really need to make sure you are getting some from your diet. The best food sources of choline are organic pastured eggs, liver, grass-fed dairy and if you are vegan, soaked nuts and legumes and cruciferous vegetables contain a small amount. Choline is a precursor to the brain chemical acetylcholine, which plays a role in memory and cognition. Increasing choline may help you avoid ‘Baby Brain” too, which is an added bonus.
Blueberries Boost Brain Function
Blueberries are not only beautiful and yummy but are backed full of beneficial constituents include the anthocyanins, which are flavanoids known to improve cognition. Regular consumption can slow memory impairments, lower dementia risk, reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’ Disease, prevent age-related memory loss and boost brain cells (especially in the hippocampus which is the brain region responsible for memory). Eating this wonder berry can have beneficial effects quite quickly – five hours after consuming them, there are improvements in concentration and memory (possibly by stimulating blood and oxygen flow to the brain). Some animal studies have found that consuming blueberries can reduce genetic and biochemical drivers behind depression too. Blueberries really are a beautiful example of food as medicine so incorporate them into your diet on a regular basis.
Raw Cacao Improves Cerebral Function
Flavanoids in cacao can improve brain function and memory by influencing signaling pathways, and by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Eating chocolate also stimulates the release of endorphins (which makes you feel good). It won’t completely counteract the negative effects of sleep deprivation and adjusting to the demands of a new baby but it will help. The research isn’t that strong, but scientists in Finland have found that eating chocolate during pregnancy also leads to happier and more lively babies who laughed more (and I’m taking that as evidence enough to consume cacao regularly – any excuse to eat chocolate). Now, your chocolate needs to be high cacao, low sugar and high quality – not the Cadburys from the supermarket which is definitely doing more harm than good. Be careful when breastfeeding though, as too much chocolate can be stimulating so enjoy it in moderation.
Regularly incorporating these beautiful examples of food as medicine can have significant beneficial effects on your mood and memory. If you feel that your mood and memory needs some assistance or you would love some emotional support, I’m a naturopath and a Mumma who gets it. Contact me here firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or comments