Nutrition can seem overwhelming in any life stage…let alone in new motherhood when you are trying to also nourish a new little human on limited sleep. Beyond the macronutrients, there are dozens of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that play a role in postpartum health. We know that nutrition can be a powerful way to take care of our bodies. Where do we even begin?
Some nutrients tend to get all of the attention when discussing postpartum nutrition. You may have already heard about how important protein, iron, and Vitamin C are in this stage. It’s not without reason! See this article to learn about where to find these important nutrients that aid in the process of tissue repair and healing.
However! These are not the only nutrients we want to nurture in a new mama. The needs of a postpartum mom extend beyond simply healing tissues and wounds. Today I’m sharing about five nutrients that are vital for postpartum health but don’t always get a lot of attention and that many new moms might be missing out on.
The best news? It does not require time-intensive fancy recipes to boost these nutrients. Simple swaps, a targeted supplement, or adding in a new food to your rotation can go a long way in nourishing your body with these nutrients.
Five Nutrients to Nurture Postpartum
Choline: Choline needs increase during lactation and is an essential nutrient for development of the central nervous system and cognition in baby (1). In mom, choline is a key component of neurotransmitters, cell membranes, and plays a role in metabolism (2).
- Meal prep a frittata for this week’s breakfast. PS don’t leave out the egg yolks which contain all of the choline!
- Make a ground-beef chili (perfect for freezer prep)
- Add lima beans into your soup
Iodine: Postpartum thyroid disorders are not uncommon so it is key to focus on nutrients to support this vital organ. Iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism because iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormones (3). Consuming enough iodine while breastfeeding is also important because iodine impacts baby’s thyroid and neurological development (4).
- Use Sesame Nori Seasoning on avocado toast
- Try a sheet pan recipe featuring baked cod
- Pair some cottage cheese with your fruit for your next snack
Selenium: This is another nutrient that is critical for thyroid health and also serves as a powerful antioxidant. It has been shown to reduce inflammatory activity and hypothyroidism postpartum (5). Some research has also shown that it may reduce risk of postpartum depression (6).
Ways to level up your selenium:
- Add a few Brazil nuts to your trail mix
- Have canned tuna with crackers for a hearty snack
- Switch up your next stir fry to feature shrimp
DHA: This omega-3 fatty-acid often gets depleted by the end of pregnancy given the high demands required by the baby in fetal development (7). It is so important to replete it postpartum both for mom’s health and baby if you are breastfeeding. DHA has been associated with positive outcomes related to postpartum depression and infant brain and eye development (8).
Ways to level up your DHA:
- Add lox to your breakfast bagel
- Mix in canned sardines into your spaghetti marinara
- Try anchovies as a pizza topping
Glycine: This is an amino acid that is considered conditionally essential in pregnancy (9). This means that we have to consume it in the diet in order to meet the demands of the body. While protein in general is needed to support tissue repair, glycine is especially important in the structure of collagen. Glycine is also needed for the synthesis of glutathione which is an antioxidant that protects the body from oxidative stress and cell damage (10).
Ways to level up your glycine:
- Use bone broth as a base for soup
- Sprinkle collagen powder into your oatmeal
- Have a rotisserie chicken for dinner and eat the skin
Something that all of these nutrients have in common is that many prenatal and postnatal vitamins do not contain them, or contain amounts well below the optimal level. This means that we need to be strategic about how to incorporate these nutrients in the diet, and if necessary, add on additional supplements to fill the gaps.
Thankfully, with a few targeted adjustments we can greatly increase our intake of these important nutrients. This approach fits in well with the overall philosophy of viewing nutrition from a lens of addition and abundance. Instead of always asking ourselves what we should cut out of our diets---let’s take the challenge to consider what foods and nutrients we could be eating more of!
And no complicated meals required!