Today’s discussion is about diet. I’m covering organic food consumption (is it really that important?) and meat & fish consumption, along with some other little tidbits thrown in there.
“So, how important is it to eat organic?”
Well, that depends. It is better to eat pesticide covered fruits and vegetables than no fruits and vegetables at all. There’s a decent amount of scientific evidence that folate/folic acid before conception and in early first trimester is important for preventing autism and of course for preventing neural tube defects. You can get folate/folic acid from prenatal vitamins, leafy greens, broccoli, beef liver, rice, black eyed peas, etc. Here is another general site about why fruits and vegetables are necessary during pregnancy.
On the other hand, there’s lots of evidence that pesticides are bad for you. Organophosphate pesticide exposure during pregnancy results in lowered IQ, attention deficits, and there is some evidence that shows they are associated with PDD, a variant of autism (although all autism diagnoses are going to be collapsed into the all-encompassing “autism spectrum disorders” come the end of this month -May 2013).
And this is just one class of pesticides! There’s also pyrethroids and carbamates, and several other subclasses, which all have their own negative health effects.
I know what you’re thinking: YIKES. I better buy all organic!
Except it’s probably not quite as horrible to buy conventionally grown fruits and veggies as it seems. Most organophosphate pesticides break down relatively rapidly in the presence of sun, air, and water, and by the time the fruit gets to you, either all or most of the pesticide has probably broken down into metabolite form. And, guess what, these metabolites aren’t bad for you! Yay! All of these studies were done in populations that were relatively highly exposed to actual pesticides - that is, pesticides used to eliminate cockroach infestations in New York City, or pesticides used in agricultural farm work in California. There isn’t a lot of evidence about people who get exposed through diet.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that exposure through diet is safe. I’m certainly going to buy mostly organic, but I’m also not going to turn my nose up at a freshly washed tomato. The EWG has a list of the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen, and those should help guide you in your choices. Basically, avoid inorganic apples and strawberries and berries, and feel okay about eating things with thick skins - like avocados. But even if you can’t eat organic, you should still eat your fruits and vegetables!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So important! Probably way more important than eating organic.
And, for the love of all that you consider holy, don’t use pesticides in or around your house! That includes ant killer, roach killer, rat poison. And you should go ahead and not use any fungicides or herbicides either (like RoundUp, for instance). If you treat your dog with flea meds, make your husband do it, or wear gloves, and don’t touch the dog until after a few days.
So, what about meat?
Are vegan pregnancies lacking essential vitamins? I don’t know. If you aren’t getting b-12, then that can certainly cause some serious problems. Eggs are pretty darn good for you. So is fish. Fish is actually really fabulous, as long as you eat more than 2 servings a week and aren’t getting mercury and PCBs in with the mix. (read: eat Alaskan Salmon, not Atlantic Salmon, also go for shrimp, cooked oysters, anchovies!. Generally, stick to smaller fish that have had less time for these things to build up in their bodies). Here’s another link: http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/safe-pregnancy-fish-47102102
So….what about meat?????????????
Right, right, I’m getting there. Well. I can tell you that a lot of toxins tend to reside in fat - like PCBs, PBBs, HCBs, flame retardants, dioxins, phthalates. And meat animals, particularly cows and pigs, can have lots of fat. If you think about all the things a typical factory farmed cow eats - lots of genetically modified/non organic corn, lots of antibiotics (80% of antibiotics used in the US are actually added to feed for factory farmed animals), untreated water from ponds and rivers - and then you think about the environment that they live in - very close crowding, lots of cow poop everywhere, extremely unsanitary, surrounded by machinery with lots of chemicals, cages/slots cleaned with powerful industrial chemicals - and then you think about how there is no such thing as regulation of these chemicals in our meat products - and then you think about how cooking meat has absolutely no effect on the majority of those exposures - then you might start to feel a little queasy about eating all the things that that cow ate. That is, after all, essentially what a food chain is. Also, high beef consumption during pregnancy is related to lower sperm quality in male children and high systolic blood pressure, but there’s not a lot of other evidence out there about negative effects of red meat. Except for nitrates and nitrites. Nitrites are real bad. Don’t eat bacon or other cured meats - they’re associated with increased risk of brain tumour during childhood.
But then again, meat is really high in vitamin B and protein, which are essential, and it might be filled with other wonderful great things that we just don’t know about. Also, can you supplement a non-red meat diet with vitamin B? Is it sufficient? The answers to these questions are unclear. I can tell you there are no studies that show an increase in red meat during pregnancy results in an increase in IQ, like the studies show for fish. Also, I am NOT SAYING to go out there and eat fish every day. That would probably not be a good idea (even though it could be) and the science doesn’t support extreme fish eating. I’m just saying that >2 servings a week of NON-TOXIC fish is associated with positive outcomes.
Also, if you’re not pregnant yet, you should probably lose weight if you’re overweight. Obesity is associated with increased risk of autism (along with about a million other horrible things), but now your obesity is not just affecting you. It’s affecting your unborn baby. All those toxins are also just sitting there, and during pregnancy your body draws on fat stores from the mother’s body. So you end up feeding your kid all the nasty things that are stored in your fat cells, which is why you should try to exercise and detox for a bit before pregnancy.
Here’s what I suggest:
Find a hippy farmer somewhere who is anal about producing high quality, untainted meat. Buy that meat. Okay, I know, that’s not really possible. Limit red meat to once or twice a week or less. Instead, go for organic chicken or lean cut, organic pork chops (ha! I bet you’ve never seen organic pork, have you? Have you!!!??? So, basically, don’t eat pork), and fish. If you eat hunted meat (which is an entirely different discussion), make sure it comes from an area where there aren’t any paper mills or plastic production factories or other known water-contaminated areas.
Limit your butter intake. Even organic butter. Butter is, after all, straight fat. If you drink milk, drink low fat, organic milk.
When it comes to veggies, eat organic if you can. If you can’t, EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGGIES and wash them thoroughly. Like with soap and water and a scrub brush. EAT LOTS OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES. LOTS. Vary them and cook them. Your body is better able to process cooked vegetables.
And take your prenatal vitamins!!! Don’t listen to those people who say any old vitamin is fine. THEY’RE NOT. TAKE PRENATALS. Any brand is probably okay though. DHA added is good but there’s no evidence yet supporting claims that taking DHA in vitamin form has any effect above and beyond no-added DHA.
Next time: it’ll either be air, water, or house. Stay tuned!!