I am by no means a nutritionist or health professional. But, health is an important part of my life and I wish nutrition were higher on our list of priorities in caring for postpartum women. A full-bodied diet is key in assisting our bodies during recovery from trauma or stress. Postpartum nutrition is no different.
At first, I expected to highlight a few important nutritional tidbits I know are crucial (iron and protein are clearly at the top of the list). But I found the deeper I got, the less I could exclude! The key to postpartum nutrition is including all the good stuff you can get and – if you want to put more thought into it – focusing on superfoods so you can get more bang for your buck.
If you have no idea where to start for the elusive “balanced diet,” I recommend In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. His book breaks down our dietary needs in the very simple mantra “Eat real food.” But, I’ll spare you my diatribe on our over-processed food culture.
A wholesome diet is important for all of us, but especially postpartum moms. Our bodies are working to heal tissue, replace blood that was lost during childbirth, and establish lactation. There’s no question that it takes good rest and proper nutrition to heal your body. Lack in either area determines the length and tone of your post-birth phase.
What has drawn me to the whole foods ideology is: you don’t have to count calories or pinpoint nutrients! I would rather spend my time and mental energy actually cooking healthy, wholesome food. Just eat wonderful, nutrient-rich, whole foods and you’ll be well within the criteria for a balanced diet.
I brought up some of the basic nutrients before, like iron and protein. If eating well is part of your life already, you will have plenty of both in your diet, but adding extra is prudent. Iron is there to restore lost blood and protein rebuilds, heals, and balances hormones. Also, don’t shy away from fatty acids, which support the production of breast milk.
So, while my general advice is to eat well and eat a variety, here are some healing foods to focus on:
- Bone Broth
Broths and stocks boost vitality and restore blood and adrenal function. They’re full of electrolytes, which are especially important if you’re breastfeeding. They also help hydrate the digestive system and encourage elimination (in other words: bowel movements!). Those of us who have experienced the postpartum phase know how important that is!
While you can warm and drink bone broth by itself, consuming plenty of homemade stews and soups postpartum will help you get all the benefits of bone broth. Here’s my favorite crockpot bone broth recipe from The Pioneer Woman. Use it cook rice, replace it for the base in your favorite soup or use it for an extra savory whole grain porridge.
- Sesame Oil
This oil and others like it are supportive healing foods. The sesame seed is nutrient-dense and is often used in alternative medicine. It’s easy to use whenever you are frying up vegetables or you can rub a tablespoon of sesame oil on top of a salmon fillet and let it bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes for a nice slow roasted salmon dish (which is also a superfood!).
Mushrooms are immune-boosting and nutrient-rich: namely B vitamins, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium. I hate mushrooms, but it’s undeniable what they can do for you. My husband has gotten good at cutting them up really small and throwing them in with a vegetable hash or egg bake in the mornings.
- Chili or Cayenne Powder
These warming spices boost circulation to help you heal and provide heat so you don’t develop a chill. They also regulate blood sugar and boost metabolism. Add either of these spices in moderation to a stir fry, tacos, or soup.
- Black Vinegar
Black vinegar also enhances blood circulation and helps with indigestion and constipation. It includes amino acids for bodily repair and tissue growth. What is black vinegar? It’s vinegar that is produced differently than our common distilled white, so whenever you’re using vinegar in the kitchen you can replace it with this nutrient-dense alternative. It’s close to a balsamic in fruitiness. Salad dressings, marinades, or making your own sauces at home that require vinegar? Use some black vinegar instead!
In addition to these great superfoods, make sure to focus on eating foods that are anti-inflammatory (omega-3s, cruciferous vegetables, lemons, berries, cherries, pineapple, turmeric, ginger, root vegetables, whole grains). These types of foods have been shown to calm the body, promote healing, and can even prevent Postpartum Depression. Eat warm foods that are easy to digest, and as always, remember to hydrate!
*Information adapted from The First 40 Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou and helloglow.com