More than any other time, people think about what they are eating when they are pregnant. We hear so much about how important nutrition is for a growing baby that we are suddenly aware of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats like omega-3s. Why do omega-3s get such focus during pregnancy? It all comes down to the brain…
Did you know that a large part of our brain is made up of omega-3 fats? In fact 60% of the fats in the brain are omega-3 with DHA, a type of omega-3 fat found in fish, being the main type. DHA contributes to normal brain development both in the womb and in early childhood for breast fed infants. About 75% of brain cells are in place before we are born and the other 25% are in place around the age of 1 year – making omega-3 fats an important nutrient for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. DHA also contributes to normal eye development in the womb and in infants. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland recommends that pregnant women eat oil-rich fish once to twice a week to get these important omega-3s. Did you know that tinned mackerel, salmon and sardines are all good sources of omega-3 fats?
Omega-3s are not the only nutrient a healthy brain needs. Iodine is also needed for normal brain function. In Ireland iodine is found in few foods – dairy foods and fish are two key sources. 100g of red salmon has over half of the iodine that you need for one day. Tinned sardines and tinned mackerel are also good sources.
Added to that, fish is a good source of vitamin B12 which helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue and helps normal red blood cell formation. Tinned fish is also a great way to add calcium during pregnancy - tinned fish like salmon and sardines are great sources of calcium with 100g of sardines giving you two thirds of your recommended daily amount.
Try adding more fish to your main meals. Add tinned salmon to pasta dishes or mix it with sweetcorn to make a tasty sandwich filling. Sardines are delicious spread on toast or wholegrain crackers and tinned mackerel is great mixed with crème fraiche for a tasty mackerel paté.
Cooking or part cooking your own meals is a good way of ensuring you are getting enough fibre and nutrients in your lunch time meal as well as preventing unwanted weight gain, extra expenses and irritating hunger pangs in the afternoon.