Eating for Om

It’s no surprise that pregnancy can be a jumble of emotions, including anxiety and nervousness. After all, so much of the experience is in the realm of the unknown, and what to expect--especially for first-time moms--is all is quite unpredictable.

There are a variety of tools we can use when it comes to calming the mind, including yoga and meditation, sleep, time outdoors, finding and relying on support from others, and taking mental health days off work when possible. Did you know, though, that certain foods--in addition to nourishing your growing little one--could also bring a little calmness and levelness to your world?

Here are 6 tips to eat your way to a healthy body and quiet mind.

1. Eat often enough to keep your body fueled. A body that thinks it’s starving can’t keep calm: it will keep a vigilant watch for fuel, and this hyper-aware, hyper-hungry state produces many of the same internal responses as high-stress survival situations.

2. Eat non-starchy fresh veggies. Veggies are an essential part of a whole foods diet, and many of the minerals they contain (like calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc), as well as Vitamins A, B, C, E and K play a substantial role in mood regulation and emotional well-being. When the body identifies its nutritional bases are covered, it more easily settles into calmness, rather than panic that the food supply might be running out. Four or more 1-cup servings per day is a great place to start.

3. Eat quality proteins. Protein provides the body with amino acids that are the building blocks for many of the neurotransmitters circulating in our brains that control anxiety. Wild-caught fish, free-range eggs and vegan proteins like hemp, brown rice, legumes and fermented soy are great sources, as are pastured meats and organic dairy.

4. Eat healthy fats. Fats are key for the nervous system, hormonal health and many other physiological processes that underscore anxiety. Not only do these help the body absorb vitamins from other foods, but they tell the oldest part of our brain that food is plentiful: when there is fat, the body knows we are not in the middle of a famine and won’t turn on survival-panic mode. Play with coconut oil and milk, avocado, olive oil, flax seeds, walnuts and other nuts, fish and full-fat organic dairy.

5. Incorporate zinc and B-Vitamins. These play a role in balancing the body and allowing the system to feel calm. (In fact, a deficiency in either of these has been linked to depression and agoraphobia, so particularly during pregnancy when hormones are all over the place, it can pay off to be aware of these nutrients.) Great sources of zinc include grass-fed organic red meat, pastured chicken, wild-caught fish, soaked/roasted grains and nuts, pumpkin seeds, miso, mushrooms, and broccoli. We find Vitamin B in grass-fed organic meat, potatoes, bananas, chiles, carrots, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, brown rice, quinoa, blackstrap molasses and nutritional yeast.

6. Avoid sugar, caffeine, processed foods and refined grains. As much as your cravings will allow, try to stick away from these. The up-and-down effect they have on blood sugar is jarring to the system and can actually make the body feel like it’s having an anxiety attack when it’s not. An even, calm mind doesn’t run well on the erratic energy provided by processed or high-sugar foods. Swap in whole grains and gentle sugars from fruit or root vegetables.

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