Do You Really Need Prenatal Vitamins?

prenatal vitamins

The first thing you hear when you mention wanting to get pregnant is, “start taking prenatal vitamins.” But how do you choose the right one? Furthermore, do you really need one?

When pregnant, the only nutrient needs that significantly increase are for iron and folate. You also want to ensure plenty of the omega-3 fat DHA to support proper brain development in the baby. Beyond that, nutrient needs aren’t much different from non-pregnancy.

Do You Need A Prenatal Vitamin?

No, because you can find regular multivitamins that contain iron and folate. There are even some that contain DHA. However, you might need more iron than is found in a regular multi so you can take that separate if you want. Here are some guidelines on what to look for in a supplement, whether acting as a prenatal or for everyday.

best prenatal supplements

What To Look For In A Supplement

Vitamin A

If you have a low functioning thyroid, diabetes, or autoimmune disease, you might need up to 5000 IU of preformed vitamin A. Most supplements contain beta carotene which can be converted to vitamin A. However, that conversion is impaired in people with health issues so I prefer the source be fish liver oil.

Vitamin D

A recent study found that 4000 IU of vitamin D supported a healthy pregnancy and reduced the risk of preterm labor. You most likely won’t find that amount in prenatal vitamins or a regular multivitamin so will need to get an additional source. Getting in the sun daily without sunscreen is also a good idea. Look for D3 or cholecalciferol as D2 or ergocalciferol is more likely to cause toxicity. It is a good idea to also take vitamin K2 if you take vitamin D. This is because K2 helps you utilize the vitamin D and get calcium into bones.

Vitamin C

High doses of vitamin C might be harmful during pregnancy. Therefore it’s best to stay at 500 mg daily or less. Instead, focus on eating vitamin C rich foods like citrus, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli.

Vitamin E

Make sure it is natural vitamin E. If it says dl-alpha tocopherol, it’s not natural. Look for d-alpha tocopherol and put it back if there is an l by itself or with the d.

Folate vs Folic Acid

Folate

You want 600-800 mcg of folate and the methyl form (not folic acid) is probably preferable. This amount can be found in a regular multivitamin. But in both prenatal and regular vitamins, it can be difficult to find it in methyl form. So if you can’t find one than don’t worry so much about the form.

Iron

Most prenatals have around 27 mg of iron and most women’s multivitamins that contain iron have 15-18 mg. If you don’t have anemia, you really don’t need 27 mg of iron. Infact, studies haven’t found iron supplements (whether anemia exists or not) to prevent preterm birth, low birth weight, or infections during pregnancy.

Furthermore, excess iron can cause problems. So I think it’s best to stick with a regular multivitamin prior to pregnancy if you do not have anemia. Also, try to avoid ferrous sulfate as the source of iron. 

Iodine

Supplements will usually contain 150 to 225 mcg. I think the higher amount is preferable as iodine is essential for the healthy development of the fetus, but you can also use kelp flakes on food for an iodine boost.

Riboflavin

Getting adequate riboflavin is essential for a healthy pregnancy. Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, helps you utilize and absorb iron, can reduce the likelihood of pre-eclampsia, helps with blood pressure control, supports methylation – a process that is essential for good health, and it gives you energy. You need at least 2 mg daily and I recommend taking some with each meal. 

fertility diet

Final Thoughts On Prenatal Vitamins

Having said all that, finding a multivitamin, whether regular or prenatal, is quite a challenge. I found three prenatals that can be found in stores;

If you opt for a regular multivitamin, keep in mind the amount of folate you need and add extra folate if the multivitamin does not have the recommended amount. You can also add additional iron if needed and either DHA or cod liver oil depending on the form of vitamin A.

If the form of vitamin A is beta carotene, opt for the cod liver oil. Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Women’s formula is a good option here, but it is low in iodine. Therefore, you would need kelp flakes, cod liver oil and possibly an additional iron supplement as it only contains 8 mg of iron. 

For both a regular multivitamin and prenatal, you can also add extra vitamin D with K2. If you need an energy boost, you might try getting some riboflavin with each meal with a low dose B-complex.

A good multi can help fill in the gaps and ensure adequate amounts of important nutrients, but it doesn’t replace a poor diet. So make sure you are eating real food and plenty of leafy greens. For more information click here to read, Get Your Body Ready For A Baby .

What Meat Do You Eat?

What Meat Do You Eat?

Are you a meat eater? On the paleo diet? Low carb diet? Atkins? A Carnivore?

If you choose to eat meat, there are several things to consider when you weigh your options for the best choice to consume.

Obviously, we want to choose a source of meat that is the least processed – that you can still see fat or bone present – such as a steak, ribs, pork chop, chicken leg or even the whole raw chicken.

Steer clear of the processed meats, such as hot dogs, deli meats, cold cuts, pepperoni, bacon and anything else that you know has undergone some sort of processing to get to its current state.

But when choosing the best meat for you and your family, it goes much deeper than just finding what is available at your grocery store that is the least processed.

Let’s consider for a moment the animals and animal products that we are consuming.

They have taken months or possibly years to get to their full size before slaughter. This gives them plenty of time to eat and eat and eat to grow large enough to be sent to market.

This also gives the animal plenty of time to gather up toxins in their bodies from the food supply they are given to eat when they are conventionally grown. Often, they are being fed genetically modified corn, soy and mixed feed that has been sprayed generously with many doses of pesticides. These pesticides are accumulated in the bodies of these animals and passed on to us when we eat them.

The animals are generally kept in tight quarters with several hundred other animals and can easily pass germs around to one another. This means that there is often antibiotics added to their food supply to control illness among the population. This is also passed on to us when we eat them, not to mention into the ground water supply from their excretions.

For these reasons and many others, it is important to choose meat that has been naturally raised to ensure that your family is getting a high quality product. When animals are raised in their natural environment and eat their native diet, they naturally produce meats that are higher in minerals, essential fatty acids and vitamins. 

Look for labels such as:

• organic
• grass fed
• free range
• pasture raised
• wild caught
• antibiotic free
• GMO free

The best place to find the highest quality meat for your family are directly at organic farms, Farmer’s Markets, and health foods stores in your community. Talk to the famers, the producers and associates to purchase humanely raised, and as-organic-as-possible animal products. 

Including animal products in your diet can add variety to your diet and provide you with essential vitamins and minerals if you are mindful of selecting high-quality products. Pairing meat with a salad and lots of colourful vegetables can make a great meal filled with the nutritious fuel your body needs to function at its best.

Save the Bees! Without Them, Humanity Can’t Survive

bees and dandelions

Stop. And. Listen. Do you hear bees buzzing in your yard, hard at work? If we aren’t careful, that could soon be a sound of the past.

Whatever you do this spring, don’t pull out the dandelions that pop up in your yard or garden. Yes, I know that we have all been convinced by yard maintenance companies and marketing that dandelions are not aesthetically pleasing and therefore they should be sprayed or pulled out. But, dandelions are the first source of food in the spring to feed our precious, hard-working bees (and other insects).

Bees are responsible for the pollination of approximately 35% of our food supply and it is our job to protect them.

With the widespread use of pesticides and chemicals on crops we are killing off the bee population at an alarming rate.

While the world stopped to listen to the story of Kim Kardashian’s Paris robbery last year, we missed noting that bees have been put on the endangered list.

Without bees, we can expect to see a significant impact on the agricultural industry.  Although bees are not necessary for the pollination of all crops, they do play an integral role in the pollination of melons, squash, nuts such as cashews, brazil nuts and almonds, apples, berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries), and stone fruits.

As the bee population continues to be affected, the concern is that these fruits and vegetables will be available in lower yields, which would drive the cost of these up as availability is reduced. Understanding that these are the staple foods of a whole food diet, it is concerning that a diet consisting of whole foods is likely to become less accessible and therefore could have a negative impact on the health of our communities moving forward. 

Spread the word about the bee population. Talk to your neighbours, friends, family and whoever else you come into contact with. Start a conversation in your community about what can be done to reduce the use of chemicals and pesticides. Starting a community gardening program is an excellent way to educate the community on the importance of the bee population while growing organic produce. If that isn’t an option in your community, starting a small backyard garden is easy and extremely rewarding. Bees love flowers, fruits and vegetables, so pick your favourites and start growing!

Finally, by purchasing local, raw honey you are supporting a local farmer who is working hard to maintain the bee population. The nutritional benefits of eating raw, locally sourced honey include providing anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties. Raw honey is also rich in vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Most honey that we buy in the grocery store has been processed at high temperatures and has additives, which radically reduces the effectiveness of the honey in your diet.

We encourage you to do whatever you can to help save the bee population. It could be as simple as planting a patch of wild flowers, eliminating the use of chemicals on your lawn or letting your dandelions thrive this spring!

5 Hacks to Upgrade Your Paleo Diet

5 Hacks to Upgrade Your Paleo DIet

There are so many diet plans that you can choose from to follow, but it really comes down to how your body functions best. You know your body and how you function, and how your body feels after eating certain foods.

That’s not to say that you can proclaim “my body feels best on bread and chips” just because your taste buds like it.

This is a real observation about how your body feels after eating meat, or dairy or starches.

It’s time to listen to your body because it’s easier to hear it when it whispers, than when it has to start shouting.

So if you have listened to your body and chosen to follow a Paleo diet, there are a few ways to make it even better.

But first of all, let’s break the Paleo diet down.

A Paleo diet consists of foods that mimic what our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors may have hunted, gathered or foraged for in the wild. Such as a variety of meats and vegetables and a small amount of fruits and nuts. No grains or processed sugar.

Hacks to Upgrade Your Diet:

1. Buy Organic!

Organic foods that are not treated with pesticides and heavy metal toxins contain more accessible vitamins and minerals that conventionally grown produce. They may cost a bit more, but they are definitely worth it. To learn more about the value of organic, check out our previous blog on The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 here.

2. What Meat are You Eating?

Think back a few million years. Were there abundant sources or added growth hormones, antibiotics or vaccines added to the animals’ feed? I doubt it. So steer clear now!! Choose organic, grass-fed beef, buffalo, free-range chicken, wild caught salmon, elk, venison, etc.

3. Focus on Veggies

Choose a variety of leafy and cruciferous veggies to go with every meal! That means kale, lettuce, spinach, Bok Choy, Celery, Brocoli, Cauliflower, and Brussels Sprouts. Also add in low-sugar fruit, like raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and Granny Smith apples. These fruits will not spike your blood sugar. Raw nuts and seeds and avocados are great sources of healthy fats.

4. What else are you eating?

Food marketing companies are very tricky – they can put Paleo on just about anything and get away with it! I don’t think that cookies, bread and chips were available in the wild a million years ago, but somehow they have found their way to the Paleo aisle at the grocer. They tend to have excessive amounts of sugar, sweeteners, preservatives and varying degrees of unhealthy additives but fly off the shelves because they are “Paleo”.

I also don’t think that our ancestors had a deli they strolled up to and ordered salami, pastrami or any other nitrate-filled preserved deli meat. Eat real food!!

5. Mix it Up

Who says you have to be purely Paleo every day? Agricultural developments and transportation advancements have allowed for nutrient, vitamin and fibre-rich foods to come along. If your body likes legumes as they are significantly lighter to digest than meat, give it legumes! Or if you like freshly squeezed orange juice in the morning, have at it! Listen to your body and hear what it has to say.

Recipes Volume 2 – Hearty and Healthy

Recipes Volume 2 - Hearty and Healthy

It’s time for another volume of recipes! We always focus on finding ways to eat higher quantities of fruits and vegetables. There are thousands of phytonutrients in just one piece of fruit or one vegetable, and the best part is that we haven’t even scientifically identified them all yet, nor do we fully understand how they work synergistically together! But we do know that they are the foods with the densest quantities of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, so we try to eat as many servings of F+V as we can every day!

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DINNER:

Easy Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Black Bean Quinoa Soup

It’s still winter up here in the northern hemisphere, so we’ll share a delicious, hearty slow cooker soup that you can start in the morning and enjoy at dinner!

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cups diced tomatoes
2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup chopped apple (remove skins)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili flakes
1 cup finely chopped kale
1 cup finely chopped spinach
3/4 tsp salt and pepper
5 cups water
1.5 cups cooked quinoa
1.5 cups cooked black beans

Place sweet potatoes, onion, tomatoes, carrots, tomato paste, apple, garlic, cumin, chill flakes, kale, spinach and salt and pepper into slow cooker with water. Cook on high for 4 hours and then add cooked quinoa and black beans and cook for 1 more hour. Enjoy!

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LUNCH:

Jo-Anne’s Amazing (almost) Raw Pad Thai

This is one of my most favourite raw lunch options. It’s so easy to throw everything into the blender, and mandolin/chop up your veggies! (Be careful with the mandolin, those things are dangerous!)

To make the sauce, In a high speed blender, add:
4 pitted dates
3 basil leaves
1 roma tomato
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce if you don’t have aminos)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 shakes ginger powder
5 shakes Himalayan sea salt
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp garlic powder

For the Noodles:

Chop 6-7 large leaves of romaine or leaf lettuce
Mandolin slice 1-2 carrots into match sticks
Mandolin slice 1/2 a cucumber into match sticks
Mandolin slice 1 stalk celery into match sticks
Mandolin slice 2 peppers into slices (choose yellow, orange or red!)

(or you can use your spiralizer for the carrots and cucumber)

Drizzle the sauce over your veggies and enjoy!

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BREAKFAST:

Cherry Berry Smoothie

This is a delicious smoothie to kick start your morning! You’ll love the bursts of flavour to awaken your taste buds and rev up your day! Filled with healthy fats and antioxidants, this one is a keeper!

To your high speed blender, add:

1/2 cup frozen cherries
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 frozen banana
1 handful spinach
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
2 tbsp chia seeds
5 ice cubes
1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk

Blend until smooth and enjoy!! Recipe can easily be doubled to feed the rest of your family!

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Are you Addicted to Caffeine? How to Detox without Withdrawals

Are You Addicted to Caffeine?

Do you stumble out of bed and head straight to your coffee pot? Do you even have a timer set so it’s ready and waiting for you?

Do you need a little pick-me-up mid morning and hit the Tim Hortons drive thru?

Or mid-afternoon, do you find yourself reaching for a soda (or worse, an energy drink) to give you enough energy to get you through the rest of your day?

These are some not-too-subtle signs that your body is relying on caffeine as an energy source – both physically and mentally.

Caffeine can wreak havoc on your adrenal system and depending on the source of your caffeine, can affect your cardiovascular system and digestion, not to mention your sleep habits.

You may also know it’s time to curb your intake of caffeine if you notice…

• you need more and more to feel its effects
• your consumption levels are ever increasing
• you are starting to notice that your nerves are jumpy or you are not feeling like yourself
• you feel fluttering in your chest or differences in your breathing
• extra urination and symptoms of dehydration
• if you have a headache or other uncomfortable symptoms if you don’t have caffeine

So how do you reduce or eliminate your intake of caffeine without serious withdrawals?

Everyone’s body reacts differently when they come off of caffeine. As it is classified as a drug,  it is important to treat this as a serious issue and make sure your withdrawal is limited and your transition out of its clutches is gentle.

Some people may decide to go cold turkey, but that definitely tends to cause headaches and other terrible symptoms that may leave you out of commission for up to 3 or 4 days.

It would be best to slowly reduce your intake until you either bring it back down to a more controllable level or remove it from your life altogether.

For the first week, reduce your consumption by 25%. So if you’re having 4 coffees (or whatever your caffeine source is) per day, try to have just 3. Do this for a week and notice any changes.

For the second week, again reduce your consumption by 25% – so just have 2 coffees per day.

And for the third week, reduce another 25% and have just 1 coffee per day.

For the fourth week, you can continue to reduce your intake by having a coffee every other day or if you feel like you are back in control, one per day is a much better amount.

Be sure to supplement your eliminated cup of coffee with another liquid – either warm water with cinnamon and lemon squeezed into it or a caffeine-free tea, so you do not feel deprived of the relaxation of enjoying something warm in your hands that tastes lovely and feels comforting.

While you are making this major life change, it is incredibly important to support your body with added vitamins and nutrients during this time.

Load up on the plant based meals and add as many extra fruit and vegetables into your day as you can. This will help to rebuild your body and support your reduced caffeine intake by offering a real energy source. If your body is fed properly with abundant sources of real nutrition, it will stop craving external energy sources, such as caffeine to get your through the day.

If you have any questions about reducing your caffeine intake and supporting your body through this change, talk to your natural health practitioner.

Favourite Healthy Recipes Volume 1

I love experimenting with new recipes, finding ideas and changing them to make them my own, and experiencing new flavours and palettes that are exciting and delicious.

healthy eating

The most important things to think about when you are preparing are:

  • Will this meal provide me with a broad range of vitamins, nutrients and minerals?
  • Am I eating a wide variety of colours?

It’s hard to eat a lot of colours if you have only meat and potatoes on your plate.  So this is why eating fruit and vegetables is essential to reaching all of your daily nutrient requirements.

Here are a few of my most favourite recipes that have been in my family’s meal rotation lately.

Breakfast

Breakfast is your first opportunity of the day to start consuming as many nutrients as you can, to jump start your day.  Ideally, the very first thing you should do to start your day is moving out the toxins that have accumulated overnight.  So try and drink a tall glass of water with lemon.  Then, enjoy this smoothie at least 20 minutes later.

Funky Monkey Smoothie

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 10 large frozen strawberries
  • 1 large handful of spinach
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2-3 cups almond milk
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp cocoa

Add all ingredients to a high speed blender.  Cover with almond milk, and blend until smooth.  Your children will love this smoothie and won’t even notice the greens hiding inside!  Love smoothies for breakfast??  Click here for our Breakfast On The Go – Mixed Berry Smoothie recipe.

Lunch

Lunch is best if it’s an easy salad or something that is pretty mobile.  I mean, who knows where life will take you by lunch time!!  So pack something that is easy to throw together and enjoy on the run.

Mango Salad

  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • 1/2 head of romaine lettuce, washed and torn
  • 1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

Combine lettuce, vegetables and sunflower seeds.  Dice mango, being careful to save the juices.  Add the mango and juice from the mango to the salad and toss.  To learn more about why you should include mango’s in your diet click here for 10 Health Benefits of Mango’s.

Dinner

This is a great dinner option that you can enjoy at your home.  It replaces the empty nutrients in white or whole grain pasta with spaghetti squash!  Feel free to tweak the recipe with whatever vegetables you have on hand.  This recipe is also great as a left-over lunch option.

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 pound grass fed ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 jar tomato sauce (check label for no added sugar) or use your favourite homemade spaghetti sauce recipe

Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and place on a baking sheet face down.  Bake squash at 350 F until spaghetti-like consistency.  Scoop the flesh out of the skin with a fork.  Cook ground beef in a skillet until no longer pink.  Add garlic, green peppers, onion, zucchini and mushrooms and sauté until vegetables are tender.  Add tomato sauce and heat through. Cover spaghetti squash with sauce and enjoy!