Learn which foods can work as medicine to provide the important vitamins and nutrients your body needs now for faster healing.
By Alice Oglethrope
Pregnancy and birth are a lot and your body is like, “What exactly just happened here?!” In this case, it’s time to do what many cultures have done for centuries: Turn to food as medicine to help new moms heal. Here are some tips (and snacks!) on how you can eat to feel better faster.
You’re probably hyper-focused on feeding your baby right now, but try not to forget about your own nutrition, too. You just went through a pretty intense experience (to put it lightly), and your body needs all proper nutrition to recover. That means that in addition to squeezing in sleep whenever possible and relying on others for help, try to pack your plate with certain health-boosting foods.
Why is nutrition so crucial right now? For one reason, pregnancy depletes your body of some nutrients – same goes for breastfeeding. Iron, zinc, vitamin B12, iodine, and more have all gone toward making that beautiful little bundle. Eating specific foods can help get those levels back where they should be. On top of that, certain foods can increase your energy, speed up your physical recovery, and even help stabilize fluctuating hormones. (Research shows that being deficient in certain nutrients after having a baby, such as folate, vitamin D, and fatty acids, could be linked to a higher risk of developing postpartum depression.)
Now isn’t the time to focus on weight loss. Instead, swap in what we like to call an abundance mindset. Do not focus on what you can cut from your plate, but rather, ask yourself, “What vitamins can add?” Whatever’s on your plate, add on some more nutrient-dense foods and allow those vitamins to go to work repairing and replenishing your bruised and battered body.
Beans, chicken, beef, eggs: Because protein is used to build healthy tissue, eating plenty of it can help your body recover from the physical experience of giving birth. And by going with iron-rich sources like these, you can help build back up your iron stores, which are often depleted during pregnancy and delivery. When your body doesn’t have enough iron, you might feel more tired (and you don’t need any help with that).
Warming spices: Turmeric, ginger, and cumin have been used in many cultures to help keep new moms warm and encourage milk production. On top of those properties, these kinds of spices can be anti-inflammatory and have antioxidants (and, oh yeah, are tasty!).
Bone broth: Spices aren’t the only things that can warm you up, so can sipping on some steamy broth. And this cozy ritual comes with bonus nutritional benefits, since the broth has calcium, iron, and protein from the bones (all things your postpartum body needs).
Seaweed, salt, shrimp, yogurt: These kinds of foods contain iodine, which you need even more of if you’re breastfeeding (it impacts your baby’s development). Make sure you use iodized salt at home to help with this—most specialty salts, like sea salts, aren’t iodized.
Goji berries: Research finds that consuming goji berries daily can help you sleep better and feel calmer, among other benefits. You can snack on dried goji berries straight or use a splash of goji berry juice in your morning smoothie.
Chia seeds: Not only are these a great source of fiber to stay regular, but they can also help reduce your risk of blood clots—something you’re at a higher risk for during the first three months after having a baby.
Mushrooms: Sauteed in an omelet, added to a pizza, or cut up into a salad, mushrooms are a great way to add vitamin D to your diet. This is great for general health—it benefits your heart and reduces inflammation—as well as mental health: Research shows that a lack of vitamin D is associated with a higher risk for postpartum depression.
Spinach, apples, sweet potatoes, prunes: Worried about constipation after having your baby? Nosh on some foods high in fiber, like these, to help with that. Whole grains and beans are also great for this, so order in Mexican one night or go for whole wheat bread on your next sandwich.
Oatmeal, brown rice: Need a little more energy? You’re going to want to eat carbohydrates made with whole grains, like these. They’re high in B-vitamins, which can help you feel peppy even when you’ve barely slept.
Salmon: The Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon are good if you’re breastfeeding (it’s carried in your breastmilk and is beneficial to babies as well). On top of that, research shows fatty acids can reduce your risk of postpartum depression.
Oranges, broccoli, tomatoes: Foods high in vitamin C, like these, can help grow and repair tissue as well as make it easier for your body to absorb iron (which is needed for energy). And if you’re breastfeeding, you need to have a little more vitamin C than usual.
Plenty of fluids: It’s always important to stay hydrated, but even more so after you have a baby. Not drinking enough water can bring on headaches and make you feel even more tired than you already are. And you’ll get dehydrated faster if you are breastfeeding, which is why you should try to drink a glass of water each time you feed your baby (a cute portable water bottle can help you remember!).
Postnatal vitamin: One great way to cover a lot of ground nutritionally without feeling stressed out is to take a daily postnatal vitamin. They are high in vitamin D, DHA, and iron, which can help keep your levels high and benefit your baby while breastfeeding.
This might seem like a lot of food to focus on, but don’t be overwhelmed! Eating a typical healthy diet will give you lots of these important vitamins and nutrients, getting you back to your normal self as fast as possible.