We often think of mental wellness as something we deal with as children, adolescents and adults, but as it turns out, much of our mental health can be dependent on what happens when we are in the womb. Dr. Alan Logan, author of The Brain Diet: The Connection Between Nutrition, Mental Health, and Intelligence, specializes in the topic of diet and how it correlates to brain function and health. In an interview, we discussed women and pregnancy, and how diet can influence the mental health and brain development of the unborn fetus. As Dr. Logan suggests, it is never too early to take care of our mental well-being.
So, what can moms-to-be do to ensure the best mental health for their soon-to-be child? Here are Dr. Logan's top four suggestions:
- DHA Omega-3s: Especially in the third trimester, Omega-3s are important for brain development and early childhood. Pregnant women should make sure they get enough DHA Omega-3s into their diet, which is a minimum of 300 mg of DHA Omega-3s (most women only get 85 mg of DHA). There are two types of Omega 3s -- EPA and DHA. The DHA source is the one that is most important and is mostly found in fish. That said, PCBs and mercury continue to be a major concern. There is research that both mercury and PCBs compromise the development of brain structure and brain function in young children. As a result, you should do your research on both supplement sources and fish sources:
- Supplements: When it comes to supplements, reference the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) for their safety. One brand they list is: Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA.
- Fish Sources: In order to know what fish is safest to eat, you can refer to the EWG.org. However, wild cooked salmon (as opposed to farmed salmon) has the lowest amount of PCBs, dioxins or mercury. As Dr. Logan puts it, wild salmon is a pregnant woman's best friend. Unfortunately, most fish consumed in our country comes from canned fish... especially albacore tuna. Albacore tuna contains very high levels of mercury and should be avoided. If you want canned tuna, look for Chunk Light tuna, which is safer.
If pregnant, have you been paying attention to stress and diet?