I’m just going to say it – low fat dairy is not it!
Full-fat, grass-fed dairy is your friend and should be included in your pre and postnatal diets. Dairy can get a bad rap (especially in the digestive department, I get it!) but it is full of healthy fats and important nutrients that support both you and your baby throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Now, to be specific, I am primarily talking about grass-fed dairy. When cows pasture feed, as nature intended, there is a positive impact on the nutrient content of their milk. When it comes to fat, quality is important and grass-fed dairy has a much healthier fat profile when compared to conventional dairy. This includes 5 times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a favorable ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty, and heart healthy HDL cholesterol. Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and provide many benefits to babies’ brains including protection from oxidative damage and aiding in the formation of neurons. For mom omega 3’s are important for mental health, among many things. That’s not to say that if you can’t get grass-fed then you should just forego dairy all together, but do keep it in mind when shopping (I often find really great deals on Kerrygold salted butter and stock my freezer!).
Dairy contains the vital prenatal nutrient, iodine, which is important because iodine needs double during pregnancy. Iodine deficiency affects nearly 1/3 of the population and can have a negative impact on thyroid function for both mother and baby. This trace mineral is also important for baby’s cognitive development. In mothers iodine deficiency can be linked to fatigue, lowered immunity, dry skin, and hair loss. Various dairy products including yogurt, cheese, milk, all contain varying amounts of iodine which will contribute to the daily requirement of 250 mcg. For example 1 cup of cottage cheese contains 65mcg of iodine, not to mention 28 grams of protein!
Probiotics, we’ve all heard about them at length at this point I am sure. Thing is, probiotics really are that girl and we should all make the effort to include probiotic foods in our diet. My philosophy is diet sources of nutrients > supplementation whenever possible. This is true of especially probiotic foods because they often times contain a wider range of beneficial bacteria strains than their supplement counterparts. For this reason foods like yogurt, kefir, and even some brands of cottage cheese and sour cream, like Good Culture, are my go-to sources for dietary probiotics; I mean who doesn’t love a big dollop of sour cream on their chili? Probiotic foods should be enjoyed all throughout pregnancy and postpartum because the benefits are that real! For mothers probiotics help keep immunity up during the first and third trimesters. In the third trimester the birth canal is getting prepared for well, birth! It’s that time and the healthier a mother’s microbiome is, the better off her birth canal will be. If the baby is born vaginally, they will be colonized by the healthy bacteria, primarily Lactobacillus – so cool! If a baby is born via Caesarean, probiotics still rock because they will help the mother’s microbiome stand up to rounds of antibiotics and help ward off infections that may occur post procedure. No matter what kind of birth you may have the baby can still benefit from their mother’s strong and healthy microbiome through the magic of breastmilk.
Okay that was a lot of words to basically say that full-fat, grass-fed dairy, especially the fermented friends, should be included in your pre and postnatal diet. Why full-fat you might be asking? Fat = satiety and satiety can be hard to come by especially in those early days postpartum. Fat is also a key player in the absorption of all fat soluble nutrients and for breastmilk production.
My favorite dairy products to incorporate full-fat, grass-fed dairy into your diet: