Nutrition During Pregnancy: The Alphas and Omegas

by For Two Fitness October 02, 2013

Nutrition During Pregnancy - Alphas and Omegas

Do you ever worry that you’re not getting enough nutrients from real food during pregnancy? Are you familiar with the Alphas and Omegas of pregnancy? Read the “nutrition during pregnancy” basics as it relates to alphas and omegas from fit mom and wellness expert, Kasey Shuler.

Alphas and Omegas. What are they and what do you need to know about how they impact nutrition during pregnancy? In a nutshell, Omegas are essential fatty acids that we need to get from food for blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. Other benefits can include protection from heart disease, stroke, cancer, IBS, and autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. And we need both Omega 3 and Omega 6s, in and in the right ratios. IF you want to get all the nitty gritty on Omegas, head to this great article from the Harvard School of Public Health.

I thought I just needed Omegas, plain and simple. But there are different types of Omega 3s and 6s. Americans don’t usually have a problem getting Omega 6 fatty acids from things like corn and soybean oils. You can get some Omega 3s from plants like canola oil, kale, and walnuts, but the other kind (called EPA and DHA) is mostly found in fatty fish.

I have been sprinkling hemp seeds on almond butter as a dip for apples, waffles, and the like, thinking I was getting in a good source of Omega 3 and 6 without having to take those nasty fish oil pills. Wrong. Turns out my body can’t always convert the plant versions to EPA and DHA as readily as fish can.

As I delved into the Alphas and Omegas of pregnancy, I came across this statement from the National Institutes of Health:

“Unfortunately, it is impossible for pregnant women to meet their omega-3 fatty acid requirements from omega-3-rich vegetable oils and 2 servings of seafood a week …in order make up the omega-3 fatty acid deficit in the diet, pregnant women are left with essentially 2 choices: fish oil supplements supplying EPA and DHA, or algae-derived DHA.”

Uh oh! My multivitamin doesn’t have those!

A few more extra-sciencey but also extra-helpful facts from the same article:

  • DHA is particularly important for fetal development of the brain and retina during the third trimester and up to 18 months of life

  • Pregnant women likely have an increased need for essential omega-3 fatty acids compared with women who are not pregnant.

  • Fish consumption, although an excellent source of both DHA and EPA, may contain mercury contamination and should therefore be limited to 2, 6-ounce, low-mercury seafood servings a week, such as shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish, scallops, and sardines.

  • Both fish oil supplements, containing both EPA and DHA, and algae-derived DHA-only oils are good, mercury-safe means of supplementing the diet of a pregnant woman.

I really don’t like taking supplements and would much rather get all of my nutrients from real food, but in this season of life I obviously need to in order to get the proper nutrition during pregnancy. I currently take a gummy multivitamin, because the only way I will remember to take it is if I am looking forward to it instead of gagging on swallowing a gross pill. I know it sounds childish, but I would rather take my medicine with a spoonful of sugar than forget to take them at all.

I also went right ahead and bought some Omega 3 supplements after doing this research, the same kind that my friend and her kids all use and love. I have tried the fish oil pills, and they always gave me those disgusting fish burps. I actually kind of look forward to taking my Barlean’s Omega Swirl Piña Colada supplement, which can be also be found at Whole Foods but is cheaper with Amazon Prime.

Nutrition During Pregnancy - Alphas and Omegas

Please remember that I am not a doctor, and urge you to consult yours before taking any kind of medication or supplementation. I would also encourage you to do some research with reputable resources, and learn as much as you can! But then again, I’m speaking to the choir, because you just read this article.

Have you been taking fish oil supplements?

What are some things you recently learned about nutrition and pregnancy?

Kasey Shuler, founder of Well of Health, is a Corporate Wellness fitness specialist and ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Health Education Specialist, and group fitness instructor.  Kasey believes that good health is a gift but also takes hard work. She takes joy in sharing the practical ways of how to consume a healthy, balanced diet and incorporate physical activity into one’s lifestyle. You can find her writing at Well of Health, With Strength, Vivecorp, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.


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