I’m sure you’ve heard people say “you are what you eat”. And, it’s true. The food we eat literally becomes the raw materials for our bodily tissues. For example, dietary fats are converted into cell membranes, steroid hormones, myelin (the material around our nerve cells), padding and insulation for your internal organs as well as energy stores. Protein, on the other hand, is converted into bones, muscles, skin, blood, hormones, enzymes and antibodies. In addition to being a fuel source, carbohydrates are building blocks for DNA and RNA (which house your genetic material), as well as being a constituent of hormones, enzymes and vitamins. The major macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) you take in through your diet literally become the cells in your body. Therefore, the quality of the food we eat dictates the quality of our body.
For our purposes, I’d also like to point out that “your baby is what you eat”. Your fat intake affects your baby’s cell membranes, brain and nervous system development and retinal tissue. Your protein intake helps build all of the cells of your baby’s body, including her blood vessels, skin, hair, nails, heart and lungs. Your carbohydrate intake can affect your baby’s birth weight and propensity for fat stores. Beyond this, vitamins also play a role in creating the baby’s body; the most well-known example is folate, which plays a role in ensuring the neural tube closes properly. Minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous and magnesium, are key components in the baby’s skeletal development. This doesn’t even begin to explore the impact of the many phytonutrients on our baby’s cellular development.
Just as the quality of your food dictates the quality of your body, the quality of your food similarly dictates the quality of your baby’s body. It is for this reason that it is imperative that you pay attention to your nutrition during pregnancy. Rather than using pregnancy as an excuse for extra, daily ice cream runs and pizza parties (though that may be part of the routine occasionally), you might rethink the importance of the foods that you consume. You are, in fact, “eating for two”, but that means that your nutrition is that much more important - it has the power to shape both your health and your baby’s health simultaneously.