The Best Micronutrients For Your Baby’s Brain And How To Get Them
At about 24 weeks your baby’s brain starts to transform. It changes from a tiny, mostly-smooth blob (that’s the technical term, obvs.) into the double-lobed, deeply furrowed organ you’ll recognize from medical illustrations and The Walking Dead. But that transformation requires specific micro-nutrients to really get going. So your partner is going to want to need some healthy grub like cranberries as your baby is making (possibly) future food for zombies.
The stage of pregnancy when brain development gets cooking has been researched many times, with a specific focus on micronutrients. Micronutrients are basically those goodies that are only required in trace amounts to make things in your body work right. Scientists have narrowed down the ones that are most crucial for fetal brain development, presumably by studying the brains of people who drive too slow in the left lane (because something obviously went wrong there). They are:
- Iron: Builds myelin, which is the insulation around nerve cells that carry the electric impulses. Don’t be shocked if this is news to you.
- Zinc: Aids in the creation of brain DNA and the release of neurotransmitters, the chemicals which do things like trigger puberty and turn your kid into a real jerk.
- Omega-3s: Helps the whole brain mature, really. Which doesn’t mean you’ll give birth to a little Alex P. Keaton, but you get the idea. (If you don’t, look up Family Ties, you child).
- Iodine: Creates thyroid hormones, which are essential for stuff like the differentiation, plasticity and migration of brain cells. Which is to say things’ll go south without it.
- Choline: Works to develop the hippocampus (as observed primarily in animals), which is a place in the brain crucial for learning and memory, and not where grey, water-dwelling behemoths might film a literal version of Animal House.
- Folate: Supports the creation of the neural tube, preventing serious birth defects like spina-bifida.
How You Get Them
Most micronutrients are available in prenatal vitamins (check the label though). For well-nourished women, the effect of supplements appears inconclusive. However, benefits from supplements do exists for undernourished women. The medical consensus seems to be: better safe than sorry.
Instead of looking for specific foods that are high in certain nutrients, at least one body of research points out that these nutrients might work together to create their best effects. So some researchers recommend keeping them all together.
The trick? Make sure you and your partner are doing your best to eat a diet full of low-mercury fish, fruits, veggies, legumes and some lean meats. Also, make sure meals are home-made from whole ingredients as often as possible (which might be up to you as pregnancy wears her down). And finally take time to really enjoy that meal you made with cranberries. Good things happen when you Linger.