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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 02 2012

5 Primal Superfoods for Fertility and Pregnancy

By Guest
247 Comments

This is a guest post from Chris Kresser of ChrisKresser.com.

As a clinician with a special interest in fertility and pregnancy nutrition, two of the most common questions my patients ask are:

  • Is a Paleo/Primal Blueprint diet safe during pregnancy?
  • What are the most important foods to eat for boosting fertility and ensuring a healthy pregnancy?

I’m going to answer these questions in this article. But before I do, let’s first take a moment to discuss the importance of proper nutrition for fertility and pregnancy.

Numerous factors determine our health as adults, including nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and genetics. But recent research suggests another powerful influence on lifelong health: our mother’s nutritional status during (and even before) her pregnancy.

In fact, some researchers now believe the 9 months we spend in the womb are the most consequential period of our lives, permanently influencing the wiring of the brain and the function of organs like the heart, liver and pancreas. They also suggest that the conditions we encounter in utero shape everything from our susceptibility to disease, to our appetite and metabolism, to our intelligence and temperament.

We’re only as healthy as our mother’s womb

The theory that the nutritional environment we encounter in the womb determines our lifelong health is known as the Developmental Origins Hypothesis. It was first proposed by British researcher David J. Barker in the 1980s to explain a seeming contradiction: as British prosperity increased, so did heart disease. Yet geographically, the highest rates of heart disease were found in the poorest places in Britain. Barker found that rather than smoking, dietary fat or some other lifestyle cause, the factor that was most predictive of whether an individual would develop premature heart disease (before the age of 65) was their weight at birth (PDF).

Barker found that infants carried to full term with birth weights between 8.5 and 9.5 pounds had a 45 percent lower risk of developing heart disease later in life than infants born at 5.5 pounds. (They also had a lower risk of stroke, a 70% lower risk of insulin resistance and a slightly lower risk of blood pressure later in life.) As the chart below demonstrates, the risk declined in a linear fashion between 5.5 and 9.5 pounds, but started to increase again as birth weight rose above 9.5 pounds.

How the first nine months shapes the rest of your life

Over the last 25 years, Barker’s original work has been reproduced and expanded. If you do a quick search on PubMed for “developmental origins of disease”, you’ll find references to the fetal origins of cancer, heart disease, allergies, asthma, autoimmune disease, diabetes, obesity, mental illness and degenerative conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The following list is just a small sampling of the literature on the subject:

  • The metabolic syndrome. In a 2011 paper, Bruce et al showed that the onset of metabolic syndrome is “increasingly likely following exposure to suboptimal nutrition during critical periods of development”.
  • Heart disease and diabetes. In a 2002 paper, Barker (the “father” of the Developmental Origins hypothesis) showed that slow growth during fetal life and infancy – itself a consequence of poor maternal nutrition – predisposes individuals to coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and hypertension later in life.
  • Breast cancer. In a 2006 paper Hilakivi-Clarke, et al. showed that maternal diet influences the risk of breast cancer by inducing permanent epigenetic changes in the fetus that alter susceptibility to factors that can initiate breast cancer later in life.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In a 2007 paper, Dumesic et al. showed that insulin resistance and resulting increases of testosterone during pregnancy promotes PCOS during adulthood.
  • Obesity. In a 2008 paper Kalliomaki et al. showed that simply by studying the composition of the maternal gut flora (influenced by nutrition, medications, stress, etc.) they could predict which children will be overweight by age 7!

These studies – and many more – have made it clear that the mother’s nutritional status leading up to and during pregnancy affects her baby’s health not only at birth and during early childhood, but for the rest of his or her life. This leads us to the obvious conclusion that proper maternal nutrition is crucial for boosting fertility and ensuring lifelong health for our children.

But what is proper maternal nutrition? And is the Primal Blueprint diet you’ve come to love safe during pregnancy?

If you listen to the mainstream authorities, they’ll tell you the best diet during pregnancy is one that’s rich in whole grains and low in fat and animal protein. Some of my patients have even been told by their previous physicians or nutritionists that it’s dangerous not to eat grains during pregnancy!

Sound familiar? This is the same misguided advice dietitians have been giving to the general public for decades – and it’s just as wrong for aspiring parents and pregnant moms.

Let’s break out that trusty analytical tool called “common sense” to combat the notion that the Primal Blueprint diet isn’t safe during pregnancy, and that it’s somehow dangerous not to eat grains during pregnancy. If that were true, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Why? Because humans have eaten a paleolithic diet (without grains) for the vast majority of our evolutionary history.

Imagine the timeline of human existence as a football field (100 yards from end-zone to end-zone). If you started walking at one end of the field, the first 99.5 yards would represent all of human history up until the last 10,000 years. During those first 77,000 generations of human history, we survived and thrived on a paleolithic diet. It’s only in the last one-half yard that agriculture was developed and humans started regularly consuming grains.

Perhaps the more appropriate question is whether the Standard American Diet is safe. Infertility rates are already high, and they’re increasing at an alarming rate. 1 in 7 women today have trouble conceiving, and a recent study in the U.K. predicted that number could more than double (to 1 in 3) by 2020. While there are probably several reasons for this dramatic increase in infertility, the Standard American Diet is almost certainly one of the most important.

How can you supercharge your fertility and ensure a healthy pregnancy and lifelong health for your baby?

The Primal Blueprint diet is an excellent starting place for those wishing to conceive, or for women who are already pregnant or nursing. But within the context of the Primal Blueprint diet, there are certain foods and nutrients that are particularly beneficial during these periods.

Traditional cultures have known this for millennia. That’s why they have sacred fertility foods they feed to mothers-to-be and even fathers-to-be. These include nutrient dense foods like fish eggs, liver, bone marrow, egg yolks and other animal fats. For example, the Masai tribe in Africa only allowed couples to marry and become pregnant after spending several months drinking milk in the wet season when the grass is lush and the nutrient content of the milk is especially high.

With this in mind, here are the top 5 “superfoods” I recommend for fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

  1. Liver. Ounce for ounce, liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It’s loaded with fat soluble vitamins like retinol (pre-formed vitamin A) that are crucial for reproductive health, and difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet. Liver is also a great source of highly absorbable iron, which helps prevent miscarriage and maternal anemia, and B12, which is required for proper formation of red blood cells and DNA. Liver is also a good source of bioavailable protein, zinc, and folate.
  2. Egg yolks. Like liver, egg yolks could be considered “nature’s multivitamin”. But they are especially rich in a nutrient many people have never heard of: choline. Studies suggest that 86% of women don’t get enough choline in their diet. This is significant because choline helps protect against neural tube defects. It also plays an important role in brain development, helping to form cholinergic neurons and the connections between these neurons that are so crucial in the first few years of life.
  3. Cold-water, fatty fish*. Seafood is the exclusive food source of the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. DHA is particularly important for fertility and pregnancy. It is preferentially incorporated into the rapidly developing brain during pregnancy and the first two years of infancy, concentrating in the grey matter and eyes. It’s also crucial to the formation of neurons, which are the functional cells in the brain, and to protecting the brain from oxidative damage. Salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are excellent sources of DHA.
  4. Cod liver oil. Yep, grandma was right! Cod liver oil is a sacred fertility and pregnancy food that fell out of favor during the last couple of generations, but is making a comeback. It’s one of the highest dietary sources of vitamin A, which we discussed above. It has more vitamin D per unit weight than any other food. Vitamin D is crucial to fertility and pregnancy, and studies show that up to 50% of women are deficient in it. Vitamin D promotes proper development of the bones, especially during the 3rd trimester when the fetal skeleton begins to grow rapidly. Cod liver oil is also a good source of the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA.
  5. Grass-fed dairy. While dairy is not strictly a Primal food, it’s a great choice for fertility and pregnancy for those who tolerate it well. Dairy is rich in saturated fat, which is especially beneficial for fertility. It’s also a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K2 & E) and a healthy, natural trans-fat (not to be confused with artificial trans-fats, which are harmful) conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Fermented dairy products – like yogurt and kefir – are also great sources of beneficial bacteria. This is important because a baby’s first exposure to bacteria is in his/her mother’s birth canal, and the mother’s gut health has a significant influence on the lifelong health of her baby.

*Some women are scared to eat fish during pregnancy because of concerns about mercury levels. It turns out those concerns have been overblown. Read this article for more information.

Want to supercharge your fertility and promote lifelong health for your baby? Check out the Healthy Baby Code.

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247 thoughts on “5 Primal Superfoods for Fertility and Pregnancy”

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  1. Cod liver oil and liver, both extremely high in vitamin A, and possibly teratogenic to the fetus.

    Proceed with prudence and caution.

    1. Synthetic Vitamin A is toxic. Also, if you don’t take it in the presence of other vitamins that occur with it naturally, like Vitamin D and Vitamin K, it can cause an imballance. That’s why properly prepared cod liver oil is so good for you because it’s natural not synthetic, and it is not seperated from it’s vitamin counterparts.

      1. Exactly. Derek, I responded below but didn’t hit the “reply” button to your comment, so it went into the main comment stream.

        1. Hi Chris,
          What about mercury levels in cod-liver-oil and fish?

          Conventional Wisdom usually suggests that pregnant women not eat or reduce fish unless they are sure that it is not high in mercury. And also that elevated mercury levels will directly affect brain development of fetus and of infants.

        2. Chris, If taking a prenatal vitamin had 1700iu of vitamin A, and omega pill, do I still take the 5ml of the cod liver oil, or do I reduce it.

        3. Hi, I’ve been following you for several months now and love what knowledge you are sharing!!! I have a question…I have a 5 week old who seems to have colic…every night for a few hours he seems to be in great discomfort and very uncontentable, crying out in pain 🙁 We eat a very clean/organic diet…NO wheat/gluten. All our meat and dairy comes from a local farmer who practices biodynamic farming… Everyone keeps telling me it’s the dairy, so I went off the dairy for almost 2weeks and it didn’t seem to help…I drink about a pint of keifer in the am… and milk through out the day!? I just started taking some “pro-zyme” two weeks ago to see if it would help. I’ve also been taking chamomile myself and rubbing it on his belly…I’m too scared to give him anything orally, except breast milk…I’ve been told to try gripe water…or even make him some cham tea…I do have some homegrown chamolile I was going to try one desperate night but didn’t. Could you please help! I am getting very un-nerved…it’s been about 3 weeks since this has started and it only seems to be @ night between 10 and 2…he’s usually a good burper …but just started spitting up…idk what to do. Everyone I ask tells me to give him something orally…? The only thing that seems to calm him is a warm bath, but as soon as were out he’s upset again. Sorry for the long history, just wanted to give you plenty of info :)Thanks, Sarah

        4. Sarah, I hope you subscribed to your comment so you’ll see this.
          Your child may have fructose malabsorption. For some reason, onion and garlic also cause trouble for those with FM. If you are eating onion and garlic, the offending problems are in the breast milk. If you haven’t figured out the issue already, eliminate those and if it helps, be prepared to avoid anything with more fructose than glucose when he gets older.

      2. But the form of vitamin A in Cod Liver Oil is retinol, which can be toxic if taken in very high amounts for a long time.

        1. If you get 3rd party purity tested cod oil it is mercury free. You can buy it at a health food market.

    2. As with everything, common sense is the key. Don’t sit down and eat 3 pounds of liver and drink a bottle of cod liver oil then follow it up with the biggest plate of sushi you’ve ever had in your life. Eat regular portions, only when you are hungry, and eat until you’re full. Pregnant or not. Women may be hungry more often during pregnancy, which is normal, but gaining 50 pounds of body fat from sitting and eating constantly is not good for the mom or the baby. Too much sugar is bad for the fetus, yet women usually crave sweets during pregnancy. Too much of anything is bad for the fetus. Just eat a normal healthy diet with regular portions, and the foods listed above are good to eat for several reasons when eaten in moderation as they always should be anyway. 🙂

  2. This is brilliant. Only if this article could be posted everywhere for parents-to-be to see. It kills me that families still think bread, oatmeal, cereal, pastries, pancakes/waffles, spaghetti/macaroni, etc. are the norm for a healthy diet. People should really open their damn eyes. Great article, none-the-less.

    1. While I agree that it is annoying that people still see grains as the main source of nutrients and energy, it’s not fair to blame people in general and tell them to “open their damn eyes.” For years we have been told a low fat, high carb diet is the way to go, and this is information from health professionals. Why wouldn’t people believe it? If you talk down to people and make them out to be idiots they’ll never listen to you. You’re no better or worse than anyone just because you’re primal. If you want people to see the truth then treat them as equals and don’t dis them on sites like this, it just makes primal advocates look like assholes.

      1. Precisely! You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. Of course, who wants to catch flies, eh?

      2. Eeeee. I disagree… I’m a health care provider & I’ve never had any MD or other provider tell me that eating a high carb diet low fat diet was good. Most docs that I’ve known & nurses encourage people to eat less sugar & carbs & more dense foods. I’m not sure where your getting your info… it’s ancient info.

        1. If you look at the food pyramid you will see that grains are at the bottom and it recommends that we eat at least 6 portions a day. This is regularly handed out to every kid in school. “Healthy Wholegrain” is a phrase used way too often by health professionals.

    2. I think the problem is they dont realize how easy it is to cook home made food that is actually home made. allrecipes.com has some awesome things for people that dont know where to start.

  3. I purchased Kresser’s “Healthy Baby Code” for my then pregnant sister. The series is a great nutrition primer for anyone. As a single male with no plans to have children, I highly recommend the Healthy Baby Code for anyone who wants a layman’s crash course in nutrition.

  4. I’m nine months pregnant right now, four more weeks to go, and finding good dietary advice for pregnancy is nearly non-existant. All advice out there right now is that paleo/primal and anything resembling LCHF is horribly dangerous. I think most of this is based on them not wanting women to gain weight during pregnancy and seeing fat as a prime culprit in weight gain. They seem to tollerate women gaining weight but would be even happier if they gained non at all (but don’t lose weight unless it’s due to morning sickness!). For some reason it is considered safer to be vegan, I shudder at the thought. The only organization that publishes dietary guidelines for pregnancy that make any sense at all is the Weston A Price Foundation. I hope a greater expansion of this blog post is forth coming as we lack good sound advice on this topic.

    1. I’m also nine months pregnant and completely agree that there is a serious need for more information like this to be put forth. Just go to any parenting website with message boards and you will see how much bad dietary information there is out there for pregnant and lactating mothers. One user posted that she had to quit her low carb diet after the baby came, (which she was following due to gestational diabetes), because her doctor told her it was “dangerous” to nurse and continue to follow a low carb diet. And the advice about avoiding saturated fats and sticking to “healthier” vegetable fats and low-fat dairy is rampant.

    2. I ate a lot of fatty food and meats and hardly any grains in my last two trimesters (I craved carbs in the first few months!). I gained a total of 25 lbs during my pregnancy– most in the first trimester when I was eating a lot of grains. I didn’t gain anything in the third trimester despite eating way more meat and fat than ever (but almost nothing processed). My baby was 7lbs at birth and very healthy. I think her health had a lot to do with my diet. I was vegetarian for 7 years, had PCOS and trouble conceiving. When I changed my diet, conceiving naturally was easy.

      1. I wondered if the paleo way of eating would help with conception as well. I am hoping that it will help me conceive easily as well.

        1. I realise I’m replying to a very old post, so hopefully by now you already have your bundle of joy but for the benefit of those reading through these comments…

          Mark Sisson’s “colleague” for want of a better word, Andreas over at diet doctor dot com interviewed a specialist fertility doctor with a preference for nutrition over pharmaceuticals, the video is still on his youtube channel and I’d recommend for those trying to get pregnant but also people worried about an unconventional diet.

          The specialist doesn’t really go into great detail but touches around the edges, edifying everything Mark says. Besides saying that a healthy metabolism and therefore diet (lchf), is vital to good fertility. He also touches on what comes after conception through gestation and also after birth. His sentiment that struck a chord with me (being a non-pregnant man) was that, what was healthy for conception was clearly good for the life of a human in general!

          To throw my own 2 cents in the mix, I’ve found the primal diet to have improved many things. From weight loss through to easy weight maintenance, unbounded energy to easy building of lean body mass, even things as simple as clearer skin and ridiculously strong fingernails. All of these things make me feel and look healthier.

          Forgetting all the reasons given by advocates and enemies of low carb / high fat diets alike, going on how I “feel”!! The fad diet I thought I was trying for a few weeks has become a lifestyle! Sadly too many people don’t dare make the leap to listening to their body, they “think” they feel great not knowing how GREAT they’d feel if they quit the junky carbs like grains.

  5. Derek,

    That is a myth. I cover it in great detail in the Healthy Baby Code, but here’s the gist: vitamin A is only toxic in high amounts when vitamins D and K2 are also deficient.

    Supplementing with vitamin D radically increases the threshold for vitamin A toxicity. A 160 lb. person would need to take over 200,000 IU per day of vitamin A to reach a toxic level. Considering that a serving of cod liver oil has about 3-5,000 IU of vitamin A (depending on dose and product), it’s nowhere near the toxic range.

    This is another reason why it’s so important to obtain nutrients from food when possible. Cod liver oil is high in vitamin A, but it’s also high in vitamin D – which protects agains the potential toxicity of vitamin A. Nature’s wisdom, once again.

    Incidentally, the one study that showed that vitamin A is toxic during pregnancy has been roundly criticized and discredited. Several other studies have not shown any increase in birth defects from vitamin A supplementation. On the contrary, most studies showed that mothers who supplemented with relatively high doses (10,000 IU) of vitamin A (even synthetic forms) had a lower risk of birth defects than mothers who didn’t.

    1. Chris,

      Do you recommend a particular brand of Cod Liver Oil? What about fermented CLO? Is that preferred to unfermented? If so, why?

      Thanks for your help! And thanks for what you do. This article is much-needed in today’s world!

      1. Kristi,

        Yes, I recommend the Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil. Fermentation is preferable because it’s a cold-processing method. Omega-3 fats are fragile and vulnerable to heat-processing.

        The fermentation may also increase the amounts of K2.

        1. Chris,
          What condition are the omega-3 fats in from canned fish like salmon?

        2. Derek, do you think it is worth it to get the Green Pastures Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend? Or would the Cod Liver Oil provide most of the benefits?

    2. Chris,

      I agree with your comments and position, that’s why I used the word “possibly” in my statement.

      But I think any time you speak of peri/prenatal nutrition, and mention liver/cod liver oil, it’s worth discussing toxicity.

      This audience is astute, but some people like to think if a little is good, more must be better.

      There’s a reason the practice of obstetrics has ridiculous rates for malpractice insurance. It’s a touchy subject, and anytime advice is given, it should certainly be done with caution.

      Anyway, I like your articles, just mentioning that it seemed this article was too brief and not inclusive enough, given the subject.

      1. It’s also worth pointing out that the article says milk is a good source of vitamin D. This is true in the US, where milk is supplemented with vitamin D (by law). In the UK – and lots of other places, I would imagine – milk is not fortified with vitamin D, so milk is not a good source of this nutrient. Also, I would guess that raw milk is not fortified, even in the US.

    3. I’m sure you must be aware of the view by some promoters of high Vitamin D blood levels that almost any amount of retinol will prevent the Vitamin D from being benificial. They say you should let your body regulate how much retinol to produce from beta caretene. I guess I should rethink this because it caused me to stay away from CLO for the last 2 or 3 years. I even avoided a salmon oil supplement because it has a small amount of retinol in it. It seems reasonable that our paleo ancesters ate liver from every kill while walking that 99.5 yards, but wouldn’t have been able to concentrate it by extracting the oil. It leads me to seek more knowledge on the subject, like I currently am doing concerning dairy, try to make sense out of all the opposing views.

      1. The problem with most knowledge about vitamin A and D is that most of the research has been done in isolation- looking at vitamin A without D, and vice versa. The truth is, A, D and K2 all work together, and protect against toxicity of each other. Vitamin A toxicity only seems to appear if D is deficient, and Vitimin D Toxicity only seems to appear if A is deficient.

        There’s also the idea that findings have been misinterpreted. For example, and increase of Vitamin A may increase calcium in the urine, and this was thought to be bad for bones. But what could be happening is that K2 is removing that calcium from arteries (which is bad for cardiovascular health), and then A is escorting it out of the body. In this case, elevated calcium in the urine is a good thing.

        And of course, Vitamin K2 has been largely overlooked.

      2. Not everyone efficiently converts beta carotene to retinol (esp. people with thyroid disease). If I take D3 without taking any retinol, I develop mild keratosis pilaris on the back of my arms (usually a sign of retinol deficiency) and it clears up quickly after adding retinol.
        I get plenty of beta carotene from green and orange veggies, but I don’t convert it well.

    4. I think I know the study you’re referring to – this one, yes? Even that doesn’t suggest that pregnant women shouldn’t ever have liver: I calculate that it should be safe to have 20–30g of liver now and again at least, based on those numbers.

      Could you supply links to the other papers, the ones that show a lowered risk with Vitamin A? I’ve found studies in non-pregnant women, and studies in monkeys, but nothing else that actually deals with pregnant humans taking Vitamin A.

    5. Chris, I’m not trying to get pregnant, but would like to start the FCLO/butter oil blend from Green Pastures (they are currently out of stock). I plan to discontinue my fish oil and vitamin D3 supplements after starting the FCLO/BO. Is that wise? I plan to still take my high quality multivitamin daily. Do you think that could be harmful?

  6. whether or not to have children is everyone’s personal decision. it worries me though,that fewer intelligent, educated, financially stable people are having children. maybe i’m a bigot, but why should we leave the future generations to the ignorant, SAD eating masses? i guess i want to believe that there is hope for the world by living and eating better. passing along that health and knowledge is part of improving the world, imho.

  7. Mark, I love reading your blog every day! I am planning on getting pregnant for the 2nd time in about a year. I am thinking about taking Cod Liver Oil as a supplement soon. Is all the vitamin A in Cod Liver Oil is okay for the developing baby? I’ve heard scary stuff about too much vitamin A. BTW, our first baby is 2-1/2 and is very healthy besides having an intolerance to dairy. We are getting ready to try raw dairy with him. He’s also doing amazingly on an 80% primal diet!

    1. Jess…I would absolutely try organic whole raw dairy for your child…then get yourself some kefir grains and make him some kefir. I drink a pint a day. You want to make your gut happy with tons of beneficial bacteria? Drink kefir…as well as lacto-fermented veggies (see the perfectpickler.com) I know it’s not 100% primal/paleo, but I would NOT give it up for the sake of the health of my gut…which ultimately boosts my immune system. I know a father of 6 who got his 12 year old on organic raw dairy and his asthma was cured in 2 weeks…no more meds, etc. I also ate sardines during my whole pregnancy 22 years ago. I didn’t care about weight gain as long as I was eating healthy. Our son was just shy of 9 lbs. And I think all that good fat helped as well as I don’t have one stretch mark on my tummy…and I got huge…all out front. Regarding CLO…go for it. I even have my dog on it. IMHO it’s the best natural anti-inflammatory hands down. Green Pastures carries the best form…Blue Ice High Vitamin Butter Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend. The cinnamon tingle is outstanding. Good luck with your upcoming pregnancy. Regards, Penny

      1. Penny, THANK YOU so much for the website for perfect pickler. It is affordable and I have been looking for ways to ferment veggies that didnt cost upwards of $50. I will be ordering from them soon. Thank you!

  8. So glad this was posted. The woman who sits next to me at work is 7 months pregnant and is constantly eating fast food and microwavable meals. It hurts me to watch and I wish there was better education about the foods you should be eating while creating a human being.

    1. Yes, it’s physically painful, isn’t it? And it just becomes even more painful when we fully understand how important nutrition during pregnancy is for the *lifelong* health of our children.

      1. It’s ridiculous! During my pregnancy I told my midwife I was waking up hungry in the middle of the night and she actually told me to eat something sweet right before bed “to keep my blood sugar up over night”. As a lifelong hypoglycemic, I had no problem telling her that advice was absolutely wrong and I would not be following it. Too bad I didn’t know about Primal/paleo eating back then… I could have avoided alot of problems.

  9. just finished making liver meatballs for the week! I’ve also been using raw egg yolks as dressing lately… hopefully setting myself up for a healthy pregnancy someday.

    1. hi Katie,

      would you mind posting a recipe for the liver meatballs? I hate liver, but I know I should eat it…any tasty ways to take it in are greatly appreciated 🙂

      1. i second that request for the recipe! i’ve been meaning to eat liver for a long time, and as i’m pregnant now, i REALLY should eat it…

      2. First post on this site, so don’t get harsh on me 🙂 I like chicken livers (from before knowing this is healthy eating) made this easy way: heat 1-2 tablespoons of cooking fat in skillet (I use olive oil but here it seems not good so use what you want) on medium. Fry the chicken livers, covered, for a few minutes, turning once, just until, when poked with a fork, the juice is no longer red, not more. Salt AFTER turning off the heat. Pepper if you wish. Use the cooking liquid as sauce on whatever you eat it with. That’s it – awesome, melt-in-your-mouth, real flavour chicken livers. I’d eat them everyday, but it’s hard to find organic ones…

        As for chicken liver pate (spread, dip etc) take the said livers after they get cool, pulse in food processor with a dollop of butter, some onion slowly pan-fried in butter, salt and pepper. Delish!

    2. I second randi’s request… I’m not a huge fan of liver, but meatballs should be tasty. Could you share your recipe?

      1. I started making a similar meatball (using thai flavors like ginger & lemongrass) and my liver-hating husband and 3yr old eat them up, having no clue about the liver 🙂

  10. Well, my son certainly got a nutritional boost in being such a smarty-pants. I CRAVED whole eggs while I was pregnant, and ate about half a dozen a day. Yay, choline!

  11. Chris, do you have any advice for the men? My husband has hemochromatosis which was diagnosed in his early 20’s, and due to that, has a very low sperm count. Because of this, we were told our only hope of getting pregnant was in vitro fertilization which we did in January 2008 and we had a beautiful baby girl that fall. We would absolutely love to have another baby, but in vitro is very expensive! My husband is very interested in finding a way to naturally raise his testosterone levels – he has not transitioned fully to primal eating – other than making that change, is there anything else he can do?

    1. Yes, in general men should follow the same approach I outline for women. However, since your husband has hemochromatosis, he has to avoid iron-rich foods like organ meat, oysters and too much red meat (beef, lamb). He should also be following fairly aggressive iron reduction strategies to keep his ferritin <100 and iron saturation <45. The reason his testosterone is low is because iron damages the pituitary gland, which secretes LH and FSH. LH acts on the leydig cells, which produce testosterone. FSH acts on the sertoli cells, which produce sperm. Reducing iron levels to the targets mentioned above should improve his testosterone production and sperm count.

      1. Thanks for the info Chris – when my husband was initially diagnosed, he did a very aggressive phlebotomy treatment to get his levels within the normal range, and again, that was probably 15 years ago. No one ever told us that him having hemochromatosis would affect his fertility. Is it possible that his extremely high ferritin and iron levels (1600-1800) when he was first diagnosed have permanently damaged his pituitary glands? We have never really been able to get a straight answer from anyone! He now does quarterly phlebotomies to keep his levels normal. Thanks!!

        1. Unfortunately, it is possible. But the reason no one has answered you definitively is that it’s difficult to know for sure. He may simply need additional support to regulate hormone production after the initial damage elevated iron did.

    2. There’s a lot he can do, including bioidentical testosterone supplementation. Also you don’t say where his weight is at, fat is estrogenic & suppresses testosterone production as does a high carb diet, & toxic adulterated liquid vegetable oils & trans fats in take out, fast & junk “foods” completely disrupt & shut down the entire hormone system & block uptake of essential O-6&3 fats & probably all fat soluble vitamins too.

      “…a quarter of all men have low sperm counts, and obese men are 42 percent more likely to be among them than normal-weight men.

      Even more frightening, the obese are 81 percent more likely to make no sperm at all.

      …extra body fat has the unique ability to turn testosterone into estrogen, and once that excess estrogen starts flowing through a man’s body he may as well start knitting.” douglassreport . com

      1. He is actually at a pretty healthy weight – he fluctuates between 165 and 175 and is about 5’10.” Like most men, he carries his fat around his belly and sides. He did try to go primal a while back, but had some serious low-carb flu and couldn’t handle it. Although he usually eats primal for dinner with me, breakfast and lunch are typically a SAD and lunch is often fast food b/c he’s on the road a lot during the day. I am doing my best to get him and my 3 year old on board by slowly weaning them from the carbs!

  12. My wife and I teach a natural childbirth class that has an emphasis on nutrition. I find the advice of the course matches pretty well with primal eating, advocating healthy fats, protein such as liver, eggs, leafy vegetables, colored vegetables, calcium/dairy, all daily.
    It does recommend whole grains as well. I figure if they are eating all the nutrient rich foods we emphasize they won’t have time to over-indulge in too much grains and will be much better off than on a SAD diet.

  13. If one were to follow these eating habits, would that make prenatal vitamins unnecessary?

    1. Even in the context of a Primal diet with superfoods like I’ve recommended here, it can be difficult to get adequate folate and vitamin D. So I do recommend supplementing with folate (NOT folic acid), and checking D levels periodically before and during pregnancy to ensure they’re in the 35-60 range.

      1. Can you explain what is wrong with folic acid? My husband and I are trying to conceive and my ob put me on 4 mg’s of folic acid because I have very minor spina bifida they found on an x-ray. Not knowing anything about folic acid, it seemed like a really high dose.

        1. I recently wrote an entire article on the subject. I’d post the link here, but they’re getting stuck in the moderation queue. Do a Google search for “Chris Kresser folic acid” and it will be the first article that comes up.

      2. Is it bad to take New Chapter prenatal a (5000 iu of beta carotene) daily AND fclo/Bo from Green Pastures? I am convinced that fclo is ok, but what I haven’t seen is whether or not it is ok to mix the two supplements. Thanks!

    2. Definatly stick with the prenatals! Looking back at my own pregnancies I would not have been able to stomach CLO, liver and fish especially during those first few months! I did maintain a low carb diet and ended up with two healthy and pretty darn cute babies.

      1. I would agree with Chris’s reply, since this exactly how we ate for my wife’s first pregnancy. The only supplements were Vit D drops 4-6K unit to stay in the 70+ range(recommended by her OB) and folate. Her OB always commented how she was one of his easisest patients and always looked forward to our visits. We were one of the few, if only, who had no issues from start to finish. One way I found to include liver and CLO into my wife’s diet was to mix CLO into shakes/smoothies and mix liver into our ground beef dishes using a cheese grater. You wont even know its in there and I know, since people who gag from eating liver have ate it this way at our house with no issues.

  14. Given that even grass-fed raw dairy is highly insulinogenic, is it a wise choice for pregnancy? The corrollary question – what is the effect of repeated high insulin spikes on fetal development?

    1. Insulin is not a problem. We eat carbohydrate, we secrete insulin, insulin moves the glucose into cells, cells use the glucose. This is normal physiology. It only becomes a problem when someone is insulin and leptin resistant.

  15. Love the info Chris, thank you. I wish we’d known about it back when my two sons were born (the oldest turns 12 today actually). I often wonder if we might have escaped the onset of his type 1 diabetes with a primal diet.

    That said, my friend’s wife had been unable to conceive for years and years and they heard about the primal/paleo diet from us, tried it, and their beautiful baby girl is now almost a year old. Keep up the good work.

    @dystopicthinker

    1. I read Dr. Atkins vita-therapy (or some title like that) book some years ago and he thought that the onset of type 1 had some relation to I believe it was Vit-A deficiency and appeared to have success in preventing it with therapeutic doses. I had a coworker with type 1 who was on a low-fat/low-sugar diet because that was supposed to save her from heart disease and cancer…unfortunately her adolescent developed type 1 too.

      1. Actually, that is a pretty typical diet for those with type 1. They should watch their carb (not just sugar) intake and eat low fat. The low fat is not 100% UNLESS she has problems with blood sugar. If that’s out of control you should 100% eat low fat.

        The high blood glucose makes fat stick to your vessels easier. So, unless you’re controlled you should keep it low fat.

    2. Our now 19y.o.daughter got diabetes 1 when she was 10y.o.We also wonder this as the three of us are now eating basically Primal/Paleo.It came as a huge shock as we have no other diabetics in the family.At the time we were eating very healthily but of course not primal.At age 7 she was trekking in the Himalayas with us and at 10 in hospital very sick.She is now very independent and going great and at uni but what a journey it’s been!

  16. I ate primal before and during my first pregnancy, continued to do so while breastfeeding, and am doing it once again for baby #2. Not only is it the healthiest way to eat for a developing baby (and his/her mama!), but it is also completely doable and sustainable during pregnancy. The popular idea that pregnancy is a time to eat whatever you want and give in to every craving you have is ludicrous to me. I have tried to improve my diet beyond “baseline primal” as much as possible during both pregnancies, going out of my way to eat things I normally don’t (ie liver and sardines). I get morning sickness, fatigue, and cravings just like every other mom, but a healthy baby is more important to me than satisfying a yen! If only popular opinion seemed to feel the same way…

    1. Kelly-

      I am now on my 3rd week of Primal and couldn’t feel better! My husband and I are thinking about starting to try in October. All I want is for a healthy pregnancy and baby! Naturally, I’m nervous of staying on Primal because of its bad wrap, but after seeing your post it provides some confidence that I’m making the right decision. Did you do prenatals and mult-vitamins before and during?

  17. Blargh. I’ve been supplementing folate (800 mcg), D3 (4000 IU), and Omega-3s (1500mg/900 EPA/600 DHA), and now this article has totally confused me.

    I’ve looked at CLO, but frankly it just doesn’t seem to provide as much D3 as my supplement, but now I’m worried I’m not getting enough Vitamin A.

    If I supplemented CLO, would I need the D3 and Omega-3s still? I eat liver about once a week, I eat plenty of grassfed dairy, and I even try to work in egg yolks even though I don’t enjoy them. I’m not a fish fan. Any ideas? So confused; what values should I be aiming for?

    1. I’d think if you are eating 3oz of pastured liver a week then you would be set.

      Be creative: Do you like hollandaise sauce? That is mainly egg yolk. I for one love mustard hollandaise but use a spice you like.

      Fish. Try braising fish with other flavors/spices you like to create a taste that is less “fish” and the texture will be moist and flaky/shredded when you put your fork through.

      Saute more veggies in bacon fat, lard, tallow, etc to better absorb all the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K).

    2. Krill oil is more expensive than cod liver oil but it’s excellent for Omega 3s and it comes in tiny little red caplets. So if you’re looking for another source of Omega 3, that’s one.

    3. The only way to know if you’re getting enough D (through CLO and fatty fish) is to test your levels. I recommend testing before pregnancy, during the first trimester and at the beginning of the 3rd trimester – when the fetal skeleton is rapidly developing and mom’s need for vitamin D is the highest. You should be in the range of 40-60 (roughly).

      Unfortunately, testing is the only way to know what dose of vitamin D is necessary. There is a wide range of absorption from food and production from sunlight of D from individual to individual.

      1. Thanks everyone. 🙂 I had my Vit-D checked last year, but will get checked again. We’re trying to conceive as of last month, and I’m just trying to up my odds!

  18. Chris – how do you feel about krill oil vs. cod liver oil (for both pregnancy or not pregnant)?

    1. CLO is superior because it contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, D & K2 (in the case of fermented cod liver oil). In fact, I think of CLO as primarily a fat-soluble vitamin supplement, and secondarily as a source of omega-3s.

  19. Thank you for this wonderful post today!

    I read TPB in April 2010 during spring break at the beach with my husband and our to kids, aged 11 and 13 at the time. It caused a revolution in my thinking, and we adopted the lifestyle upon returning home.

    By the end of May 2010 I was pregnant. No kidding. We weren’t trying – in fact we were actively NOT trying. To me, that’s how successful primal/paleo eating and lifestyle is!

    During the pregnancy I was mostly primal but still managed to become diabetic as I had in at least one of my previous pregnancies. This required a trip to the hospital dietician, whose sample menu for a day’s eating included 8oz skim milk, three slices of whole wheat bread, two “low-fat” chocolate chip cookies, an apple and 2T full-sugar peanut butter. When I pointed out the effect that these foods would have on my BG and subsequent insulin response, she became rude and combative. I thanked her for her time and pamphlet and assured her that in no way would I follow her suggestions.

    In February 2011 I delivered an 8 lb 14 oz baby at 39 weeks gestation – a far cry from the 9 lb 3 oz baby I had at 37 weeks for my prior pregnancy! He was still a little large, but considering that he was probably retaining fluids due to a c-section, I was happy with how things went.

    I am documenting some of how we are raising our little CaveBaby on my blog when I have time. He is such a strong and healthy little dude! At 15 months old he has had ONE teeny, tiny little cold and little else in the way of illness or discomfort.

    The primal/paleo lifestyle is the BEST for getting pregnant, maintaining a healthy pregnancy, and raising a healthy child!

    1. Funny, I just wrote about my own experience below. 3 weeks on the Primal Blueprint diet and I was pregnant (at 41), after 15 months of actively trying and another 5 months of not really trying (but doing nothing to prevent it either).

    2. Be careful what you tell hospital dieticians especially going forward. They could use it as a reason to deny insurance coverage. Smile, say thank you, and dump the pamphlet in the nearest garbage. It is shocking though how many dieticians give precisely backward advice.

      1. Good advice. Fortunately I have government health care (military husband) and my doctor supported my choices, which I was able to substantiate via glucometer readings.

    3. Fantastic! It still makes me shudder that the people who are authorized to pass out nutritional advice and particularly to women who are building our next generation still get it so wrong! Congrats on the little addition to your family!

  20. Mark Sisson got me pregnant.

    Just kidding (sort of). It took me 1.5 years to get pregnant with my 6 year old. When he was 3.5, we started trying again. After about 15 months, we gave up. At that point, we were getting “long in the tooth” anyway.

    Later that summer, I needed to lose a few pounds. I started eating fewer carbs, that helped a bit. Then I decided to try an experiment. Since the paleo folks and the vegans are both so…adamant about their diets and how great they are, I decided to try both.

    Just then, the primal 21-day challenge was starting, so I decided to do that, record how I felt and how my weight changed, then switch to vegan for 21 days and do the same.

    Except very shortly after (1 week, 2 weeks?) the end of the primal challenge (where I still allowed myself one slice of bread at breakfast, I admit it), I found out I was pregnant. At 41. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Up until then, I was trying the low-fat thing, which I’ve been doing for years.

    I admit that I have fallen off the primal wagon while pregnant…there are certain months where I just needed the carbohydrate. But now that I have only 9 weeks to go, I have to say that I am shifting more and more towards it to stem my weight gain. The problem with carbs is that they are addictive.

    I never did make it to that vegan diet experiment. I was happy to read about the liver. I bought some grass fed local liver at the farmer’s market last fall, but then read that I should be eating it while pregnant due to the Vit A, so there it sits in my freezer…waiting for me to not be pregnant.

    1. I LOVE your line about Mark Sisson getting you pregnant. We should start a club and use that as the name. I wasn’t 100% during and immediately after the pregnancy, more like 75% but I was able to recover from a difficult c-section and some serious anemia with the help of liver and steak dinners my husband would bring me from the lovely market near our home.

      Good luck with the last 9 weeks!

    2. Low fat anything suppresses fertility. Something in the processing really impacts you. Also, soy is a major culprit of infertility. Eat the liver while pregnant, it’s safe and the natural vitamins in it are much healthier than what you find in a bottle. I’m nine months pregnant with my second child so I understand your concerns. I found grains were giving me severe congestion, especially in pregnancy, and don’t eat them now. I have normal blood preasure this pregnancy, I had pre-eclampsia last time, and zero swelling or bloating. Carbs are addictive but only if you eat the processed stuff like bread. Fruit might be sweet but can you eat five at one sitting? Bet not.

    3. I got pregnant at the beginning of the primal challenge (I have three weeks to go). And, we were most definitely not trying to get pregnant. I wonder how many other primal challenge babies are out there? 🙂

    4. Marcia thanks for your post! I laughed so hard about Mark getting you pregnant. My husband and I were practicing the paleo/primal for awhile until I got pregnant. Fell into the thinking that I didn’t want my baby to lack a nutrient so started the carbs again, even potatoes and carrots. One of the most difficult things with pregnancy is that the blood sugar drops so fast and I’m instantly hungry, not just a rumble but a feed me now hungry. And if you’re not prepared you grab the slowest moving thing and shove it in the gaping hole.
      Anyways, a few months ago my husband prints out the primal cookbook and says I’m eating off this only (I think he was tired of the pregnancy weight creeping on him as well).
      But my point is this, as soon as I introduced those starches back into my diet I ballooned 40 pounds. Now that I only have 10 weeks left I’m back to eating more closely to the primal diet and am feeling so much better again. You’re so correct about the addiction with carbs!
      Loved your post! Good luck with the baby!

    5. I too have conceived two babies on PB. I was told that I would never have children due to endometriosis when I was 18. I Got pregnant with my oldest at 19 while eating SAD and I am talking NOTHING that did not come out of a box. I didn’t really try or try not to get pregnant after him. I dabbled with paleo in 2008 and went full on out paleo in 2010 and found myself pregnant in 3 months. My little girl is 10 months and we have been blessed with another (unplanned) pregnancy! There is also a HUGE difference in the disposition of my two children. My son was colicky and suffers from some emotional imbalance, my daughter is the happiest little thing ever! She has hit all of her milestones early where he barley reached them on time.

    6. Your story is really inspiring to me. I just turned 40 at the end of November and am hoping to get pregnant this year. I am transitioning to Paleo diet, and hopefully this will boost my chances of getting pregnant, which I know at my age are slim. All the best for you and your family.

  21. I highly recommend purchasing Chris Kresser’s Healthy Baby Code program. My husband and I find it invaluable. We’ve been following the nutrition recommendations for a little less than 1 year now and are 6 months along with our first pregnancy.

  22. What does the graph mean i.e. “Deaths from CHD before age 65” of 1.5? 1.5 per 100,000? Is the difference per birth weight really significant or am I more likely to be struck by lightening?

  23. While I agree with this for the most part. I was told by my doctor even liver is dangerous because of the vitamin A content regardless of whether it’s balanced with other naturally occurring nutrients.

    I also want to forward some advice to pregnant women: if you’re as sick as I was during your pregnancy, eat what you can regardless of whether it’s a grain or not.

    The only thing I COULD eat during the first three months was plain pasta with butter and buttered white bread. Even after the first three months, I had to eat a fair amount of carbs in order to keep enough food down for me and my baby,

    Don’t feel bad because you aren’t eating right for your baby, eat what you can if that’s all you can eat!

    1. It’s also a question of natural vs synthetic vit A; that one (now discredited) study that showed vit A caused birth defects used synthetic stuff.

      Certainly we need to eat. I discovered that being hungry made my nausea worse and gave in to the lure of grains and dairy as quick fixes. But here’s the thing: if you don’t tolerate these foods, you’re exposing your child to your body’s reaction to them, and possibly predisposing their body to expect heightened immune activity etc. It’s not just about the calories.

      There is a strong case for the suggestion that we crave carbs to replace cholesterol and/or hormones carried by it. Eating meat and fat would solve that better but those with low stomach acid or magnesium deficiency may have aversions to exactly those foods. Try ACV and small servings of palatable proteins (liverwurst on toast with a little currant jam?) and work your way up, and regular Epsom salt baths.

      I do entirely agree with you that – provided a woman is not indulging in the pregnancy as get out of jail free fallacy – a side-serving of guilt is just as damaging as crappy nutrition. Do what you can to avoid both!

    2. That’s bullshit, unless you’re subsisting almost entirely on a diet of Arctic animals.

      From Wikipedia re Hypervitaminosis A: “The liver of certain animals — including the polar bear, seal,[12] walrus,[13] and husky — is unsafe to eat because it is extraordinarily high in vitamin A. This danger has long been known to the Inuit and has been recognized by Europeans since at least 1597 when Gerrit de Veer wrote in his diary that, while taking refuge in the winter in Nova Zemlya, he and his men became severely ill after eating polar bear liver.[14] In 1913, Antarctic explorers Douglas Mawson and Xavier Mertz were both poisoned (and Mertz died) from eating the liver of their sled dogs during the Far Eastern Party.[15]”

      And “Although hypervitaminosis A can occur when large amounts of liver (including cod liver oil and other fish oils) are regularly consumed, most cases of vitamin A toxicity result from an excess intake of vitamin A in the form of vitamin supplements. Toxic symptoms can also arise after consuming very large amounts of preformed vitamin A over a short period of time. The U.S. Institute of Medicine says that the Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level (LOAEL) for vitamin A, when taken over an extended period of time is 21,600 IU.[7] Most multivitamins contain vitamin A doses below 10,000 IU, therefore multi-vitamins are unlikely to cause vitamin A toxicity when taken at their recommended dosages.”

      Remember, your doctor is not a nutritionist, most only get 1 week of nutrition in med school, so if you’ve read the Primal Blueprint & understand the basic biochemistry of LCHF & paleo diets you likely know more about nutrition than your doctor.

  24. Hi Chris

    I want to get pregnant I have already use FCLO I eat salmon 4 times a week but do have problem with liver(the taste of it). It is really needful?
    Also I would like to ask you about veggies what kind of veggies is good. I have heard that some of them are not good for thyroid other have oxalic acid, then nighshades etc. So it is ok to eat raw spinach or no? eat tomato? Brolccoli everyday? Thanks a lot

    1. Too many goitrogenic vegetables (primarily the cruciferous veggies) isn’t a good idea because they inhibit iodine absorption. But this can be mitigated by taking 800 mcg of iodine per day, or by cooking the vegetables. Steaming decreases goitrogen content by 30%, boiling and keeping the water by 65%, and boiling and discarding the water by 90%.

      1. Hi Chris,
        I make sauerkraut with red cabbage. Does fermentation mitigate the effect on iodine absorption?

    1. All types of liver, but beef liver is probably the best choice in general. Chicken liver is especially high in folate, which is a crucial nutrient during pregnancy.

      1. If anyone is looking for a great liver drink, Nourishing Traditions has the Pottenger (Dr. Francis Pottenger who did the cat studies) Liver Cocktail…I drink it daily.

        1 small chunk pasture-fed beef or lamb liver frozen for at least 14 days
        4-6 oz tomato juice (I use organic Very Veggie
        dash of tabasco sauce or to taste
        squeeze of lime juice
        1 tablespoon whey

        Since I make my own organic whole raw milk Greek yogurt weekly I have plenty of fresh whey. I’m guessing this may be hard for some people to come by.

        I put all in a tall glass and blend with a hand blender. Yum Yum!!

        Note: to make things quick and easy I thaw my liver and cut into chunks (about a tablespoon) and put into icecube trays. Take out when frozen, pop out and put in a freezer bag and take out a chunk when you are ready to make the cocktail.

        If I’m in a really big hurry, I always have some desiccated liver on hand and pop 3 tabs.

        “Invest in your food…invest in your health” Penny

  25. Absolutely love and agree with everything here. There is a paucity of good pregnancy info and it’s helpful to find things like this. I just want to include a bit of encouragement to mothers who may not have eaten ideally during pregnancy. I work in early childhood healthcare and I see many babies born into less than ideal situations (far more severe than being the product of microwaved meals) and they live happy, healthy lives. Sure we can argue if they are or are not ideally healthy, but sometimes mothers don’t have this info and sometimes things happen that cannot be mitigated. Your baby can still be ok. For example, I am a soy-formula baby, which is not a great idea we now know, and maybe I’m not as ok as a breast fed baby, but I’m happy and healthy and that’s all I can ask for.

  26. Question – the weight at birth (chart) and at one year (PDF link) refer to males correct? There are gender differences in weight?

    Also, I think what you feed kids in their first year of life is just as important. Kids who eat fatty fish (salmon) before their 1st birthday have lower incidences of ezema and asthma (so I’ve read), for example. I hope diet has SOME influence because I’d hate for my daughter who was born 7 weeks premature with congential heart defect (birth weight 3.4lbs, weight at 1st birthday 16lbs) to be doomed. She’s thriving now, at age 7, eats nutritious food, but will always be a peanut (40lbs now, not tall, very slight build {inherited}, but eats like a horse, very endearing).

    1. Yes, you’re correct – that study was conducted on men.

      I agree that nutrition during early childhood is also crucial. I discuss how to introduce “first foods” and which are most important in the Healthy Baby Code.

      Good nutrition during the early childhood period can make up for a lot.

      1. I was hoping that eating well as an adult could help. I was premature, w/ asthma & now (I think) autoimmune thyroid disorder, obesity, and likely some insulin resistance.

        *sadpanda about the future.

    2. This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about. Major kudos to you for hanging in there and what a blessing to have your daughter seven years later and healthy!

  27. As a farmer who raises livestock, I can confirm that animals (all species) who don’t get a good start in life often end up in the ‘failure-to-thrive’ category and most often, the stew pot. As we humans get further away from our food supply, we lose sight of the big picture of what it means to be healthy.

  28. Great info! I always suspected there was a connection between early health in the womb and health later on. I weighed under 4lbs. at birth and had depressed lung function. 35 years later I struggled with nearly all the issues listed but have since over come most of them with diet and exercise. Now that I’m planning my own pregnancy, I plan to continue on the Paleo path.

  29. The diet certainly doesn’t hurt, I started the diet 3 months before our IUI and got pregnant that cycle. The biggest push back i hear from doctors about primal is low carb ketosis, that is apparently to be avoided during pregnancy. Otherwise they were fine w/ my diet, just wanted me to get more calories since i wasn’t gaining much. I tried eating eggs and liver and just gagged on it, major egg aversion during pregnancy. The things i really craved were grapefruits and apples. And then my baby was born rather tiny for gest age, 6lbs at 38 1/2 wks, and still couldn’t put on much weight until we started supplementing formula at 3 months, much to my chagrin. Now she’s a happy chubster at 4 months.

  30. Chris can you address the issue of rancid fish oil. I stopped taking it because of studies I found that said it did more harm due to the fish oil not being able to be preserved properly.

  31. What about for dudes? Do the same foods boost male fertility?

  32. Ergh. I so wanted to be primal during pregnancy. Unfortunately any meat or fish or eggs made me violently sick by week 7 and any vegetables (fruit was strangely OK) by week 6. Seriously,even the sight of squash would make me unable to eat. Conversely the only thing that eased the nausea and made me able to function, was rice, or bread. I think primal is a great approach (I would watch the liver… research is conflicting) but sometimes it is just not possible.

    1. I couldn’t stand the sight of eggs for my most recent first trimester either. Everything else was fine, and I’ve eaten them like crazy the rest of my life. It seems like a common aversion for many first trimester women… does anybody know why?

  33. Oh, how I wish I could have followed this advice during my pregnancy! As a woman with PCOS, I “accidentally” became pregnant (I was eating a healthy, mostly primal diet), but during pregnancy, I dealt with hyperemesis gravidarum. That means that I vomited for 9 months and was on prescription anti-emetics, near hospitalization the whole time. Yogurt with frozen berries were a good option, but eggs would get stuck in my nose when I’d vomit. Ice cream was the only thing I found to help with my third trimester migraines. Now that my baby is born and I’m breastfeeding, I’m back to a nutrient-dense, grain-free diet. I just hope that I didn’t stray too far off course during pregnancy!

      1. Almost all, from Wikipedia re Liver (food):
        “There have been several anecdotal reports and a few scientific studies of vitamin A poisoning due to the consumption of the livers of polar bears, seals and huskies. The livers of these animals can contain very high levels of vitamin A.[2] The Inuit will not eat the liver of polar bears or seals.[2]

        Vitamin A poisoning is less likely from consuming oil-based vitamin A products and liver than from consuming water-based and solid preparations.[5]”

  34. Yay! I ate all five of these foods during my pregnancy! And I’m now cuddling my two-week-old infant girl who was born weighing 8 lbs 12 oz!!

  35. I am about 7 mos pregnant and for most of the pregnancy I adhered to a paleo diet and had a sugar aversion and still got diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I could not tolerate the 50g of glucose or the 100g they make you drink for that test! So I am now required to take a nutrition class and monitor my glucose. All my meal numbers are lower than their standard range however my fasting glucose maybe a few points elevated. Their diet suggests I eat whole grains to avoid ketosis. Any suggestions as to what other carbs to eat besides sweet potatoes? I do eat some fruit. Is that enough to avoid ketones? Also how to lower my fasting glucose? I am trying to avoid being on insulin. Thanks.

    1. Plantains (both ripe and unripe), taro root (slice & brush with duck fat or lard to make the best chips ever!), yuca (make fries with duck fat/lard; see my recent recipe for this on my website) and more exotic choices like lotus root.

      You don’t need much carbohydrate to avoid ketosis. Usually 50 grams will prevent it.

  36. I once considered FCLO, but because I ate so much liver (5 or 6 big portions a week – it’s now down to about 4 big portions at lunches) I thought I’d get too much Vit A.

    When I eat liver, while I eat sardines and 1 to 3eggs everyday, I’ve been having a couple of drops of Vit D drops (very good value) at 4000IU each. If I remember right from the WPF, a good ratio is 5:1, A:D.

  37. 14 years ago I gave birth to a girl over 10 lbs. Trying to give her a good start I became a vegan during my pregnancy. I went from 120lbs to 215lbs during this pregnancy. She is now wheat & dairy intolerant and ADD. I wish I would have known.

  38. What about folic acid? Doctors stress the importance of getting enough especially in the first trimester. Do paleo food supply enough? If so, which ones?

    1. Folate is a crucial nutrient during pregnancy, and is difficult to get enough of in the context of a Primal diet. This is one thing I recommend most women supplement with for fertility and pregnancy.

      Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, and should not be supplemented with.

  39. Just had a awesome pregnancy. I am 37 and went primal half way through the pregnancy. Best , easiest and fith pregnancy! Beautiful 8 pound 2 ounce boy and I am thinner than when I got pregnant at 7 weeks post partum. The only time I felt yucky or had heart burn was when I had any grains or sugar. I had several pounds of elk liver in the freezer and got organic chicken livers from the farmers market but I slowed down because of the vitamin A worries and did lots of fish oils and organic food . Now I am breast feeding and still going strong on the primal blueprint, the baby is a happy mellow thing that has gained 4 pounds in 7 weeks.. The only hard part is trying to master the pull up!

  40. Mark u left out COCONUTS, I would add coconut oil and coconut milk and coconut products to the list, its very healthy and beneficial for fertility and in pregnancy and post pregnancy.

  41. Thank you for posting this! Now- to figure out how to pass it along to resistant pregnant friends!

  42. Question: I am 7mos pregnant, third kiddo. Eating mostly primal when not dealing with nausea.
    I currently take a vit D3 supplement. 3-4 drops (1000 IU’s per drop) daily. If I start taking the cod liver oil, should I stop or reduce the D3 drops?
    (I had my vitamin d level tested at the beginning of my pregnancy and it was low. Doc recommended 1000 IUs/day. I have not had it retested since then. Guess I should.)
    Thanks!

  43. Chris,

    I just started eating a primal diet and I expect I will begin losing weight as Im currently overweight, but Im also trying to conceive. Will I have to stop eating primal when I get pregnant if I keep losing weight? If you are losing weight, you are in ketosis, right? I know it would be ideal to lose the weight before trying but due to our age and some fertility issues we feel it’s best to not wait any longer. What can I do to ensure that our future baby will have the best chance of living a healthy life if Im overweight while pregnant?

    1. Ketosis and weight loss are NOT the same thing.
      Your metabolism will change in pregnancy (the switch flips to “hoard”), so as long as you have a nutritional balance and caloric intake that covers your collective needs, ignore the scale.
      The biggest concern are any underlying health issues that led to your overweight situation – are they dealt with? If your guts are healthy and hormones in order, your weight will sort itself out. And as many people here have said, so will your reproductive status!

    2. As Lauren said, losing weight will not put you into ketosis. Ketosis is caused by a very low carbohydrate intake. I don’t recommend a ketogenic diet during pregnancy, because glucose needs are higher during pregnancy. It is absolutely not a good idea to follow a caloric restricted diet during pregnancy.

  44. I love all of your articles. But i’d seriously love to see some info on a PCOS diagnosed woman trying to conceive and what would be recommended? Going Low-carb has brought back regular periods, but not sure that means fertility. Would it be dangerous to continue this during pregnancy? I fear miscarriage as it’s common for PCOS women…just curious, great article all the same 🙂

  45. Thank you so much for an article like this! My third baby is two months old and while I was pregnant I could find very little information on following a low-carb diet during pregnancy. We have followed the PB for about two years now, and really believe in the truth of this lifestyle, but it sure was hard to find information to support it while pregnant or breastfeeding. So, it’s very nice to see this information out there!

  46. Thank you for this article! Can you do a similar one for nursing moms? Or would your recommendations be the same?

  47. Thanks everyone. Mark, do you think foie gras is a safe way to get liver into the diet during pregnancy?

  48. We have 2 boys, and both were feed semi palio, my wife was still not onboard then and we didnt have the foods down pat as we have it now, grass feed, good eggs and so on. But since I do most of the cooking she luckly didnt have a choice for the main meals. My wife was told specificaly NOT to eat liver and so many other things incase of food poisoning. Actually it makes sence! If you are going to eat these things, purchasing them from the supermarket is probably not such a good idea, a sick cow/chicken on SAD diet can only donate sick livers upon the sweet release of death. Still, both pregnancies, went fine, and doctors comented about the health of the placenta. So we did something right.

  49. Hi Chris, My husband and I have been Paleo/primal for a few years now. I’m currently 5 months pregnant and finally able to eat full PB again. I was so sick with extreme food aversions for the first 4 months, that even the smell of meat cooking sent me to the bathroom. I unfortunately had to stomach down, gf bread w/almond butter, bananas, fruit I was fine with, quinoa and I supplemented protein with a vegan protein shake I could stomach. I feel bad about the choices I had to make, any ideas for those with extreme sickness? I hope to have another someday down the road and would love any ideas, as I still am struggling with a tiny bit of nasuea still. Thanks!!

    1. Maybe try to drink raw pasteurized eggs? The pasteurization will kill any harmful pathogens and when eggs are raw they don’t really have a smell or taste. You can get some protein that way and many other vitamins like choline and iron.

    2. Sometimes extra vitamin b-6 can help with nausea in early pregnancy. Also, second pregnancies are often different than the first, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect you’ll have the same issue.

  50. interesting. because ive found from midwives that you can lessen morning sickness by eating 80-100 grams of protein a day. it worked for me for my second pregnancy. and with this pregnancy im also drinking kangen water and it has eliminated the morning sickness and pregnancy exhaustion. i need and crave fat! i feel so much better and less starving and less bloated.

    i did have a question.. but due to pregnancy brain i cant remember it 😉

  51. My husband and I are planning to start trying to get pregnant. I am concerned because I am considered pre-diabetic. My sugar levels were fine but my insulin levels were high. What can I do to make sure I don’t have to deal with crap the doctors put you through when you have sugar issues? Is there anythign special I can do to make sure I am on the right track. I have been 80% ish primal for about 3-4 weeks. I am starting to notice some changes but my hormones seem to be going crazy right now. I just want a healthy pregnancy with minimal medical interventions, which means I need to lose this pre-diabetic crap and lower my insulin levels.

  52. I know that being partially primal helped with my weightloss which then helped me finally get and stay pregnant.
    BUT once pregnant, primal went out the window unfortunatly. Not by my choice, but by my aversions and cravings. Sigh…
    Aversions are letting up finally (almost 3rd tri), so I’m hoping to at least finish this pregnancy as Primal again. Specially hope that it helps my milk supply when my LO arrives 🙂

  53. In Indian culture, it has long been believed and established that the mothers Womb is the most critical part of any person. The mothers thoughts, mental state and nutrition affect the baby for the whole life. Here is the intersting part though, most of them follow high carb, vegetarian diets, with lots of legumes,cultured butter, yogurt etc. Yet, they don’t seem to have a problem with fertility,case in point the population!
    So while I try to live the primal life, I am constantly reminded, that what if all 7 billion of us decided to turn primal. would we convert all our forest into pastures to feed livestock so we can eat our “pound of liver”?
    Primal with doubts

    1. Keep in mind that your ethnic heritage has a lot to do with what you can tolerate and what your genes are able do. Asians are usually unable to handle dairy while Europeans do fine. A high carb diet on an Inuit would be a disaster because their ethnic heritage is based almost entirely on protein and fat. Look more to your heritage than someone elses to determine what your genes can handle. Primal is a great way to go and it incorporates this very concept.

  54. When I was pregnant I seriously ate SO MUCH fatty foods. Like omelette’s, bacon, cheese, pizza, cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, and some more CHEESE. I wasn’t primal but I would say I craved salty/fatty things rather than sweet stuff. I always lied to my nutritionist when I saw her during my pregnancy.
    My baby is completely healthy and LEAN. I was always worried about the way I was eating would make him fat, but it never did. He is really good looking too (which some experts say is determined by mother’s diet). But maybe I am a little biased about that. 🙂

  55. 2 questions:

    1. What brand of CLO do you recommend. i take Carlson, which notes that it’s “naturally low in Vitamin A”. 1 soft gel contains 150 IUs of Vitamin A and 80 IU of Vitamin D.

    2. I am a thin Type 2 Diabetic and have controlled my blood sugars very effectively following a Primal diet. I’m finishing up my 3rd month of pregnancy. My endocrinologist has insisted that I need to raise my carb consumption to 150-200 g per day – and eventually go on insulin – b/c I am not gaining weight. He insists that if I remain low carb, ketosis may prompt me to go into preterm labor.

    Do you think this is valid? So far I am ignoring the advice to eat 150 g of carbs a day. I’m probably closer to 60 – 80g/day…

    1. 1. Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil or fermented cod liver oil/butter oil blend if you’re not eating any dairy.

      2. I agree it’s not a good idea to be in ketosis. Unfortunately I can’t offer specific medical advice online.

    2. If you’re already at 60 to 80 I’d imagine you’re not in ketosis…maybe add a protein shake with a banana if you are. You could add a serving of soaked raw quinoa or even soaked raw steel cut oats. Both those things don’t send me to bed the way the cooked versions do and they’d be the oh-so-healthy whole grains to get the doc off your back.

      1. Thanks! Last time I saw the doc he insisted that I start a very detailed food journal tracking my carbs and post prandial blood sugar levels so he could monitor my response and determine if/how much insulin I might need.

        I’m really not interested in going on insulin. So we’ll see. I had been making myself small quantities of smoothies at a time consisting of 1/4 cup of greek yogurt, 1/4 cup of blueberries, and 1/8th of a frozen banana (I keep cut up pieces in the freezer). Oddly enough when I described this concoction the endo’s jaw dropped and he wondered if I was consuming something along the lines of 50 g of carbs in one sitting b/c “smoothies are dense in carbs”. I disagree. In fact I calculated it after and it came out to being more along the lines of 15 g…

        Either way, I’m interested in knowing what the optimal number of carbs is for a pregnant woman to be consuming at each meal so I can plan accordingly…

        1. Are you in ketosis? If you are in ketosis how are your blood sugar levels? If your blood sugars are not controlled you ‘must’ got on insulin for the health of the baby (Yeah I said must).

          High blood sugars can cause all kinds of problems with the baby including birth defects and miscarriage.

          I understand that all of us want to eat healthy and do primal but when you’re pregnant you need to make the best choice for the baby. Sometimes that means taking medicine.

  56. Thanks Mark and Chris! I just found out I’m pregnant and came to MDA today to search the archives about pregnancy! I am 41, have been following Weston A. Price since the birth of my first four years ago, and just started eating Primal about 2 months ago. Another surprise Primal pregnancy! I have had more than a few miscarriages and am doing all I can to help is one stick! Can anyone tell me how long Green Pastures FCLO lasts after opening? I’ve had some in my fridge for a while….

    1. It lasts for quite a while, but you should ask them to be sure.

      If you’ve had frequent miscarriages, I’d definitely get screened for MTHFR deficiency. It’s a common genetic mutation that causes problems with folate metabolism, and in turn increases the risk of miscarriage significantly.

      1. Thanks Chris, I have heard of this. How does one find MTHFR screening? What would be the course of action if diagnosed as deficient?

        1. Spectracell Labs has a good MTHFR test. If you’re positive for one of the mutations, best to get some professional help. In general, you’ll need to supplement with high doses of folate (5-MTHF) as well as some other co-factors like TMG (betaine), B6, etc.

  57. wow, sounds like some mom-blaming going on here. poor moms can’t do anything right.

  58. Any studies on a primal diet preventing pre-term labor? I was on bed rest for the last seven weeks of my pregnancy with an incompetent cervix and my daughter was born 4 weeks early weighing 5 lbs. I certainly did not eat primal during my pregnancy.

    1. Maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin A (many people don’t get enough), folate and iron helps promote full-term pregnancy, so this is one way that a Primal diet along with the superfoods I mentioned can help.

  59. Thank you for this post, Chris! I am 6 months pregnant. I’ve been paleo for about a year now but came across WAPF nutritional guidelines early on in my pregnancy and have been loosely adding liver. I take my fermented cod liver oil daily and make a kefir smoothie with egg yolks in it a couple times a week. My one concern is their recommendation to drink raw milk. I have been drinking Strauss milk which seems the closest thing to raw grass-fed milk I can find (it is also non-homogenized). Is is worth the risk for me to drink raw milk? Do you recommend raw milk in your Healthy Baby Code? I am just worried because of the risks associated with drinking raw milk in pregnancy.

    1. Hi Chrissy,

      Your timing is serendipitous. Next Friday I’ll be publishing the first article in a series on raw milk, with a particular focus on raw milk safety.

      There is a small risk associated with raw milk (when I say small, I mean *really* small – about a 1 in 94,000 chance of becoming ill). My goal is to give the facts without bias or hype so everyone can make their own informed decision.

      Strauss milk is probably the best pasteurized milk you can get, since it’s non-homogenized as you pointed out and the cows are pasture-raised at least some of the time.

    2. If you live in the Bay Area, which I’m guessing you do because you’re buying Strauss, you might want to check out St. Benoit milk and yogurt. It’s grass-fed and vat pasteurized at 145 (a lower temp than typical, but still effective).

    3. Of course, you should make your own informed decision, just wanted to share that raw milk is absolutely my favorite pregnancy food. And it is the very best cure for occasional pregnancy heartburn!

  60. Hi Chris, I was just wondering what your view is on taking Kelp during pregnancy? I am 20 weeks along with number two and have been taking various supplements, one of those being Kelp, however I stopped taking it a few weeks ago because I can’t find any conclusive information about its safety during pregnancy. I am also taking a pregnancy multi-v, fish oil, multi-b (which I think has really helped with the morning sickness) and flax seed oil. Due to bad food aversions I am eating a bit of bread, pasta and potatoes and really struggling to eat much in the way of meat and eggs. Thankfully I am maintaining my weight, not gaining, or losing a tonne like I did last time from constant vomiting!

    1. Kelp is safe as long as you don’t have autoimmune thyroid disease, in which case you’d want to be careful. It’s also important to take selenium while supplementing with iodine (which kelp has in it). 200 mcg per day is a good dose.

  61. I went fully primal before I got pregnant and we got pregnant the first month I was off the pill. Once I got pregnant though, I couldn’t stomach meat at all and the only thing that I could keep down for the longest time was grains. I’m six and a half months pregnant and still extremely sick. What would you recommend if I want to try to get back to being Primal?

    1. I couldn’t eat beef but could eat fish when pregnant- though you do have to watch for mercury. Can you stomach eggs and nuts? Maybe just getting plenty of good fats like coconut/olive oil and avocado would be beneficial.

      1. I can’t do fish at all. Even the fish oil my doctor has me taking makes me sick more often than not. I made fish and the smell of that made me sick and my husband ended up having to finish cooking it and eat it. I have been eating a lot of avacados though.

        1. You poor thing. I’ve seen some recommendations here that grass-fed dairy can be good for women who can’t stomach meat. Good luck!

  62. The pressure placed on pregnant women. :S Especially when they have such weird food issues anyway.

    All I know is that fish oil was absolutely a life saver in my second pregnancy. I was stupid during my first pregnancy. I had a really hard time at work (as a computer programmer) because I couldn’t figure out solutions to problems. That had never happened to me before.

    Second pregnancy my midwife told me to take fish oil. I felt myself slipping into stupidity and when I started taking it I went back to normal. I could tell if I forgot to take it. It was amazing. 🙂

  63. Hi
    Chris

    I do have friedn who is vegan is there any option to have safe pregnancy and then to keep child heathy on vegan diet? What do you think about infant toddler eating only vegan food plus supplement. Thank you so much I appreciate your answer

    1. I strongly advise against a vegan diet during pregnancy and early childhood. There are just too many vital nutrients that are missing. The fact that you have to supplement with so many of these when following a vegan diet is a clear indication that it’s not an optimal approach.

  64. I wish I had had this info when I was pregnant. I ate the CW diet and had a heck of a time getting the weight off after having the kids. I was lucky in that they were both in that sweet spot where their weight was concerned and if I did anything right it was by taking the right vitamins– they are both really healthy kids.

    But what really gets my attention here is the risks for low weight babies- I was only a 3lb baby. My health was okay until my pregnancies and then I believe I started a downhill slide into the dreaded metabolic syndrome. Fortunately I went primal before my blood sugar went off the rails, but my cholesterol was off and my thyroid was turning into a nightmare. Thank God for sites like this one.

  65. Hi Chris,
    Do you know if Green Pasture’s cod liver oil has D2 or D3? I think that the D3 is much better isn’t it?
    Thank you.

  66. I was seriously going to write Mark an email today asking about primal nutrition during pregnancy- and when I logged on- here it was! He must be psychic! I was primal for 2 years and lost 70 lbs. For the past 10 weeks or so, I have had some pretty severe morning sickness, and I felt like the only thing I could tolerate was bland starchy grains (lots of baked potatoes and plain rice). As a result, I feel like crap and I’ve gained some weight. I’m trying to get back on track now that the nausea has passed for the most part, but everything I read about pregnancy nutrition indicates that eating this way is dangerous. Particularly, the circulation of keytones in the blood can cause kidney damage in the fetus. I’m a labor and delivery nurse and have seen first hand the effects of poor nutrition on pregnancy. I’m praying I can get this figured out and feel healthy again!

    1. I know I am in exactly the same boat! primal for 2 years got pregnant and now just cannot stomach meat at all! first 10 weeks I also felt terrible but now though I still can’t stomach meat I eat as primal as I can by eating veggies and nuts and eggs. I am hoping the aversions subside completely too but all we can do right now it just eat the best we can in the circumstance. I also ate alot of plain rice in the middle but stopped that as it made me feel ever worse. I think it’s just best to try not to worry and eat the best we can because posts like this can be un nerving when you’re trying so hard to eat well and you just can’t!

  67. Thanks for this post Chris and Mark.

    I got pregnant at first attempt after eating primal for the last 2 years. I’m nearly 4 months pregnant now but still have really bad food aversions to raw veggies and all kinds of meat. I am eating alot of eggs, cooked veggies, coconut products and alot of fruits as I’m always hungry between meals. I have also decided not to stress too much and disect everything I eat because eating real food for the last two years have taught me not to stress and micromanage nutrients.

    so while I’m not eating the best paleo foods out there, I’m doing my best to eat nutrient rich food and I really hope the aversions subside so that I can eat all the good stuff. Initially I had to eat white rice and other non paleo stuff as I could not keep anything down but now since the nausea is subsiding I am eating as clean as I possibly can.

    One question. is weight gain in paleo/ primal pregnancies the same as they recommend other wise? the 3 pounds a month recommended weight gain by conventional wisdom standards? If I’m not gaining weight is that something I should be really worried about?

    1. Yes, you should be gaining some weight during pregnancy. If you tolerate it, try adding some grass-fed dairy into your regime. It has a lot of the nutrients that are necessary during pregnancy, and is very nourishing overall.

  68. Hello, I am new to Primal Blueprint. After I read this article, I thought that it was important that I comment. I was born with PKU (Phenylketonuria). It is a somewhat rare condition that is caused by a recessive gene. People who have PKU cannot metabolize proteins in the same way that others can. If a baby has PKU, and it is not known, the child will become mentally retarded. However, if it is known, the child is put on a low protein diet until the brain reaches normal adult size. If I were to try to have a child now, and I did not go back on the diet, the child would have an extremely high risk of being born mentally retarded. Most of the foods on this list are high in protein. It is only as an adult that I have started the Primal Blueprint plan. I don’t want to discourage anyone, I just wanted to inform everyone about this, so, that if they have any concerns, they could consult a pediatrician and/or geneticist. I would be interested to hear Mark Sisson’s comments on this subject.

  69. Is there a limit on eggs for when you’re pregnant? I’ve discovered I crave deviled eggs and I make my own mayonnaise to keep the soy out. I also use only free range organic eggs. I find that given the choice between chocolate Bryer’s ice cream or a deviled egg, I want the egg. I find it rediculously easy to eat five whole eggs that way over the course of the day. Should I be concerned with over consumption?

    1. I’m no expert here, but I’ve read about traditional cultures where women eat up to a dozen eggs a day when TTC, pregnant, and nursing. So it sounds like 5 is pretty reasonable. 🙂

  70. While I see the value and agree wholeheartedly with the information provided here, I fail to see where this information is applicable to those wishing to conceive. It’s great information for those already pregnant.
    The only sentence in this entire article that applies to fertility is “For example, the Masai tribe in Africa only allowed couples to marry and become pregnant after spending several months drinking milk in the wet season when the grass is lush and the nutrient content of the milk is especially high.”
    Ok, so out of this entire article, which claims to have info on several superfoods that promote FERTILITY and pregnancy, we get ‘drink milk in the wet season’?
    I don’t mean to be rude, but to me this is false advertising. You’re grouping together fertility and pregnancy (which are completely different)…yet every superfood mentioned is supported with examples pertaining to how that food helps with the development of the baby, etc.
    Those struggling with infertility will see this article and have a flare of hope…which ends up being empty.
    If I’m missing something and this is not the case, please follow up by giving us what your title advertises – what are the superfoods that increase fertility in those wishing TO BECOME pregnant, and how do those superfoods work to increase said fertility…

    1. One fertility factor I discovered recently is Vitamin D. It increases sperm quantity and quality in men, and stimulates progesterone production in women. But experiments measuring the vitamin D levels in the follicles of women undergoing IVF have come to contradictory conclusions: more is better, more is worse, it doesn’t make much difference.

      I am also aware that it’s been known for a long time that vitamin A is necessary for reproduction (if you don’t have enough, you won’t conceive at all; if you have just a little more than that, you’ll conceive but miscarry after a couple of weeks) as well as development – in fact Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has been found to be a disease of vitamin A deficiency. (Retinol needs to be converted to retinoic acid to be of use in fetal development, and if the enzyme is too busy converting ethanol to ethanoic acid, the baby won’t get enough.) I do wonder whether the different outcomes seen in the vitamin D experiments reflect different levels of vitamin A in the sample populations.

    2. There’s copious evidence that the nutrients these foods contain promote fertility. There’s only so much that can be covered in a single article. I have written about this elsewhere and it’s covered in detail in the Healthy Baby Code.

      It’s also common sense that foods and nutrients that support fertility would support a healthy pregnancy, and vice versa. We’re talking about the same reproductive system, hormones, etc.

  71. Can you advice some kind of workout for woman who wants to get pregnant. I was running doing hit, some very light lifting weight, but unfortunatelly I have lost my period( for 8months, never happened before) so I have to slow down actually stop workout. I only walk and do some yoga. Why my body could not do it? Thanks a lot

  72. I’m not currently trying to get pregnant, though I hope to start trying in a year or two. But I think I’ve screwed up my cycles and hormones from 15 years of being vegetarian leaning towards vegan. I’m eating all these super foods except for raw milk (I do eat grass fed butter) but I’m still having weird cycle issues. How long do you think it would take eating these foods regularly to make up for those years of bad eating?

  73. I love this article. I see so many people with metabolic syndrome, PCOS and obesity. They cannot loose weight and they get frustrated because they are eating almost nothing!! Nutritionist seem to think the only source of fiber on this planet is grains!! Great info!!

  74. Sorry but the study on higher birth weight making a positive difference in health seems strange to me.

    My husband’s boss just had a 9.5 pound baby boy, she has gestational diabetes, she was overweight, she SMOKED throughout her pregnancy, had junk food daily and both her and her husband are tall. So it’s NOT surprising that she had a big baby.

    Now compare that to my sister-in-law, she has always been thin, she DIDN’T have gestational diabetes, she didn’t smoke during pregnancy, she ate a healthy diet, her husband is also thin, and she had a 6.4 pound baby boy.

    So you’re telling me that despite ALL those factors, the 9.5 pound baby from a diabetic, overweight smoking mother will grow up healthier than the 6.5 pound baby from a non-smoking, non-diabetic, healthy weight, healthy eating mother??

    It’s starting to sound ridiculous to me. The take away message seems more like eat till you’re diabetic so your baby will be big too and it’ll be healthy.

    1. Weight at birth is a proxy for maternal nutrition, but of course there are exceptions where that isn’t true – like the example you mention.

      Remember, our health is determined by multiple influences. A single factor will never tell the whole story.

  75. Hi Chris!
    Love the post… Thank you for the great info!

    Do you have any opinions on the Twinlab Emulsified CLO? It was recommended to me because it is cost effective and palatable. However, it is emulsified and contains sorbitol, pectin, and other added ingredients. I know Green Pastures is a better choice but am I still getting some benefits with the Twinlab or am I wasting my time and money?

    Thank you, in advance, for your time!!!!!

    Heidi

    1. You’re certainly getting some benefits, but I think the Green Pasture product is superior. I should have mentioned this before, but I have no relationship with that company and nothing to gain from recommending their products – other than the satisfaction of helping people!

  76. I had Hyperemesis Gravida for my first two – threw up constantly for 5 months – lost 13 kilos with the first and 11 with the second. They’re both FINE.

    Do what you can do. Don’t worry about what you can’t do.

    My little fellas must have been living off ketones for those months I couldn’t eat – and don’t forget that *chronic* poor maternal nutrition is often associated with other factors as well – poverty, lack of access to medical assistance, smoking, stressful lifestyle etc These studies never seem to tease out the full demographics behind the numbers. Those babies you saw may have had a whole lot more going on in their gestation than just poor maternal nutrition…

    Eat as well as you can now. Don’t worry about the time you couldn’t eat due to nausea. Eat lots of green leafy veggies when you can and have a sweet potato if you’re worried about ketones. As long as you keep up your carbs with veggies you can still be Paleo and be getting loads of nutrients. Personally I have to get under 20g carbs a day to go into ketosis, so three cups of salad veggies and I wouldn’t be producing ketones.

    Lastly – with the studies on ketones in the maternal diet – were these studies of diabetics ? Or of women specifically on a low carb diet ? Just because what diabetics get – ketoacidosis – is completely different to ketosis and is very dangerous both for Mother and child, whereas I haven’t come across anything indicating that ketosis is dangerous. It certainly doesn’t make sense from an evolutionary point of view for ketosis to be dangerous for a gestating woman….

    Could you ping me some of those studies – I’d be interested in having a look at them myself !!

    Good Luck !
    Molly

  77. Hi

    I would like to ask your opinion on raw milk actually we have very good source raw sheep milk I make raw kefir every day buy raw goat and sheep cheeses and raw butter. What is better choice raw goat or sheep milk? I like sheep better cause it is more fatty and prefer it over goat and cows one. Thank you so much

  78. I think the best logic, if my doctor were telling me what I should/shouldn’t eat for my baby, would be this:

    If it makes me feel bad to eat it, what is it doing for my baby?

    Is a woman with celiac disease and lactose intolerance supposed to choke down milk and wheat bread for the alleged nutrition for her baby? That doesn’t make any sense at all.

    My uterus is presently uninhabited and babies are a few years away yet, but there’s no way I’m going to tear up my stomach and spend hours with a stomachache and shifty blood sugar because someone else thinks my baby needs black beans and brown rice in utero. I just can’t see how it wouldn’t hurt him/her if it’s hurting me.

  79. Since when has fish and liver been classed as a superfood? Being a raw food vegan, I was expecting goji berry or cacao but not animal products – especially not liver!

    1. You are on the wrong message board. Most of us will think you are unethical to force your raw food vegan lifestyle onto your child (in womb or out) who has no choice. Babies and kids need ample fats and protein and nutrients to build their bodies and brains. It’s pretty established in the mainstream that fish oil contains essential fatty acids so you shouldnt be surprised to see fish recommended. Liver used to be considered a superfood…ask your grandparents. It just went out of fashion. But that doesn’t make it any less nutrient dense. I used to be vegan and my cycles got all out of whack and worse and worse. I know you won’t listen to me, but please at least try reading the Vegetarian myth by Lierre Kieth. I’m starting to think the vegan movement is misogynist, since it wrecks women’s bodies so much and the main people who promote it, at least, that I used to read, are male. I think some people do better than others on a intelligently supplemented vegan diet, but that’s not what we evolved to eat. There aren’t any traditional cultures who are vegan. Sorry, I hate to go off, but I feel it is my duty as someone who was hoodwinked by the arguments for vegan ism that caused me health problems to at least try and. Help lead people towards water. Whether you drink is up to you.

  80. Check out the Brewer diet. There’s more to it, but in essence he was an OB who realized that women who ate enough protein were less likely to develop toxemia and other common pregnancy condition. Going completely primal would be wonderful. But anything that reduces sugar and increases protein seems like a healthy step!

  81. Thanks for the useful article!

    Mom of a 9-month-old, still breastfeeding. I’m worried about vitamin K2 deficiency; I have a hunch I was already deficient before my pregnancy as I was diagnosed with osteopenia a few years ago.

    I try to get some K2 through eating calf liver and Green Pasture mixed cod liver/butter product.

    After reading “The Calcium’s Paradox” I think I should take MK4 supplement, but I don’t know how much I need. 5mg per day (the recommended amount for healthy people) may be insufficient in my case. Apparently a positive impact on bone health was observed with 45 mg, i.e., 9 times (!!) the ‘default’ dose.

    What do you think?

    1. Given that of the best known dietary sources, hard cheese has only 79µg of MK4 per 100g, and even foie gras (whose creation is terribly cruel to the goose and not something that would have been possible until recently) has only 370µg per 100g (data from The Calcium Paradox), I find it hard to see how we could possibly have evolved a requirement for as much as 5mg per day, let alone 45mg. Was Grok supposed to have been eating 13kg of goose liver every day? Or did he rely on some especially MK4-rich animal that he eventually hunted to extinction?

  82. Need foods to assist with strong and mobile sperm development

  83. Great article! I had a question: I am unable to have children and my husband and I are in the process of a domestic infant adoption. Since I can’t really control the environment our baby will develop in, are there things I can do once he/she is born to counteract those negative effects, or reset his/her nutritional profile? I am planning on doing a local milkshare for breastfeeding, but I can’t really control that either. Any advice would be so greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!

  84. There’s another superfood you should know about called the Aroniaberry (chokeberry). It is native to North America and contains one of the highest levels of antioxidants – anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins of any fruit. These powerful berries have been utilized for years because of their overall health and wellness benefits. Learn more at http://www.superberries.com.

  85. In March 2010 I eliminated inflammation foods. In November 2010 I eliminated legumes moving to a primal eating regimen – I also did my first 1/2 marathon. I conceived that month following a 5 year period of supposed ‘infertility’. Through my pregnancy I’ve continued a primal diet and a consistent workout regimen. No morning sickness, no cravings, maintaining most muscle tone, experiencing healthy weight gain. I eat more than I ever did when I consumed grains and legumes and feel a million times better. Beyond meals I snack daily on berries, watermelon, veggies, avocado, hard boiled eggs, coconut milk, seeds and nuts. Before pregnancy I was strong, lean and toned. Throughout pregnancy my blood work has been 100 percent on target. At 29 weeks I’m still lean and strong where it makes sense and confident I’m providing good nutrition to my baby.

    1. Congratulations Deb!
      What are inflammation foods? I have been trying to get pregnant for the past year and half. I am 44 years old though so I do not have too much time left. How old are you?
      My problem is that the follicle does not release the egg. My hormones progress well in the first half of the cycle, there is a follicle growing so everything looks great except that when the time comes to release the egg nothing happens. I think this is called follicular cyst. Very frustrating.
      I would like to learn some more about your regime that let you to get pregnant if you do not mind.
      Thank you.

      1. Although I replied privately to this post, if other readers are following comments I do want to post my age. I’m 42 and will be 43 before the arrival of our first baby.

  86. Hi Deb,
    If you want to you can email me at alinan44 at gmail dot com. It might be easier that way.
    Thank you.

  87. Great advice.

    On the flip side, are there any known food or herbal contraceptives? I’ve heard papaya seeds are used in traditional cultures, but wondered how effective they were or if there are any others?

  88. When I was a kid I lived across the street from a farmer and his 9 kids. Wow, talk about good looking bunch! The boys were all over 6′ by age 14, the girls looked like curvy models.. he had a brother with kids who lived downtown (factory worker), who has a few kids who were scrawny and sickly.. night and day. Farmer’s family was big on liver, kidneys, heart, raw milk and raw cheeses they made.. and fresh veggies. He had a fish pond too… seeing is believing.

  89. Good god, way to keep up the “blame the mother” version of child development theory.

  90. So for someone that is VERY allergic to shellfish but trying to conceive, what should I do about CLO? Green pastures specifically states that it may contain shellfish. I hope that eventually when my gut is healed my allergy will subside, but in the meantime I’d like to avoid sticking myself with an epipen.

  91. I have heard that the juice from amaranth greens is very good for pregnant and lactating mothers, and also to be given to babies about 1 tsp per day. Also might want to consider things like leached acorns, mesquite flour, cacao.

  92. I am 5 weeks pregnant and try to eat primal all the time. From the standpoint of calcium, if I were to start eating plain yogurt would you recommend greek yogurt or plain yogurt, or even kefir? I have also considered taking a calcium supplement, but don’t know which one/kind/amount to take. I currently don’t eat any dairy at all and my husband is concerned about my calcium intake.

  93. What if you are following the autoimmune protocol and can’t eat eggs? Do you recommend taking a choline supplement?

  94. What about glycogen stores in preparation for labor? Is endurance an issue for primal eating women? I suspect not but am curious about a biochemical explanation of how the body handles this need.

  95. Hi-
    I’ve just started taking Primal Flora. I love it!! It is safe to continue taking when (hopefully soon!!) I get pregnant??
    Thanks so much:)

  96. Chris mention grass fed dairy, I have just tried new products high vitamin butter oil from nutraprointl, that is absolutely great very yellow in colour sweet in taste and smell really sweet. I use it in a place of ghee or just by spoon from glass. It is good source of vitamin K2 CLA vitamin AD, I am pregnant right now and think about nourishing baby inside also give to my little daughter, she loves it too

  97. Hi, I am currently 4 weeks pregnant. I eat very healthy overall, very similiarly to paleo (ALMOST no grains). I have been taking Carlson’s Cod Liver Oil (Low Vitamin A), Megafood Baby and Me and Spirulina for the last 3 months. I have just added Raw Enzymes for Women. I plan on continuing to take all 4 throughout the pregnancy.
    Should I continue taking Carlson’s Cod Liver oil or should I change my Cod liver brand?
    What do you think about Nordic Naturals Prenatal?

    Thanks in advance.

  98. A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any time, but is especially vital if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Eating healthily during pregnancy will help your baby to develop and grow, and will keep you fit and well.

  99. Is there a difference in the DHA & EPA of chicken livers and beef liver?

  100. Just wondering how much liver/day is recommended and is desiccated liver from grass fed beef considered an acceptable substitute (I take 4 capsules of the perfect brand is desiccated liver daily)? Also, how many green pastures fermented CLO/high vitamin butter oil capsules would you recommend (the bottle says 4 daily for an adult)? I would like some recommendations s both have high quantities of vitamin A and while I know both are safe, I’m hesitant to overdo it. Thank you!

  101. I am a women close to seventy who loves to move fast, lift heavy object and push heavy object I work at a fast pace lab I am the oldest and the oldest that works over ten hours a day forty hours a week and somethimes more. I do about 10,000 to 16,000 steps per days. And I love it. I love the energy and the speed. My grandfather was the same he worked in housekeeping until he was 87. Love to move….Sig

  102. my sons wife is 35 years old and I was diagnosed with poor ovarian reserve and very bad prognosis of having a baby with my own eggs. I was even given the option to consider donor eggs. That was around july 2014. I was absolutely devastated with the news and I arranged an IVF for November 2014 and it failed also, given that I had nothing to lose, I contacted on facebook (Oduduwa Ajakaye) and he send me his herbal product,. Believe it or not… I am already pregnant!