I know it’s not PC to recommend beef as a healthy food, but it’s high time we overcome some misinformation. If you want to get pregnant and have a healthy baby, you need the right nutrients and beef is an excellent way to get those nutrients.
Choline is essential for a healthy pregnancy and baby and it is recommended that women get at least 450 mg daily. One cup of Brussels sprouts and broccoli contain the most choline in the plant world, 63 mg, while 3 oz of liver provides 356 mg. Beef provides about 97 mg per three ounce serving, so not too shabby.
We need choline to support the structural integrity of our cells, for nerve impulse transmission, fat transport and metabolism, and it’s a methyl donor that supports healthy homocysteine levels, a marker for inflammation. Choline deficiency can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, neural tube defects, poor fetal brain development, preeclampsia and premature birth. So, you definitely want to get enough choline!
We can only get creatine from meat. While there is little about creatine and pregnancy, specifically, creatine is involved in protecting and repairing DNA, providing energy for muscles and it supports optimal brain performance – all good things for a mother to be and her baby. Animal studies have shown some benefit in protecting the fetus from brain injury and creatine may increase sperm motility.
Obesity and polycystic ovarian syndrome are common problems with infertility and carnitine helps us use our fat stores for energy and improves insulin resistance. It has also been shown to decrease depression and it may increase energy production in oocytes and protect against oxidative damage in reproductive cells. Carnitine benefits males as well by helping their sperm swim better.
Carnitine decreases during pregnancy so you want to make sure you are consuming carnitine in the diet. Red meat, like beef, contains the highest amount of carnitine.
This nutrient acts like an antioxidant and can reduce the formation of advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. These AGEs form when sugar collides with fat or protein in the body and they can damage both the male and female reproductive tracts and increase the risk of infertility. Carnosine is another nutrient that is only found in animal foods.
Animal foods provide the active form of vitamin A which supports the production of sex hormones and follicles (which you need to release an egg) and it supports the endometrium and increases sperm count and motility. The embryo also needs vitamin A for proper development.
Vitamin A in plant foods comes in the form of carotenes, like beta carotene, which must be converted to active vitamin A. This conversion process doesn’t happen very efficiently in most people and you would have to eat an enormous amount of plants to get enough vitamin A. Some people have a genetic inability to make this conversion.
Animal foods contain more bioavailable forms of the B vitamins folate and pyridoxine (B6) and cobalamin(B12) is only found in animal foods. It is also difficult to get adequate riboflavin (B2) from plant foods alone.
Beef is an excellent source of heme iron which is much better absorbed than non-heme iron found in plant foods. Eggs need iron to mature properly and iron is also involved in DNA replication. We need mature eggs and the proper replication of DNA to make a healthy baby.
Zinc is also better absorbed from animal foods like beef. Zinc is involved in numerous enzymatic reactions in the body and is also necessary for protein and DNA synthesis, healthy hormones and proper growth and development of a fetus. It is found in high concentrations in sperm, increases sperm count and helps sperm mature properly so both partners will benefit from including beef in the diet.
Contrary to popular belief, beef will not harm your heart or give you cancer, so you do not need to be afraid of it. It is important, however, to consider the source. You want organic beef at a minimum and preferably grass fed/finished for a better nutrient profile and fewer toxins, like GMOs.
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