As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Heather has helped many expectant and new moms and their babies with a multitude of nutrition challenges over the years. From fueling fertility to breastfeeding needs, choosing the right foods and adapting the diet appropriately can help improve many of the issues women may encounter before, during and after pregnancy. Heather is here to introduce her pumpkin granola — and the reasons why its health-supportive ingredients are healing and restorative for the pregnant and postpartum population.
What in the world do postpartum issues have to do with granola?
I always integrate granola into my care packages for new mums. (And it’s not just because I’m a granola enthusiast!)
Nine months of pregnancy comes with great physical demands and stresses, after which the female body requires time to recover, revitalize and rejuvenate. To that end, it’s essential to integrate a variety of nutrient-dense foods in order to replenish lost stores, facilitate and speed up recovery, and give the body the energy boost it needs. One such food that covers all the bases – granola! My pumpkin version is chock full of vital nutrients, including fiber, protein, omega-3 fats, and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.
And for the nursing mums, the oats, flax, dried fruits, pumpkin seeds and nuts are natural “galactogogues” – lactation-promoting foods that may facilitate breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers require an additional 300 to 500 calories per day to ensure a sufficient milk supply, so granola is an excellent, energy-dense breakfast or snack choice that helps to pack a healthy caloric punch.
Beyond that, there are many other reasons to love homemade granola. It’s simple and forgiving — basic ingredients you can throw together quickly and easily without having to worry about pulling out the measuring cups. It has a balance of nutrients – satisfying protein, complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber, plus essential healthy fats from nuts and seeds – making granola a nutritious and absolutely delicious way to kick the day off on the right foot. Big batches last and last for future breakfasts and snacks, and it’s super convenient to take with you on the go!
What’s in it for me?
Each core ingredient in my granola serves a certain purpose. Let’s break it down:
Front and center are rolled oats. Aside from being full of fiber that eases the digestive process and can help alleviate constipation for recovering new mums, oats are known to be calming and may promote relaxation. This can subsequently trigger release of the hormone oxytocin that stimulates milk let-down to facilitate nursing.
Pumpkin is the primary flavor for several reasons. Pumpkin adds natural sweetness, more dietary fiber, B vitamins and iron to boost energy, magnesium for stress relief, and potassium to balance the body’s fluids and electrolytes, and is rich in antioxidants that can ward off sickness.
Flaxseed also contains phytoestrogens — plant-based compounds that can mildly mimic the hormone estrogen to improve and promote lactation. Flaxseed is also an abundant source of fiber, as well as omega-3 fatty acids that enhance breast milk composition and potentially the quantity. These healthy fats have also been shown to interact with unbalanced hormone levels in the body, which may reduce risk of developing postpartum depression.
Both cashews and pepitas (hulled green pumpkin seeds) are “lactogenic” (stimulate milk production) due to, among other things, the abundant source of zinc potentially increasing concentrations of the primary hormone for regulating milk protein synthesis, prolactin. Cashews and pepitas also provide iron and magnesium, both of which help to boost energy, and pack a protein punch important for tissue healing.
Dried cherries and dried plums are excellent sources of dietary fiber, and offer tons of vitamin C, which has powerful antioxidant properties. In general, dried fruits are a great source of copper to help heal tissue and restore stretched skin (e.g., stretch marks), and dried cherries in particular are a moderate source of iron.
A few final thoughts
Every mother is different. For this reason, including galactogogue foods in the diet may or may not enhance milk production and supply, depending on the individual woman and her body. Low milk supply can occur for a variety of complex reasons, some of which include inadequate calorie intake, poor hydration, periods of increased stress, nursing infrequently and/or poor latch, exhaustion, or sleep deprivation. These should be addressed first and foremost, and if low supply is truly a concern, please seek the counsel of an IBCLC (lactation consultant) or your physician/midwife.
After all this talk about galactogogues and milk production, I want to make it clear that anyone can eat this granola! It’s delicious and healthy as a snack or breakfast even for those of you who are not necessarily new mothers… and I promise it will not lead to spontaneous milk production.
So if you’re not already sold, my granola is perfectly adaptable and can be easily tailored to suit your needs and tastes throughout the year. I recommend following the recipe as a template in terms of proportions of wet and dry ingredients, but feel free to creatively customize it with unique flavors and your own personal flair. In the warmer months, try dried berries and lemon zest; dried peach slices with ginger; mango with coconut shreds; or pineapple with lime zest. When autumn and winter roll around, test out dried fruits like pear, cranberry, fig, currants or dates paired with orange zest and warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, anise, cardamom and allspice.
Nothing beats homemade, so grab a big bowl and start tossing in the ingredients – whether you’re making this granola for yourself, or as a nourishing gift for a new or expecting mum!
Tell me… Are there new or expecting mums in your life who would appreciate a batch of granola? Any personal experience with galactogogue foods? I’d love to read your comments!
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