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Rude Wonders

Ask Away: Independent health store advice on nutrition for conception and pregnancy

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Kathy Whyte, who has a Masters in Nutritional Medicine with a special interest in early life nutrition. Kathy recently presented on early life nutrition at the West Waterford Festival of Food.

Early life nutrition refers to nutritional exposures prior to conception and during pregnancy, infancy and early childhood. These exposures have an important influence on quality of life and health into adulthood. Recommendations for nutrient intakes and the need for supplementation before and during pregnancy continue to be a source of confusion for parents. In recent years there has been growing interest in the nutritional requirements during these critical periods of development. It is best for women to source their vitamins and minerals from food. However there are a number of supplements that are recommended prior to conception, during pregnancy and for women who breastfeed. The current recommendations for supplementation are as follows:

Folic Acid

Folic Acid (B vitamin) is recommended to all women pre-conceptually and until the 12th week of pregnancy. The recommended dose is 0.4mg (400 micrograms daily). Taking folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of a baby being born with a neural tube defect (NTD) such as spina bifida.

In addition to folic acid supplements foods that are high in folic acid are important, such as green leafy vegetables and breads and cereals. Some women have an increased risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect, and are advised to take a higher dose of 5 milligrams (mg) of folic acid each day until they are 12 weeks pregnant. A health food store can advise if a higher dose is required.

Vitamin D

It is recommended that women take 5-10 micrograms of vitamin D each day throughout their pregnancy, and continue to take the supplement throughout breastfeeding. It is also recommended that all infants whether breastfed or bottle fed are given a daily supplement of 5 micrograms (5µg) once a day from birth to 12 months. The supplement should contain vitamin D only. A health food store can advise on the best supplement.


There is a significant increase in iron requirements in pregnancy, resulting from an increased need from both the mother and fetus. Good sources of iron are lean meat, green leafy vegetables and dried fruits, many breakfast cereals have added iron. An iron supplement should only be taken if recommended by a doctor or midwife.

Oily fish (omega 3)

There’s no official recommendation that pregnant women should take a fish oil supplement. For women who eat two portions of oily fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines) every week, there is no need for a supplement, however for women who don’t eat oily fish supplementation would be a good idea.

In conclusion

Women should be eating a varied and healthy diet before and during pregnancy. It’s a myth that you need to eat for two! Typically women don’t need any additional calories in the first trimester, with 300-350 additional calories (1 slice wholemeal bread) per day in the second trimester and an additional 500 calories (1 slice wholemeal bread and a banana) required in the third trimester.

Who's who and what's what at Blasta Wholefoods

Blasta Wholefoods opened its doors in April 2005 and is owned and operated by husband and wife team Rob and Anne Whinnett. ‘Blasta’ is Irish for tasty and the shop operates as a wholefoods store first and foremost. “We are real foodies, we grow food, we really enjoy food,” says Rob.

Situated on the main street opposite Shaws, Blasta benefits from passing trade and Dungarvan’s population actually doubles in size during holiday season. “Our customers are really diverse,” says Rob. “We get people coming in who live here for some of the year, people choosing a self-sufficient lifestyle, lots of young familes and older people plus people who have been dagnosed with a health issue and need to adjust their diets. We would spend a lot of time helping coeliacs and newly-diagnosed diabetics. We are blessed with a loyal customer base who have become friends.

“We got into the health store business because Anne had health problems and it turned out to be a dairy intolerance. This led Anne to studying diet and nutrition, and we started shopping in health stores and reading a lot of food labels. When we opened Blasta we wanted it to be a health store that was accessible to everyone.

“The shop stocks wholefoods rather than health foods,” says Rob. “Basically food that hasn’t been over-processed. We stock local artisan food and work with local suppliers to help them develop their products and showcase them in store – foods such as honey, apple juice, curry sauce, a Christmas cordial, Irish chocolate and ice cream.

“Last september I was diagnosed as coeliac and one of our staff members Dearbhla has been a coeliac since she was a baby, so between us we are really knowledgeable about it,” says Rob. “We have a good gluten-free section and dairy-free. We have started to group the products according to their free-from category. In our fridges and freezer we stock tofu, Irish sauerkraut, kimchee, dairy alternatives such as almond, sheeps, coconut, rice and soya milks and yogurts. Our frozen vegan food range includes a nutloaf, lasagne, burgers and sausages. We are big into teas and have at least 50 different types. We have the best range of herbs and spices for miles, including Middle Eastern and sushi sections. At Christmas, our gluten-free puddings, cakes and mince pie fillings are all made for us by a local caf.”

Blasta also sells Irish Seed Savers vegetable seeds, seaweed products, the big brand vitamins, a full range of toiletries including Irish names and a handmade lip balm produced locally by one of their honey suppliers. Plus there are locally-made scented candles, eco cleaning products and refills and dog food.

Visit: Blasta Wholefoods, 54 Main St, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford
speak to: Natalie Bending, Melanie Phillips and Dearbhla Morrissey as well as extremely knowledgeable Anne and Rob Whinnett.

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