We all know that what you eat during pregnancy matters, since your go-to salad isn’t just feeding you, it’s contributing to the health of your growing child. However, a new field of science called epigenetics is showing that salad might also affect your future child even if you’re not pregnant yet.

Why? Because diet and lifestyle can impact our health (and our future child’s health) on a genetic level.

How Epigenetics Impacts Health

Here’s the basic science. Epigenetics is the study of changes that occur by modifying gene expression, without modifying the actual gene itself. These changes to gene expression occur when external influences (yes, like diet and lifestyle) create a change in the cell’s environment, which ultimately can either alter the way the original gene is read (AKA expressed) or switch certain genes on or off. New research is showing that these epigenetic changes can be linked to higher likelihood of developing chronic diseases like obesity, asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.

And timing matters. Preconception is a key period for epigenetic imprinting. There is about a 90 day period of follicle maturation, and during this critical period, the egg follicles are highly susceptible to environmental inputs such as nutrition status, environmental exposures, and stress. This is largely due to methylation, an important chemical process that our body uses to ensure genes work properly. Essentially, methylation helps activate specific processes that support a variety of areas of health, from energy metabolism to cardiovascular health—and most importantly, regulating gene expression.

Preconception is also a critical period because once fertilization occurs, the methylation process kicks in to allow for the potential for all genes to be transcribed. Too little or too much methylation can lead to epigenetic changes that later impact disease risk.

Okay, so that’s the complicated science. Now, what are some ways we can eat for fertility and epigenetically boost our future kids’ health before they’ve even been conceived?

How to Eat and Live for Healthier Kids in the Future

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The Nutritious Life Editors are a team of healthy lifestyle enthusiasts who not only subscribe to — and live! — the 8 Pillars of a Nutritious Life, but also have access to some of the savviest thought leaders in the health and wellness space — including our founder and resident dietitian, Keri Glassman. From the hottest trends in wellness to the latest medical science, we stay on top of it all in order to deliver the info YOU need to live your most nutritious life.

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