Lifestyle Top 6 Reasons Why Pregnant Women Should Try the Paleo Diet

Published on February 11th, 2013 | by Nick Coe

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Top 6 Reasons Why Pregnant Women Should Try The Paleo Diet

Pregnant women seeking to follow a healthy diet for themselves and their baby will be glad to know there is a plan that may be perfect for them: the paleo diet. Also called the “caveman” diet, the paleo diet is based on the idea that our bodies respond best to the types of foods our caveman ancestors evolved to eat. The paleo diet emphasizes a balanced intake of protein, fats, and fruits and vegetables. No processed foods, refined sugar or grains are permitted on this diet. Because the paleo diet is primarily about healthiness and nutrient intake rather than weight loss, it is the ideal diet for pregnant women concerned about their own health and that of their unborn child. Read on to learn about the top reasons pregnant women may want to consider the paleo diet.

1) Reduces Exposure to Harmful Chemicals

A recent test by the Environmental Working Group found over 200 chemicals present in the umbilical cords of newborns. If that wasn’t scary enough to contemplate, you should also know that the law intended to protect consumers from dangerous chemicals, called the Toxic Substances Control Act, doesn’t require most chemicals to be tested for safety before being approved for widespread use. As a result, scientists, health professionals, and members of the public don’t have any real idea of the harmfulness of these chemicals. These concerns are even more significant for mothers and their babies. Fetuses are particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards, so it’s imperative to eliminate or reduce their exposure to potentially toxic chemicals. On the paleo diet, pregnant mothers will avoid the dozens of chemicals present in packaged and processed foods.

2) Provides Essential Prenatal Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are compounds found in certain foods. These compounds are essential to prenatal eye and brain development, can be a factor in birth weight and timing, and may even contribute to protecting infants from illness. A study from Emory University found that when women had adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy, their babies experienced fewer colds and shorter illnesses during the first few months of their lives. In addition to protection against disease, adequate intake of omega-3 has been associated with a number of other benefits, according to a study published in Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Mothers themselves were at lower risk for postpartum depression and their children had a lower chance of developing Type 1 diabetes. Because omega-3 fatty acids can only be obtained from dietary sources, it is essential to include foods rich in these compounds as part of your diet. Fortunately, the paleo diet encourages high levels of consumption of omega-3 rich foods such as fish, nuts, and avocado, making the diet an excellent choice for pregnant women.

3) Prevents or Controls Gestational Diabetes

The paleo diet is ideal for women who are at risk of or who have contracted gestational diabetes. With its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, the paleo diet is considered a low-glycemic diet plan, meaning that it helps to keep blood sugar at normal, stable levels. A recent study published in Diabetes Care found that women with gestational diabetes who followed a low-glycemic diet during pregnancy were able to reduce or eliminate their use of insulin with no adverse effects to their baby. Another study published in the British Medical Journal found that following a low-glycemic diet plan such as the paleo diet can also help mitigate the negative side effects of excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Reducing the chance of excessive weight gain may also prevent serious issues such as the need for a Caesarian section, weight retention after pregnancy, and predisposition to obesity later in life.

4) Encourages Adequate Protein and Iron Intake

During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume doubles in order to allow the baby to begin making its own blood supply. This means pregnant women need plenty of protein and iron in order to avoid common side effects of insufficient intake such as fatigue, susceptibility to infection, and anemia. The paleo diet encourages moderate consumption of lean red meat, a particularly rich source of both protein and iron. Other mainstays of the paleo diet include nuts, poultry, and fish, all of which provide concentrated doses of protein and iron.

5) Provides High Levels of Folic Acid

According to University of Maryland Medical Center, folic acid is one of the most important nutrients for women who are pregnant or looking to become pregnant. Folic acid, also known as folate or vitamin B9, protects against serious issues called neural tube defects, a category that encompasses cleft palates, spina bifida, and other conditions that affect spinal cord development in fetuses. These conditions can develop in the first 28 days of conception, so it is vital that women ensure they are getting the folic acid they need early on in their pregnancy and, if possible, while they are trying to conceive. Since the paleo diet emphasizes the importance of consuming lots of leafy greens and other vegetables high in folic acid, women who follow the paleo diet are less likely to be deficient in folate. However, considering the importance of folate for pregnant women and for the developing fetus, it is important that you check with your physician to see if your dietary intake of folic acid is adequate or if a supplement may also be necessary.

6) Increases the Body’s Ability to Absorb Minerals

According to Mayo Clinic, minerals such as calcium and zinc are particularly crucial during pregnancy as they promote strong bones, teeth, and nervous systems. The paleo diet helps pregnant women get the minerals they need in two ways. First, the diet emphasizes consumption of foods rich in minerals such as dark, leafy greens, citrus fruits, and fresh fish. Secondly, based on research that suggests grains may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb minerals, the paleo diet disallows most grains. Grains contain phytic acid, a compound which can prevent the absorption of the valuable nutrients that pregnant women and their babies need. A pregnant woman following the paleo diet can rest easier knowing she is maximizing her body’s absorption of minerals and nutrients.

What This All Means

Pregnant women have to juggle the complex dietary requirements of their own changing bodies and that of their developing child. Fortunately, the paleo diet can simplify life greatly. The diet’s guidelines point out the path towards optimal health while still allowing enough room to accommodate personal preferences and cravings. The paleo diet’s flexibility, healthiness, and emphasis on proper nutrition for mother and child make it an excellent choice for pregnant women.

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