Pregnancy is a time when a woman’s body goes through so many changes. While the body is changing and growing a baby, it is essential to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to support the growing little human’s development. Eating healthy fats while pregnant can provide many benefits for both mama and baby. Keep reading to learn the five benefits of eating healthy fats while pregnant.
Understanding the Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Fats
Healthy fats and unhealthy fats are differentiated by the impact they have on the body when consumed. Healthy fats provide a range of benefits, including supporting the immune system, regulating hormones, and improving brain function. These fats are typically unsaturated, which means they have a lower melting point and are liquid at room temperature. Examples of healthy fats include avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. Saturated fats can be healthy too! Don’t fear adding grass-fed butter and coconut oil to your diet.
On the other hand, unhealthy fats are those that have a negative impact on the body when consumed in excess. These fats can contribute to health issues such as heart disease, obesity, and high cholesterol. Unhealthy fats are typically hydrogenated oils or trans fats, which are manufactured and heavily processed. They’re commonly found in fried foods, processed snacks, and baked goods. They’re also masquerading as “health” foods like vegetable oils and vegan butter swaps. It’s important to limit your consumption of unhealthy fats and choose whole foods that are high in healthy fats to ensure a well-balanced diet.
Five Benefits of Consuming Healthy Fats While Pregnant
Healthy fats aid in brain development: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods such like salmon, chia seeds, and flaxseed oil, are essential for the development of baby’s brain and eyes. These fats are also crucial for mama’s brain health, helping to prevent postpartum depression.
They reduce inflammation: During pregnancy, the body can become inflamed, leading to various health problems. Eating healthy fats, like avocados and nuts, can help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of pregnancy-related complications. Just another reason avocados are a superfood. Avocado toast, anyone?
They support baby’s growth: Healthy fats provide the baby with the necessary energy to grow and develop. Fats found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish can provide a good source of energy, ensuring your tiny developing baby is getting the nutrients they need to thrive.
They aid in nutrient absorption: Certain vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K, are fat-soluble, meaning they need fats to be absorbed by the body. Eating healthy fats can help ensure that the mother and baby are getting the most out of the nutrients they consume.
They help regulate hormones: Hormones play a vital role in pregnancy, and healthy fats can help regulate hormone production. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish and flaxseed oil, can help reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, preterm labor, and preeclampsia.
Eating healthy fats while pregnant can provide numerous benefits for both mother and baby. They can aid in brain development, reduce inflammation, support growth, aid in nutrient absorption, and help regulate hormones.
Tips for Consuming Adequate Healthy Fats While Pregnant
As a mama myself & having gone through pregnancy, I know firsthand that eating a well-balanced diet during pregnancy can be challenging. However, with a bit of planning and some of these helpful tips, it is possible to ensure that you and baby are getting the right amount of healthy fats.
One way to make it easier to consume healthy fats is to incorporate them into your meals and snacks. For example, you can add avocado to your toast or smoothie. Drizzle olive oil on your salad or eggs. These small additions can make a big difference in your overall fat intake.
Another tip is to opt for healthy fats over unhealthy ones. Fried foods, processed snacks, and sugary desserts are high in unhealthy fats, which can harm you and your baby. Instead, choose whole foods that are high in healthy fats to snack on, like nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are easy on the stomach during those early weeks if you’re feeling nauseous.
Can’t stomach a whole fish while pregnant? Try making a salmon burger or a salmon salad for lunch instead!
Whole Food Sources of Healthy Fats
Fatty fish: Salmon, sardines, trout, and mackerel are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds are all good sources of healthy fats.
Avocado: Avocado is a great source of monounsaturated fats, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals.
Olive oil: Extra-virgin olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fats and can be used in cooking or as a salad dressing.
Coconut and coconut oil: Coconut is a source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are a type of healthful fat that can be used for energy. I add MCT oil to every smoothie I make. It’s flavorless, so you won’t even notice it!
Eggs: Whole eggs are a source of healthy fats, as well as protein and various vitamins and minerals.
Full-fat dairy: Dairy products like whole milk, cheese, and yogurt are sources of healthy fats and can also provide calcium and other vital nutrients. When buying dairy, it’s best to try to buy organic.
It is so important to include healthy fats in a balanced and varied diet to ensure a healthy and happy pregnancy. Eating an adequate amount of healthy fats during pregnancy can be challenging, but it’s essential for the proper development of your baby. By incorporating healthy fats into your meals and snacks, choosing whole foods, paying attention to your cravings, and consulting with your healthcare provider and health coach/nutrition consultant, you can ensure that you and your baby are getting the right amount of healthy fats.
- American Pregnancy Association. (2019). Omega-3 fish oil and pregnancy. Retrieved from https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/omega-3-fish-oil-and-pregnancy-1173
- Arvizu, M., Afeiche, M. C., Hansen, S., Halldorsson, T. F., Olsen, S. F., & Chavarro, J. E. (2019, July). Fat intake during pregnancy and risk of preeclampsia: A prospective cohort study in Denmark. European journal of clinical nutrition. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6405320/
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good
- National Institutes of Health. (2020). Omega-3 fatty acids. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/
- New research finds omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of premature birth. (2018, November 15). Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.cochrane.org/news/new-research-finds-omega-3-fatty-acids-reduce-risk-premature-birth
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