During pregnancy, a woman’s energy requirements increase in order to meet the needs of her body as well as those of her growing fetus. As a result, women should embrace healthy eating habits to satisfy these needs and ensure proper nutrition for her and baby, as prenatal dietary choices can have long-term impacts on the well-being of the offspring.
While there are many healthy meal planning options and dietary approaches that can be beneficial during pregnancy, one dietary approach that is popular among women is a Mediterranean diet. Not only packed full of natural fruit and vegetable options, this diet can also help reduce the risk of heart complications during gestation and have long term benefits for mom and baby.
The Basics of a Mediterranean Diet
Based on the traditional foods consumed in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece, and Italy, the Mediterranean diet is a nutritional approach that focuses on natural ingredients and raw, whole food selections. Although there are no concrete rules for how to follow the Mediterranean diet, like there are for other diets, such as the keto diet or chronodiet, there are many general guidelines that can be incorporated into meal planning and dietary shopping.
The primary considerations with the Mediterranean diet is to select unprocessed, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy fats. Foods that are processed, high in added sugar, or refined grains should be restricted. Some basics of the Mediterranean diet focus on how frequently foods should be consumed with meals, as opposed to traditional calorie counting and measurements.
- Eat with every meal, or often: vegetables, fruits, nuts or seeds, legumes, whole grains, herbs, fish and seafood, and extra virgin olive oil
- Eat in moderation: poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt
- Eat less often: red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils, and other highly processed foods
When it comes to making food choices in line with the Mediterranean diet, the appeal comes in play when looking at the benefits of the consistent food choices.
Reduces the Risk of Preeclampsia
A gestation condition associated with hypertension and kidney failure, with preeclampsia, the placenta does not develop properly and can be catastrophic for both the mother and the fetus. A Mediterranean diet, especially leafy greens, fruits, grains, lentils, oleic acid; a fatty acid that occurs naturally in animal and vegetable fats and oils, and oat meal, lowers the probability of developing this condition. Thus, embracing this type of diet can help women avoid preeclampsia onset and other related conditions, such as heart failure, myocardial infarction, and cerebrovascular accidents.
Lowers the Risk of Allergic Disorders
Conforming to a Mediterranean diet during gestation has been found to directly impact offspring’s allergic conditions. Studies show that shying away from these types of dietary choices may increase the onset of allergic conditions in the fetus. Such conditions may include asthma and atopy, which can cause baby’s immune system to become more sensitive to allergic triggers that they breathe or eat. In addition, this type of consistent eating habit can reduce other childhood conditions such as, wheezing and infant dermatitis.
Reduces the Chance of Premature Birth
Women who consume foods with high-fat saturation, such as deep-fried potatoes, regularly during pregnancy are at a higher risk of experiencing preterm delivery. Additionally, consuming sugary foods such as cakes and overly sweetened drinks, can also increase this risk. Health professionals explain that foods enriched with fruits, greens, and oats should be consumed to lower the risk of preterm birth.
In addition to underlying health implications, dietary patterns during pregnancy can also have an impact on, not only mother’s weight, but also on the weight of the child.
Mediterranean Diet Balances Healthy Weight
Regularly consuming foods higher in fats and foods lower in anti-inflammatory benefits, can lead to an increased risk for infant and childhood obesity. Whereas, following Mediterranean diet choices and opting for foods such as leafy greens, tomatoes and nuts, can lower the risk of obesity in children, and ensure that the fetus has gained the required weight by the time of delivery.
In addition to improper weight gain, poor nutrition may cause low or high birth weight for your infant. This will subsequently affect their health throughout their infant and adolescent years, and can ultimately put them at risk for higher susceptibility to poor post-natal growth and development, neurodevelopmental conditions, chronic respiratory problems and other infections. Moreover, their immune system can become compromised.
On the other hand, it is only natural that mothers-to-be will progressively gain weight as the fetus grows. However, the amount of mass gained can directly affect the fetus’s health. For example, too much weight gain may lead to gestational diabetes, which may disappear after giving birth.
Opting for Mediterranean foods such as lentils, legumes, wholegrains, oat meal, and fruits and vegetables can not only provide excess energy that is needed for growing a fetus, but can also help regulate blood sugar levels and overall weight gain.
For a detailed look at Understanding Proper Weight Gain During Pregnancy, click here.
Mediterranean Diet Choices Ensures Improved Sleep
Several factors may keep women awake at night during pregnancy and as pregnancy progresses, changing hormones and a growing belly can result in a number of sleep changes. Additional factors that can inhibit regular restful sleep include nausea and back pains, however maintaining a proper diet can help ensure a peaceful sleep. In fact, studies have shown that good quality sleep is highly associated with a good diet during gestation. Quality sleep can be linked to Mediterranean choices such as leafy greens, light grains, and lentils, which provide minerals, and nutrients such as calcium, iron, and vitamin B, which contribute to a night of good and sound sleep. It is also advised to avoid substances that contain caffeine during pregnancy, as they significantly interfere with sleep patterns, among other things.
When expectant, there are a number of choices to make when it comes to prenatal health, and choosing to follow a Mediterranean diet can aid in providing optimal nutritional needs and lower the risk of complications, for both mom and baby.