Fiber is the best friend of expecting mothers. Why? Because constipation, among other concerns, is a frequent problem during pregnancy. With a growing baby taking up an increasing amount of room in the abdomen, it is natural that normal gut activity will be somewhat impeded. Here, we will discuss the importance of fiber and offer some useful recommendations to help make your pregnancy a happy one.
Dietary fiber is the part of plant tissue that is not broken down during digestion. Fiber moves easily through the intestines, thereby aiding the motility of intestinal contents. Fiber-rich plant foods are also particularly nutrient dense. This comes with the bonus of the feeling of satiation, which helps to suppress cravings. But this is just the beginning of the benefits of dietary fiber during pregnancy.
The Importance of Fiber During Pregnancy
A fiber-rich diet during pregnancy can help to reduce the risk of constipation and preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a disorder associated with pregnancy in which high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine are present. Unstable blood pressure is a common problem during pregnancy and can be mitigated with increased fiber intake. Health experts agree that starting a high-fiber diet during the early weeks of pregnancy, and ideally before becoming pregnant, can help control blood pressure and cholesterol.
The Benefits of Fiber During Pregnancy
The earlier a fiber-rich diet is taken on, the more pregnant mothers and their babies will benefit from it. Dietary fiber intake is both protective of gut health and overall metabolic health, and it can even be a good way to begin forming good eating habits for your baby.
- Regulate Blood Pressure: Higher blood pressure is common during pregnancy for both physiological and metabolic reasons. Fiber intake helps keep the intestines in good condition, reduces vasoconstriction and helps keep the blood motile.
- Help/Prevent Constipation: Because fiber is not digested and moves easily through the intestinal tracts, it acts like a scrub brush for the digestive tract, helping to move contents and promote gut health.
- Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria: Gut flora species that are best for our health favor high-fiber plant matter, and will thrive in a fiber-rich environment.
- Preventative During First Trimester: Foods with a high natural fiber content tend to offer antimicrobial properties to help keep the digestive organs free of disease-causing pathogens. Further, protecting the gut at an early stage helps ensure the growing baby may receive optimal nutrition.
- Mitigate Food Cravings: Poor dietary choices are an ever-present problem for pregnant mothers. Fiber-rich foods are nutrient dense and help trigger a feeling of satiation, which will make snacking less tempting.
- Control Cholesterol: Just as high fiber helps keep the digestive tract clean and in motion so, too, does dietary fiber in the bloodstream, helping prevent clotting and aiding good circulation.
- Lose Weight Faster After Delivery: Weight gain during pregnancy is a common complaint. With a high-fiber diet, losing those pregnancy pounds will be easier.
High Fiber Recommendations
The foods that are highest in dietary fiber are well known. They include, but are not limited to:
- Whole grains
Of course, protein is essential for the health of mother and baby, but an excess of protein with too little fiber intake can form blockages both intestinally and in the kidneys. For the average woman, at least 14 grams of daily fiber is recommended. But for pregnant women, between 21 and 25 grams of fiber is considered ideal.
Daily dietary fiber is a key to good health for anyone, but for pregnant women, it is especially important. Expecting mothers are not only feeding two, but they must consider the elimination needs of the baby as well. Additional nutrients of all kinds are important to help your baby develop fully. This is no less true of the cleansing properties of dietary fiber, which are important at every stage of life.
It is very difficult to have too much fiber intake in your diet. So, bearing your doctor’s recommendations in mind, do your best to make dietary fiber at least 25% of your total daily intake during pregnancy.