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Nuts are Safe and Healthy Addition to Pregnancy Diet

Nuts and pregnancy diet

According to new research compiled by a team at Dana-Farber Children’s Cancer Center, moms-to-be who eat nuts during pregnancy were less likely to bear children who had peanut or tree-nut allergies. Once thought of as a food to avoid during pregnancy due to the theory that it increased the risk of allergies in children, nuts are a healthful addition to the prenatal diet.

In the United States, the prevalence of childhood peanut allergy has more than tripled since 1997.
Published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, A. Lindsay Frazier MD ScM and colleagues examined the association between pregnant mothers eating peanuts or tree nuts and the risk of PN/TN allergies in their children. The data pool consisted of more than 8000 children born to women who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study II.

The team found that children whose non-allergic mothers who had the highest PN/TN consumption – five times a week or more – had the lowest risk of having children with nut allergies.

Obviously, should women have a nut allergy themselves, they should avoid eating those foods.

“We can't say with certainty that eating more peanuts during pregnancy will prevent peanut allergy in children. But we can say that peanut consumption during pregnancy doesn't cause peanut allergy in children," says Dr. Michael Young MD, senior author of the study.

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This is good news for women who need a snack that is rich in energy and protein and provides such healthful nutrients as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. Here are some of the essential prenatal vitamins and minerals that nuts can help provide:

Folate, folic acid – nuts are a rich source in many B-complex vitamins, include folate. One ounce of dry roasted peanuts, for example, provide 41 of the 800 micrograms needed per day. Folate helps prevent neural tube defects, serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. Lack of folate may also increase the risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery.

• Nuts are also an excellent source of calcium, need for both yours and your baby’s strong teeth and bones. One cup of Brazil nuts has 213 mg and 1 cup of whole almonds has 378 mg. Compare that to a cup of milk which has just around 300 mg.

• Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues. While pregnant, a woman needs at least 27 milligrams per day. Nuts that are particularly high in iron include cashew, pine, hazelnut, peanut, almonds, pistachio, and macadamia.

Remember that during pregnancy, a woman needs about 300 more calories per day than she did prior to becoming pregnant. One ounce of nuts provide between 150 and 200 calories – making for a healthful snack to include without eating too much.

Journal Reference:
A Lindsay Frazier MD ScM et al. Prospective Study of Peripregnancy Consumption of Peanuts or Tree Nuts by Mothers and the Risk of Peanut or Tree Nut Allergy in Their Offspring. AMA Pediatr. Published online December 23, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4139

Additional Resource:
Mayo Clinic: Pregnancy and Nutrition