You may have heard that fat should be limited in your diet. However this advice is now outdated and does not match current nutritional research. Your body and your baby’s growing body needs fat soluble vitamins and other nutrients BOTH during and after pregnancy.
Breast milk is made up of 55% fat and your body starts making that during pregnancy, plus your baby’s growing brain is made up of 60% fat from the early days in pregnancy – so quality fat is an essential part of your prenatal nutrition.
Omega-3 fat is essential during and after pregnancy
One type of omega 3 fat called DHA is epecially important during pregnancy as it plays a fundamental role in fetus’ brain and vision development. DHA is found primarily in fatty fish, seafood, grass-fed meant and pasture raised eggs.
For our family Easter lunch my amazing father-in-law barbequed a 5kg fresh salmon packed with Omega 3’s for all of us to enjoy. The next day I enjoyed the leftovers served warm with a roasted veggie quinoa salad. Grab the recipe right here.
Fats for Fetal Development
Researchers* have recently concluded that omega-3 fatty acids may be just as valuable as folate for an unborn baby’s development. As mentioned, a recent study has found that a specific type of omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), improves a baby’s brain development. Two other studies on omega-3 fatty acids found that pregnant women who consume omega-3s give birth to babies with a lower risk of food allergies and eczema. This follows earlier research that suggested a low intake of omega-3 fatty acids could increase the risk of mothers having an early delivery. Want to know more …grab my complimentary pregnancy postpartum nutrition guide.
Main essential sources of fat
Normally fat almost always accompanies protein in real food, this is a bonus. As you also need 15 % more protein daily during and after pregnancy.
So here are the best ways you can meet BOTH your protein and fat requirements
- Animal Fat – including lard pork fat, tallow beef fat, chicken skin etc go for pasture raised, grass fed versions.
- Dairy Fat – butter, ghee, heavy cream, sour cream, cheese – go for pasture raised, grass fed versions.
- Plant Fat – olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and any unprocessed oils derived from these foods. Choose “extra virgin”. Plant oils are also destroyed by cooking at high temperatures except coconut oil – so go for this when cooking.
- Avoid – processed vegetable oils, canola, seed oils that are high in omega 6 fats, man-made trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils. These have no nutritional value and omega 6 fats have been linked to abnormal fetal brain development
I understand it might be scary embracing eating fat if you have been told to avoid it or that it is too high in cholesterol. However science has proven that there is no evidence to support this. Plus fat will NOT make you fat – it will nourish you and keep you fuller for longer, ensuring you also don’t eat unnecessary snacks, particularly those laden with sugar.
Eggs are a pregnancy superfood
A new US study also recently found that eating 3 eggs / day increased choline levels in young people by 20%, when compared to daily choline supplementation. Choline is found in egg yolks and has the same if not more beneficial effects on a developing baby as folate. Again please ignore the advice that you might here that egg yolks are full of cholesterol – this is incredibly out of date !
A recent study from University of Sydney found eating up to 12 eggs per week for a year did not increase cardiovascular risk factors in people with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. You can read more here.
Furthermore, there is recent evidence to suggest that consumption of eggs every day is NOT associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Unfortunately most women only consume a fraction of the choline they need during pregnancy partly because food sources are limited or they are worried about eating egg yolks. Eggs are a superfood you need 450mg of choline daily during pregnancy so please eat EGGS for optimal fetal development – just ensure the yolks are not runny to avoid any risk of listeria.
Trust evidence based nutrition Guidelines
If you are looking for current evidence based nutrition guidance for your pregnancy, I highly recommend the book, Real Food For Pregnancy This book on my must-read list for EVERY woman who is currently pregnant or planning conception in the near future.
Registered Dietician and Nutritionist Lily Nichols reviewed over 900 studies for this comprehensive but easy to read book and I was very excited to have had the opportunity to interview Lily here