Is the Paleo Diet Safe for Pregnancy?
I get this question all the time! My simple answer is YES! How could a diet rich in wholefoods from clean sources not be beneficial for you and your growing cavebaby? Studies focused on pregnant women and nutrition go back to the 1930's when food shortages were linked to an increased rate of miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects. It is now a long standing belief that the maternal diet has a direct correlation to the health and wellbeing of both the mother and the growing baby. Let's get right down to the nitty gritty and look at a few main reasons why a balanced Paleo diet can be optimal for your healthy pregnancy.
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Why a Paleo diet is great for pregnancy
- Rich in clean animal based proteins: Your body needs extra protein during pregnancy. Protein from clean sources such as grassfed cows, pasture raised chickens and wild fish provide easy to assimilate dense sources of what your body needs extra of during your baby growing times. Although there are many macronutrient variations on the Paleo diet. A well balanced diet containing 20-30% protein is common for many Paleo eaters and is a perfect ratio for pregnant mamas.
- Optimal Omega 3:6 ratios:
As long as you take it easy on the nuts, which are higher in omega-6, a balanced Paleo diet provides optimal levels of omega 3's which are needed for your babies brain/eye development. Studies have also found that diets rich in omega-3's may help prevent pre-eclampsia and protect you from postpartum depression and anxiety during pregnancy. Stocking up on grassfed meat, wild caught fish, sardines and plant based omega 3’s will contribute to a reduction of inflammation in the body and result in optimal health for you and your growing baby.
- Rich in prebiotics and probiotics:
A balanced Paleo diet should include some fermented vegetables or if you include grassfed dairy in your diet, fermented dairy like yogurts and kefir. These food sources are rich in probiotics that help establish a healthy bacteria flora in your gut. This flora forms the cornerstone of our digestion and immune systems, two systems that may become challenged during pregnancy. A diet rich in probiotics has also been linked to predominance of optimal strains of vaginal bacterial flora which will keep yeast infections away and may reduce the chance of swabbing positive for group-B strep as you approach your due date.
Prebiotics are also plentiful in a healthy Paleo diet. Prebiotics are starches that help feed the probiotics and contribute to their proliferation. They have also been shown to lower insulin levels and stabilize blood sugars, which tend to naturally run high in the second and third trimester. Prebiotics are critical for healthy bowel function and are found in chicory root, jerusalem artichokes, seaweed and plantains.
The Paleo diet is a nutrient dense diet. Why? All the processed foods and general garbage have been removed and replaced by REAL FOOD. Everything you on a clean Paleo diet should be loaded with vitamins, minerals and nutrients which are required for good health. Not only that but many of the food items that are encouraged when taking the Paleo approach, such as organ meats, egg yolks and bone broths, are nutritional powerhouses that can be very healing to the body and aid in optimal function. Just what the doctor, or midwife, ordered!
-Consideration for food sourcing:
One of the things that I like the most about the Paleo approach to nutrition is the consideration of food sourcing. Food is so much more than proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Where our food comes from directly influences its nutritional value and ability to truly nourish our bodies, and growing babies (not to mention nourishing the planet). Studies have confirmed that organic produce contains between 20-40% more nutrient value than non-organic produce. I'm not suggesting shelling out mega bucks and buying everything organic but at the least, using Real Food Liz's dirty dozen and clean fifteen as a guide is a good start. Reducing exposure to pesticides, hormones and antibiotics are all key parts of a healthy diet and even more important to pay attention to when growing a new little life.