When you first visit the GP after discovering those two lines on the pregnancy test, you will most likely be given a long list of what NOT to eat or drink during pregnancy…No more soft cheese, wine, sashimi or pate for you, just to name a few! Whilst the dangers of listeria, alcohol, and too much mercury during pregnancy are well-founded and rightly highlighted for pregnant women, the focus shouldn’t rest solely on what we shouldn’t be eating during pregnancy! The evidence is becoming increasingly clear that our overall dietary pattern during pregnancy can have a big impact on not only our own health, but also the health of our babies (1).
A mum’s diet during pregnancy is just one of many environmental factors that influence baby’s growth and development, but it’s a significant one (1). Significant, not just because diet is one of the most modifiable factors, but also because pregnancy represents a time in a woman’s life where they’re often more motivated and willing to make healthy dietary changes (2). Unfortunately, there’s a lot of conflicting and confusing information out there on social media and Dr Google, so let’s examine what the scientific evidence suggests is the best pregnancy diet to support the health and wellbeing of both mum and bub.
What Does the Science Say?
It turns out, there is a very well-researched dietary pattern that has been shown to help with numerous aspects of health for both the baby and the mum, and it’s known as the Mediterranean Diet (1). Far from being a ‘restrictive’ diet, the Med Diet is characterised by high intakes of fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish, and whole grains, low to moderate intakes of dairy, and limited amounts of red meat and red wine, although in Australia current guidelines recommend no alcohol at all during pregnancy (1, 3). Low in saturated fats, the Med Diet provides mostly poly- and mono-unsaturated fatty acids from things like extra virgin olive oil and oily fish, and it is also high in fibre and antioxidants (1).
Is there Anything the Mediterranean Diet Can’t Do?
A recent really big paper, called a meta-analysis, gathered together all the existing evidence on what eating a Mediterranean Diet during pregnancy can do for the health of both mum and bub (1). As you can see, the findings are really quite incredible!
Here is a list of the potential benefits of a Mum’s high adherence to a Mediterranean Diet during pregnancy:
To Sum it Up…
The Mediterranean Diet really does have a pretty admirable checklist of ‘positives’ when it comes to the health of mum and bub. Focusing on eating whole foods, especially vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and seafood, during pregnancy is one way that you can start supporting your future baby’s physical and mental health, even before you’ve had the chance to actually hold them in your arms!
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