6 nuts you should eat in pregnancy – and why they're good for you
Being pregnant can bring up all sorts of issues around which foods – particularly nuts – you can and can't eat. We get expert advice from Dietitian Dr Emma Derbyshire on which nuts you when you're pregnant
It’s understandable if nuts are one of those foods you may not be quite sure about eating now that you’re pregnant. With conflicting advice from different sources, you'd be forgiven for being confused as to whether they are safe to eat.
But the good news is that, in most cases, nuts are not only safe to eat during pregnancy, they could even be beneficial.
Official NHS advice about nuts in pregnancy
The official advice from the NHS is that you can eat nuts or food containing nuts, during pregnancy (hooray!) unless you’re allergic to them or a health professional specifically advises you not to (but of course if you are at all worried you should speak to your midwife or doctor).
"You should obviously avoid nuts if you have an allergy," says Dr Emma, adding, "In the past the government advised women to avoid eating peanuts if there was any history of allergy such as asthma, eczema, hay fever or food allergies in their baby’s immediate family.
"Now, advice has been updated because there is no real evidence showing that if you eat peanuts or other nuts during pregnancy this will affect the chances of the baby having a nut allergy."
6 nuts you should eat in pregnancy
Bearing all of the above in mind, the great news is that if you want to keep eating nuts in pregnancy, you absolutely can. And, thinking beyond the humble peanut, there are plenty of other delicious nuts to choose from.
In particular Dr Emma recommends the following 6 nuts:
Almonds are the edible fruit of the almond tree which grow mainly in the Middle East. They're used in an array of dishes from tagines to pastries, not to mention marzipan.
Almonds contain lots of healthy fats, fibre, protein, vitamin E and magnesium. Magnesium has a connection to blood sugar control, which could make almonds a good addition to your diet if you are suffering from gestational diabetes.
Walnuts have amazing antioxidant qualities and omega-3 fats, which are said to be good for the brain, and possibly even beneficial for boosting your mood.
Used in everything from fruit cakes to stuffing mix, there are plenty of ways to work them into your diet. And if you like them covered in chocolate and marshmallow, we think a walnut whip every now and then is perfectly OK!
Cashews have a kind of ‘creamy’ taste and feature monounsaturated fats, including oleic and palmitoleic acids, as well as a good dose of iron and vitamin K.
Cashew cream is a brilliant vegan alternative to whipping cream and has a fraction of the calories. You'll also find these creamy nuts in curries, stir-fries and stews.
Pecans are a good source of manganese and copper, which helps your metabolism and can reduce inflammation, and they're also rich in vitamin E. Pregnant women should aim to consume no more than 30 mg/day of vitamin E, but this would be over 100g of pecans – far more than the average portion.
Pecans are also really low in sugar, as long as you don’t buy the sugar-crusted ones!
Macadamias are rich in monounsaturated fats which can boost heart health. They also contain potassium, which helps control the balance of fluids and electrolytes in your body. If you suffer from leg cramps during pregnancy, eating more foods rich in potassium and magnesium may help – try mixing almonds and macadamias.
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Macadamias are low in carbs and sugar too (unless you get the chocolate-coated ones) and have a moderate fibre content.
6. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are a good source of the mineral selenium, a powerful antioxidant which can protect your body from all sorts of chronic conditions and support your thyroid.
If you find yourself craving chocolate while pregnant, try brazil nuts covered in dark chocolate for a balanced snack, giving you good fats and nutrients alongside that cocoa hit.
Why nuts make nutritional sense in pregnancy
"All of these choices are packed with healthy protein, fats and vitamins and minerals," Dr Emma advises.
"As with all nuts they provide a useful fibre source which we don’t always eat enough of. Fibre is important for pregnancy as it can help to offset bowel issues such as constipation which can be common due to hormonal changes."
"Nuts are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids – particularly nuts like walnuts," explains Dr Emma.
"Some nuts provide useful amounts of iron such as cashews nuts. So snacking on nuts helps fill our bodies with some of the useful nutrients we need."
When to avoid nuts
While there are no specific nuts to avoid during pregnancy (unless you are allergic) they are something that experts suggest we eat in moderation, rather than getting through a jumbo bag of roasted peanuts every day.
"Rather than avoiding specific nuts it's more a matter of just eating nuts in moderation as they are high in fat. Avoid overeating salted nuts too as the salt content can tally up - natural unsalted nuts are preferable,” says Dr Emma. Include nuts in meals as a change from eating them on their own as a snack: try crushed peanuts on top of Thai-inspired dishes, stir or crush cashews into a creamy curry, or add flaked almonds to a spicy Moroccan stew.
Regardless of how often you have nuts in your diet, the most sensible advice from experts is to just be as healthy as you can.
“The most important thing is to do your best to eat a balanced and varied diet,” says Dr Emma.
“If your nausea and vomiting is severe and food can't be kept down, or you feel too sick to eat or too tired to cook consider taking a specially formulated vitamin and mineral supplement which will help to top vitamin and mineral levels up.”
And if all else fails, rest assured you can safely grab a slice of peanut butter on toast.
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