It’s understandable if nuts are one of those foods you may not be quite sure about eating now that you’re pregnant. Over on our forum there are so many mums that are quite rightly confused as to whether they are safe to eat.
“There is so much conflicting advice (even going as far as saying different things on different pages of my week by week pregnancy book!)” says goonie_mummy. “I honestly don’t know what I should be doing.”
_Minnie09 agrees; “There’s so many different opinions on this, it’s difficult to know what to do for the best!”
Official NHS advice about nuts in pregnancy
Luckily though, if you’re a nut-lover, official advice from the NHS says 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).
Dietitian Dr Emma Derbyshire, from the The Health & Food Supplements Information Service and author of Nutrition in the Childbearing Years confirms that nuts are totally fine to eat in pregnancy.
“Except of course you should obviously avoid nuts if you have an allergy,” says Dr Emma. “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.”
The result is many mums on our forums have now chosen to eat nuts during pregnancy.
Chocciemoose is one such mum. “I’ve never avoided nuts during either of my pregnancies and although my new arrival is too young to be able to tell for sure whether he has an allergy, my daughter has no allergies at all.
“The thing is, anyone can be allergic to anything and so we would potentially need to avoid eating everything. I believe that to be able to build an immunity to something you need to be exposed to it.”
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 contain lots of healthy fats, fibre, protein and vitamin E.
Walnuts have amazing antioxidant qualities and omega-3 fats.
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.
Cashew cream is a brilliant vegan alternative to whipping cream and has a fraction of the calories.
Pecans are a good source of manganese and copper, which helps your metabolism and can reduce inflammation.
They’re 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’re 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.
“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.”
Why nuts make nutritional sense in pregnancy
“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.”
Nuts as a brilliant ‘on the go’ food
“Try peanut butter on a celery stick; it’s really tasty and also one of your 5 a day!” says Broodypants on our forum.
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.
Remember to keep your pregnancy diet balanced
Finally just remember 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.
“And 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 you are feeling sick some mums have even found that eating nuts can really help them: “Peanut butter with jam butty is my saviour at the moment to stop my nausea progressing into full-scale ‘head down the loo’,” says arls0308 in our forum.
“I’m even contemplating adding a banana to it – is this too wrong?!” We say – whatever makes you happy!
If you’re currently pregnant, have a baby or toddler, check out SMA® Nutrition’s Mother Of All Checklists – a free web app co-created by mums to help you stay on top of your parenting to-do lists.