This Diet May Prevent Unhealthy Weight Gain In Pregnant Women, Study Finds

Contributing Health & Nutrition Editor By Stephanie Eckelkamp
Contributing Health & Nutrition Editor
Stephanie Eckelkamp is a writer and editor who has been working for leading health publications for the past 10 years. She received her B.S. in journalism from Syracuse University with a minor in nutrition.
This Diet May Prevent Unhealthy Weight Gain In Pregnant Women, Study Finds

When it comes to reformulating your diet for pregnancy, much of the emphasis is placed on what to avoid—shellfish, sushi, unpasteurized cheese, and deli meats, among others. But eating for two is about so much more than minimizing your exposure to potential pathogens. 

One of the main nutrition goals of any expecting mama should be to maintain stable blood sugar. That's because, every year, up to 10% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes—and out of that number, half go on to develop type 2 diabetes, which can lead to all sorts of health complications.

The good news: Now we have some insight into which diet may be the most beneficial for preventing gestational diabetes and excess weight gain during pregnancy, and it's one that's been linked to a host of other physical and mental perks—the Mediterranean diet

A new study of over 1,200 pregnant women published in the journal PLOS Medicine found that following a Mediterranean-style diet—including ¼ cup of mixed nuts per day and extra-virgin olive oil—led to a 35% lower risk of developing diabetes in pregnancy. Women on the diet also gained, on average, 2.75 fewer pounds during their pregnancy. 

Researchers say the study suggests that a Mediterranean diet may be especially effective for women who enter pregnancy already overweight, or with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

"This is the first study to show that pregnant women at high risk of complications may benefit from a Mediterranean-style diet," said Shakila Thangaratinam, M.D., Ph.D., study author, in a news release. "Women who are at risk of gestational diabetes should be encouraged to take action early on in pregnancy by consuming more nuts, olive oil, fruit, and unrefined grains while reducing their intake of animal fats and sugar."

Following a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy has also been associated with a reduced likelihood of babies going on to become overweight in early childhood.

In addition to benefiting pregnant women, the Mediterranean diet has also been associated with improving fertility among women trying to conceive due to its high nutrient content and anti-inflammatory properties (the Mediterranean is generally thought to be rich in nutrients essential for growing babies such as folate); and, for both men and women who aren't pregnant, it's been associated with boosting heart health and life span, improving gut health, improving brain health and mood, reducing cancer risk, and promoting a healthy metabolism.

Of course, there may be other blood-sugar-balancing, anti-inflammatory diets that help keep you healthy during pregnancy, but a well-formulated Mediterranean diet seems to be the most well researched and sustainable.

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