The Importance of Fiber During Pregnancy
by Carla Snuggs
A sensible and well-balanced diet during pregnancy will ensure your baby receives proper nutrition and increases the chances of a safe, comfortable, and complication-free pregnancy. Experts recommend that pregnant women eat six small meals to keep their energy up and their blood sugar levels stable.
For pregnant women, dietary fiber is an especially beneficial component of a balanced diet. The average American consumes 14 grams of dietary fiber each day, which is considerably less than the recommended level. A pregnant woman should be getting about 25 grams of dietary fiber per day.
Adding dietary fiber to your diet will decrease constipation and lower blood pressure. Increasing your dietary fiber during the first trimester may also reduce pregnancy risks. A report in the American Journal of Hypertension found that by increasing the amount of fiber in your diet during early pregnancy, the risk of preeclampsia (a potentially fatal condition caused by elevated blood pressure) is reduced. In this particular study, pregnant women who consumed 21.2 grams or more of fiber a day were 72 percent less likely to develop preeclampsia than those pregnant women who ate less than 11.9 grams a day.
Types of Fiber
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can partially dissolve in water. This type of fiber binds with fatty acids and keeps you feeling full, releasing and absorbing sugar slowly. Included in this group are oats, beans, lentils, and some fruits. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. This type of fiber helps move bulk through the intestines and also helps control the pH balance of the intestines. Included in this group are whole grains, nuts, bran fiber, fruit skins, and many vegetables.
Good Sources of Fiber for Pregnant Women
“Nutrition Source Fiber: Start Roughing It!”, published by Harvard’s School of Public Health, suggests the following sources of soluble and insoluble fiber:
- Oatmeal or oat bran
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried peas
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole grain cereals
- Brown rice
- Wheat bran
If you are having a hard time getting the fiber you need in your diet, talk with your doctor about fiber supplements. Certainly, eating a variety of whole foods is best, but supplements can help you meet recommendations.
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