Pregnancy Healthy diet Essential fats for pregnancy

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Essential fats for pregnancy

Good vs Bad Fats

We’re often told to limit our intake of ‘bad’ fats; saturated fats in butter and pastries and trans-fatty acids which are found in heated, refined vegetable oils or hydrogenated oils, such as some margarines. This is because they can contribute towards obesity and heart disease. However, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are essential for healthy growth, especially during pregnancy.

Why your developing baby needs fats?

Babies need a diet high in beneficial fats, as these are their main source of energy. A baby’s brain, which is around 60% fat, uses nearly three quarters of total dietary energy for growth, whereas an adult’s uses only a fifth. Once your baby is born, they’ll get a lot of essential fats from your breastmilk, which contains over 50% of its calories as fat. But while they’re still in the womb, they’re relying on you to provide the fat they need.

Fat is essential for vitamin absorption.

Fats act as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins such as D, E and K.

  • Vitamin D helps keep bones aand teeth healthy.
  • Vitamin E protects cell membranes by acting as an antioxidant.
  • Vitamin K helps wounds heal properly as it helps with blood clotting and also helps build strong bones.

Types of good fats

Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil along with avocadoes, nuts, nut oils and butters. Polyunsaturated fats are those found in sunflower oil, margarines and mayonnaise. This group also includes LCPs – required for nervous system and brain development – which can be found in flaxseeds and fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines). You’re advised to eat no more than 2 portions of oily fish a week during pregnancy. It’s also worth remembering, farmed fish may be lower in omega-3 fatty acids.

Ideally, no more than 30% of your daily calorie intake should come from fats. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you want to indulge in the odd piece of cake or bag of crisps – pregnancy is not the time to diet. As long as you include these as part of a healthy, balanced diet, your baby will receive what they need for their development.


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