Pregnancy can be inspiring; giving up “bad” foods for the sake of your unborn child. Remember though, the last thing you should be giving up is nutrients required for growth and development. Take for example Dairy; a harmless food group packed with protein and essential minerals and vitamins. Many pregnant people blame lactose intolerance for their lack of daily dairy, but this many not be true. Roughly 25% of Americans are sincerely lactose intolerant; a gastrointestinal disorder causing bloating, gas, cramps or diarrhea. Without proper lactose testing (food elimination and hydrogen breath test) a pregnant woman could be removing dairy from her and her growing child’s diet increasing the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and even colon cancer.
Dairy, one of our food groups, is nutrient-rich and comes in full-fat or low-fat varieties, perfect for moms and babies. Mothers who need less fat to survive can choose low-fat versions of their favorite dairy products, while children; quickly and endlessly growing, should be offered full-fat, than reduced-fat versions.
Dairy is more than just milk and is found in more products than the ones in your cooler. Dairy is anything made from milk and because milk can be preserved by evaporation, powdered milk or dry milk is added to many products. Cookies, crackers, granola bars, even cereals can contain powdered milk to enhance flavor and texture. Other dairy products more commonly seen are; milk, yogurt, cheese(s) and creams.
One of the reasons dairy is so important during pregnancy is the nutrients it provides to the mother and baby, which are needed in increased amounts. Dairy is mainly considered a protein (a low-fat one), but it also contains calcium (essentials for strong bones and a strong heart), fat soluble vitamins A, E, K and D (antioxidants and bone strength), riboflavin (vitamin B used for cell structure and DNA) and essential fatty acids (used in cell structure).
Calcium specifically is important during pregnancy. Bone strength becomes compromised during the 40 weeks of pregnancy, the fetus taking all calcium from the mother. If enough calcium for mother and child isn’t in the diet then it leached from the stores of the mother, stored in the bones. This reduction of stored calcium is the beginnings of weak and brittle bones. Research in the “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” found that women, pregnant and breastfeeding, who have low intakes of calcium, have greater bone loss. The article “Bone calcium turnover during pregnancy and lactation in women with low calcium diets is associated with calcium intake and circulating insulin-like growth factor” finds that calcium coming from the diet in early pregnancy, late pregnancy and early lactation has a greater effect in maintaining bone calcium and therefore bone strength. This research also found that there is a negative bone balance that occurs, specifically during pregnancy and lactation. Meaning during pregnancy and lactation a greater need for calcium is taking place.
Lactose intolerance is comparatively “new” in humans, and Americans suffer more than other countries. Our willingness to ingest milk long after infancy can contribute, however cheeses and yogurt also contain lactose and yet are perfectly agreeable to the digestive tract of most people. This is why unless a severe allergy or intolerance is found; consuming dairy when pregnant is a great way to get the needed protein, vitamins and minerals on a daily basis.
Dairy when pregnant can be a convenient and filling protein-packed snack; morning, noon or night. Try your favorite yogurt, cheese and crackers or chocolate milk as a part of your extra calories looked-for during pregnancy and throughout breastfeeding.
References: O’Brien, Kimberly O, Donangelo, Carmen M, Vargas Zapata, Carmina L, Abrams, Steven A, Spencer, E Martin, King, Janet C. Bone calcium turnover during pregnancy and lactation in women with low calcium diets is associated with calcium intake and circulating insulin-like growth factor 1 concentrations1,2,. Am J Clin Nutr February 2006 vol. 83 no. 2 317-323