Here is why you need good fats during pregnancy
If you are gearing up to welcome a new life and complete your family, your doctor and well-wishers might have already advised you to follow a balanced diet which includes all food groups. And yes, they are right! However, you must be wondering if fats are as essential as carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and vitamins. After all, most women try to avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy, even though a healthy weight gain is necessary for supporting your growing foetus. Hence, fats face the brunt if you gain too many kilos. But what you need to know is that, not all fats are bad for you. Good fats should be included in your diet to give you energy, lower bad cholesterol level and reduce the risk of heart ailments. To know all about them, read on.
What are good fats?
We commonly consider fats to be unhealthy but certain fats play an essential role in the growth and development of your body and your baby, during the time of pregnancy. The right kind of fats, in the right amounts, promote proper brain growth and eye development of the baby during the third trimester.
The average requirement of total fat per day by a pregnant woman is 30g. According to experts, fats fulfil about 20-35% of your body’s calorie requirements. However, all fats are not good. Some are essential for your body, while others are best avoided.
Primarily, there are three types of fats:
- Saturated fats: They solidify at room temperature and are obtained primarily from ghee, butter, coconut oil, meat, milk, and dairy products, and a few snacks such as biscuits, cakes, and other sweets. These fats can also result in the build-up of cholesterol. So, the intake of saturated fats should be limited.
- Trans fats: These are present in foods like cookies, fried food items, margarine, and bakery products. Also found in hydrogenated vegetable oils, these can raise cholesterol levels in the body. Hence, globally, countries are banning the use of trans fats in foods.
- Unsaturated fats: These are one of those healthy fats for pregnancy. There are 2 types of unsaturated fats available - 1) monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil, groundnut oil, avocados, and nuts, and 2) polyunsaturated fats – found in all types of vegetable oils except coconut oil. These fats provide vital nutrients, which help build the cells of your body as well as your baby's body.
Polyunsaturated fats are rich in omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids (EPA, found in plants and DHA, found in fish). The two essential fatty acids (EFA) are linoleic (LA n-6) and alpha linolenic (ALA n-3) acids (vital dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids).
These fatty acids help develop and maintain your baby’s heart health, immune system, brain, eyes, and other body organs. Your baby’s brain is made up of 60% fat too. The right balance of these two classes of PUFAs, namely, linoleic and alpha linolenic acids, is essential for the functioning of nervous, vascular, renal and immune systems, and for early development.
Tips to eat healthy fat-rich foods during pregnancy
- Fishes like rawas, ahi, rohu and pomfret are great sources of omega fats, which support your baby’s developing brain.
- One serving of monounsaturated fats can be obtained from about a handful of mixed nuts, 1/4th cup almonds, 1tbsp of vegetable, olive or sunflower oil, and will support your baby’s growth and development.
- One serving of polyunsaturated fats can come from rawas or hilsa fish, ½ cup of flaxseeds, walnuts, and 1tbsp of soybean or corn oil, which can be beneficial for your health.
- For increasing the intake of essential fats, go for these food swaps:
- Choose lean meats over the fatty ones, like fish and chicken over mutton or lamb.
- Go for grilled, baked or steamed foods over fried foods.
- Replace butter with olive or rapeseed oil.
- Snack on nuts instead of chips or biscuits.
Healthy fats during pregnancy are important for both the mother and the growing foetus inside her. Along with the benefits mentioned in this article, they also lower the risk of childhood obesity and promote normal cognitive development during the baby’s early years.