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Article Summary:

  • Eating a Mediterranean diet may lower the risk of gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain during pregnancy
  • Gestational diabetes is associated with complications for both mother and baby
  • All versions of the Mediterranean diet are not equally beneficial

The Right Pregnancy Diet

When you become pregnant—or are even trying to conceive—one of your many concerns is likely your diet. After all, the days when women celebrated the concept of eating for two (and eating whatever you craved) during pregnancy are long gone. We know so much more about the importance of good nutrition for the development of the baby. Nevertheless, in some ways, what may be the healthiest choices to eat seems to be constantly evolving. So, it’s good news that new research clarifies things a bit as to what’s the healthiest diet to stick with to prevent excessive weight gain and potentially harmful problems.

The study, which took place at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom, found that eating a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy is associated with reduced weight gain and a lower risk of developing gestational diabetes.1Al Wattar, Bassel H.; et al. “Mediterranean-style diet in pregnant women with metabolic risk factors (ESTEEM): A pragmatic multicentre randomised trial.” PLoS Medicine. 23 July 2019. Accessed 28 July 2019. These results are based on an investigation that included 1,252 pregnant women receiving prenatal care in London or Birmingham. All the subjects were over the age of 16 and had one or more metabolic risk factors, such as obesity or hypertension, which raise the risk of diabetes and other potential pregnancy complications like preeclampsia.

For the duration of the research period, roughly half of the participants ate their typical diets while the other half adhered to a Mediterranean diet that focused on increasing consumption of nuts, fish, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Simultaneously, this group cut back on consumption of red meat, processed meat, and dairy products and attempted to avoid fast food and sugary beverages. The volunteers eating the Mediterranean diet had a 35 percent lower risk of developing gestational diabetes than their counterparts eating typical diets and also gained an average of 15 pounds during pregnancy versus an average of more than 18 pounds for the control group.

Benefits of Avoiding Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a serious condition that develops in approximately 10 percent of pregnancies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can contribute toward complications for the mother-to-be, such as high blood pressure. As for the baby, gestational diabetes often means a greater birth weight, making a cesarean section delivery more likely, and preterm birth is also more common.

What’s more, gestational diabetes is often a sign of trouble down the road, as approximately half of the women with gestational diabetes eventually are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over time. And the babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes have a higher chance of becoming obese or developing type 2 diabetes as well.

Making the Most of a Mediterranean Diet

So, if you are expecting, preparing to become pregnant, or just want to adopt a healthier eating plan, a Mediterranean diet would be a very good choice. Far different from many of the fad diets that have you avoiding carbs and loading up on fat or meat, the Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle improvement that is geared toward natural, nutritious eating habits.

The only catch is that there are several versions of the Mediterranean diet, so how do you decide which is best for you? We suggest following the expert advice of Jon Barron, who has decades of experience in the health and nutrition field. The Mediterranean diet that Jon recommends includes:

  • High consumption of non-starchy vegetables and greens
  • Moderate to high consumption of wild caught fish
  • Moderate consumption of nuts and seeds
  • Moderate consumption of chlorella, spirulina, and blue green algae
  • Moderate consumption of fruit
  • Moderate consumption of oils (olive, walnut, avocado, coconut) and organic butter from grass-fed cows
  • Moderate consumption of organic, free-range chicken or turkey
  • Moderate consumption of organic, certified-humane eggs
  • Low to moderate consumption of organic, free-range meat
  • Low consumption of organic, raw dairy products
  • Low consumption of legumes
  • Low consumption of unfermented soy products
  • Low consumption of unrefined, organic grain products
  • Extremely low or no consumption of high glycemic refined grains, starches, isolated sugars, and modern, high-gliadin, genetically engineered strains of wheat


1 Al Wattar, Bassel H.; et al. “Mediterranean-style diet in pregnant women with metabolic risk factors (ESTEEM): A pragmatic multicentre randomised trial.” PLoS Medicine. 23 July 2019. Accessed 28 July 2019.

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