Peanut butter is an ideal food for pregnancy. It contains fiber, vitamin E, folate, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Studies have shown that eating peanuts and peanut butter can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Peanuts also help with weight control because they have a strong satiety value, meaning they keep hunger at bay longer than many other foods, particularly those that are high in carbohydrates. When you're planning meals and snacks, keep in mind that peanut butter is high in calories: Two tablespoons, which is the amount most people use on a sandwich, have 190 calories.
If you're allergic. About 2 percent to 2.5 percent of all adults (and many children) suffer from food allergies. Allergies to peanuts are the most common food allergies (followed by shellfish, eggs, wheat, soy, dairy products, and tree nuts). If you're allergic, you should stay away from peanut products at all times, including during pregnancy. Food allergies can show up as rashes, swelling of the skin, nasal congestion, nausea and diarrhea, or anaphylactic shock, which is life-threatening.
If you're not allergic. Will eating peanuts during pregnancy increase the risk of your child having a peanut allergy? There is no clear answer to this question. However, there is evidence that the protein from peanuts ingested by mothers is secreted into breast milk; researchers suspect that if peanut protein goes into breast milk, it probably can cross the placenta too. It makes sense for women who have a close relative with a peanut allergy to avoid eating peanuts during pregnancy and while nursing because their children may have a greater-than-average chance of developing a peanut allergy.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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