Should I Eat Nuts While Breastfeeding?
Nuts are a nutrient-dense, high-protein plant food that make an excellent snack for breastfeeding women. They are widely recommended by health experts as one of the best foods breastfeeding mothers can eat. Here are some of the key benefits for you and your baby:
- Boost Breast Milk Production - Nuts, especially almonds, cashews and walnuts are known to boost breast milk production. The amino acids in nuts are building blocks for serotonin, which is a necessary neurotransmitter for lactation1.
- Increase Energy - Nuts provide an energy boost making them a great snack for busy and tired mums. They are nutrient-dense, providing a wide range of important vitamins and minerals. Nuts can help you meet the increased nutritional needs while breastfeeding.
- Assist Baby's Development - Nuts contain folate to assist with your baby's development pre and postnatal and healthy fats to assist the baby in healthy growth and development.
- Aid Weight Loss - Several studies have shown that eating small amounts of nuts helps weight loss because the fibre and protein help you feel full longer which prevents overeating. However, watch your portion size as nuts have a high-calorie count. A serving of nuts is the equivalent of a handful or 6-8 nuts.
The Best Nuts to Eat While Breastfeeding
Nursing women can consume any nuts they like, but here are our top four recommendations.
Almonds are a powerhouse of essential nutrients. They contain calcium, iron, protein, zinc, and magnesium, making them one of the best foods a breastfeeding woman can eat.
Almonds are also proven galactagogues; galactagogues are foods that support milk production. Women who suffer from low milk supply are often encouraged to include almonds and almond milk in their diet as both can increase milk production.
Almonds are great for vegetarians and vegans because they are a good non-dairy source of calcium.
You can incorporate almonds into so many healthy snacks like bliss balls, slices, muffins or smoothies. And a simple handful of almonds is a fantastic one-handed snack for a busy mum.
Cashews contain many vitamins and minerals that can improve the quality of breastmilk. For example, cashew nuts are rich in zinc, calcium, iron, and vitamin K. These essential nutrients are passed through breast milk and onto your little one.
Cashews are an excellent snack for breastfeeding women, and they are also beneficial when trying to conceive. Cashews are high in selenium, a mineral that protects sperm and eggs from compounds that can potentially damage cells. Cashews have also been shown to increase sperm count and improve sperm fertility.
And these little bean-shaped superfoods are also recommended while pregnant as their calcium content assists in the healthy development of your growing foetus.
One of the best things about walnuts is their omega-3 fatty acid content. These little brain-shaped nuts are coincidentally super beneficial for brain development in growing babies. Recent studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts have the power to improve brain function and mood in children. So, the earlier you expose your baby to these nutrients, the better.
Walnuts are also rich in antioxidants, which help boost your growing baby’s immune system. In addition, they're rich in protein, which helps with muscle repair. And walnuts’ high healthy fat content helps keep you feeling full and reduces the desire for mindless snacking.
Taking care of your baby is hard work, so you need to include foods to support your increased energy needs. A small handful of walnuts is the perfect snack to get you through night-time feedings.
Peanuts are rich in folic acid, a nutrient that is super important for the growth of muscles and nervous tissue in babies. They are also full of healthy fats, which help support healthy brain development in growing bubs. And these healthy fats will also serve to keep your energy up and help to keep your tummy full.
Nuts & Allergies
Food allergies are not common. According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), around 98% of the Australian adult population do not have a food allergy and 90-96% of children do not have any food allergies2. Of the minority of people that have food allergies, the most common allergens are cow's milk (dairy), soy, egg, wheat, fish, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, and shellfish.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), and the Australian Dietary Guidelines all state there is no evidence to show that what a woman eats while pregnant or breastfeeding negatively affects the chance of the child developing an allergy, or allergy symptoms.3
In fact, many allergists believe that allergies in children are more common when a mother has avoided certain foods throughout her pregnancy and breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding expert Dr. Jack Newman advises that eating nuts can actually decrease the risk of allergies and food sensitivities in breastfed babies whose mothers eat nuts or nut products. Eating a varied diet can train your growing baby’s immune system from the start to prevent allergies.
Of course, if you have a history of nut allergy, then you need to continue to avoid those nuts you are allergic to.
When to Stop Eating Nuts While Breastfeeding
The only reason to stop eating nuts while breastfeeding is if you or your little one develops an allergy. As mentioned previously, food allergies are not common and 90-98% of the population do not have a food allergy.
If you notice your baby develops reactions to certain foods, such as rashes, diarrhea, and congestion, we recommend writing down the symptom, along with the food you ate that day. Then go see your paediatrician. A food diary will help your paediatrician establish whether there is a link between certain foods and reactions or whether there is another issue.
It is important to assess all possible causes before ruling out food groups and changing your diet. Particularly when you are breastfeeding, you need your nutrients and if you start avoiding foods, you will need to make up for what you are missing by eating different foods.4
Nuts are a nutritional powerhouse and are widely recommended by health experts as one of the best foods breastfeeding mothers can eat.
They are the perfect one-handed snack for busy mums.
Nuts are super versatile and can be enjoyed as a snack or incorporated into a wide range of meals, including curries, pasta sauces, stir-fries, and smoothies.
2 Department of Health (DoH), Submission 78, p. 5.Department of Health (DoH), Submission 78, p. 5. https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/faqs#:~:text=For%20this%20reason%2C%20food%20allergy,in%20Australia%20and%20New%20Zealand.
Greer, F.R., S.H. Sicherer, and A.W. Burks, Effects of early nutritional interventions on the development of atopic disease in infants and children: the role of maternal dietary restriction, breastfeeding, timing of introduction of complementary foods, and hydrolyzed formulas. Pediatrics, 2008. 121(1): p. 183-91.
ASCIA. Guidelines: Infant feeding and allergy prevention. ASCIA 2016. http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-prevention/ascia-guidelines-for-infant-feeding-and-allergy-prevention.
National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council. 2013 https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/the_guidelines/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines.pdf
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