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Food allergies are all around, it seems. Nuts are a top concern. Some pregnant women wonder if it is safer to steer clear of nuts completely to prevent the development of nut allergies, or perhaps even in case their fetus would have an allergic reaction.

Should you avoid nuts while you are expecting, or are nuts a safe and nutritious snack for you? 

Eating nuts if one of the baby's parents is allergic

When one of a person's parents has food allergies, they have a 40 percent chance of being allergic to something or other themselves. Obviously, pregnant women who are allergic to nuts themselves will not be tempted to consume them. Should you stay away from nuts of your baby's father is allergic to them?

The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) used to say just that if dad or any of their older children are allergic to peanuts (which are technically legumes, by the way) and tree nuts, a pregnant mother should not consume these things at all. That recommendation was withdrawn in 2008 due to a lack of evidence that nut exposure during pregnancy could be linked to a nut allergy later in life. Note that specific allergies are not hereditary. If you or your partner have allergies, your child may inherit the sensitivity to allergies as such, but is not very likely to be allergic to the same thing. If you are allergic to nuts, your child may turn out to be allergic to something completely different, like milk, cats, or dust mite.

Danish researchers: Nut consumption may decrease allergy risk

A study published in June this year showed that nut consumption during pregnancy decreases the risk of peanut and tree nut allergies at 16 months of age, as well as the risk of allergic asthma. The research team followed 101,045 Danish pregnancies between 1996 and 2002. The women who participated were asked questions about their dietary habits at two points during their pregnancies. They were contacted again when their children were six months old, 18 months old, and seven years old. The mother-baby pairs were additionally followed through the healthcare system, using their national insurance numbers (Creepy, right? Hopefully the researchers received permission for that one!). Are you curious about the outcome? Many people speculate that consuming nuts during pregnancy will somehow make the child more sensitive to allergies. The opposite is logical, when you think about it isn't that kind of how vaccines work? Since peanuts, which are a very serious allergen for many people, are a legume, the Danish research team separated research into peanut consumption and allergy rates from data collected about tree nuts. Regarding peanuts, they discovered that:

  • Children of mothers who had peanuts at least once a week during their pregnancy were less likely to have an asthma diagnosis at 18 months of age. Higher maternal peanut consumption was associated with an even lower chance of asthma by that age.
  • When the same children were observed at age seven, children whose mothers had been peanut eaters in pregnancy were 34 percent less likely to have an asthma diagnosis.
  • No link was found between other allergies and maternal peanut consumption during pregnancy.

The findings for other nuts were similar. Tree nut consumption during pregnancy was linked to a lower risk of asthma at 18 months. At age seven, that statistical difference was lowered significantly. Kids whose mothers consumed a variety of nuts regularly during pregnancy were, however, found to have a 20 percent lower risk of developing other allergies.

Why you should eat nuts while pregnant

Are you convinced that peanuts and tree nuts are not dangerous, and may decrease the risk of asthma and related allergies? Wait until you hear about the other benefits of eating nuts, and you'll be hooked!

  • Nuts contain plenty of antioxidants, which are really beneficial during pregnancy.
  • Nuts are high in fat, but low in saturated fats. Polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce your bad cholesterol.
  • Nuts are a great source of protein, especially if you are vegan and pregnant. They make great snacks for anyone, and can be added to salads and meals as well.
  • Magnesium, iron, zinc and folate are all nutrients that a developing fetus really needs. They're all found in nuts (in different amounts).
  • For men, eating walnuts leads to a better sperm count!

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