The preeclampsia diet plan has been formulated to help control and treat the condition in such patients during pregnancy and to satisfy their dietary needs.
This high protein, low carb and low sodium diet forms an important part of the preeclampsia treatment. No management is complete without the doctor advising you on the restrictions on what to eat and what to avoid.
Why is the diet important?
It does not cure preeclampsia as we know that the only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby at the earliest when it is safe for both the mother and the baby.
The importance of the preeclampsia dietary intervention and restriction lies in the fact that it will prfevent a mild case from getting severe and a severe case from precipitating complications. It can also significantly contribute to preventing preeclampsia in a high-risk patient.
It should be adhered to religiously by such patients whether the preeclampsia is mild or severe. This precaution is necessary because a mild case can turn severe and most of all, the complications can be dangerous and even fatal for the mother and the baby.
It is an established fact that preeclampsia is a major cause of maternal and fetal mortality and morbidity worldwide.
Low intake of nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, is associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia.
In addition, high triglyceride levels, obesity, consumption of high calories, and a low ratio of omega 6: omega 3 are also possible risk factors.
For pregnant women who are overweight, the diet will also help to tackle your weight issue by restricting the calorie intake.
Dietary intervention and restriction
This diet is not a replacement for your prenatal supplements but an add-on. So, take your vitamin supplements as advised.
The dietary treatment advises all woman to take calcium and vitamin D supplementation from 8th to 16th gestational weeks and thereafter, extensive nutritional management until delivery. This dietary intervention has substantially reduced the risk of preeclampsia and its complications.
Is salt intake the order of the day? Yes, it is. In an established case of preeclampsia with increased blood pressure, restricting salt intake is advisable as it is in all cases of hypertension. Women planning a pregnancy and associated with high-risk factors should also avoid excess salt intake,
Adequate fluid intake is necessary. Water contributes to an increase in blood supply and in maintaining an adequate amount of amniotic fluid.
Water is vital and helps nutrition reach the body cells, it aids digestion, removes toxins from the body and maintains body temperature. Drink about 8 to 10 12-ounce glasses every day. It has tremendous all round benefits.
Experts advise salt restriction in an established case of preeclampsia due to the presence of hypertension.
But, according to the WHO guidelines:
However, the guidelines further add that it considered the avoidance of excessive dietary salt intake as a healthy dietary practice.
Proteins and complex carbohydrates
The diet basically incorporates high protein and complex carb foods and plans all round nutrition.
Proteinuria is a cardinal sign of preeclampsia. Proteinuria is passing of protein through the urine. It is not due to the excess of proteins in the mother but, on the contrary, proteinuria depletes the mother of proteins. This can lead to protein deficiency in the pregnant mother. But the fetus requires proteins for its growth.
But the fetus requires proteins for its growth. The body mechanism ensures this supply to the fetus by breaking down the mother’s tissues to provide protein to the growing fetus.
The daily requirement of protein for a pregnant woman is 80 to 100 grams per day.
The best foods to obtain this protein requirement are vegetarian sources such as whey protein, beans, peas, nuts, whole milk, dairy products and cheese, wheat grass, aloe vera juice.
Non-vegetarian sources of proteins include eggs, fish like salmon and meat.
Besides filling up the protein deficiency, these foods will also provide other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.
Fish are also a great source of omega fatty acids. Other sources of proteins and omega fatty acids include pumpkin seeds and flax.
About choosing your fish
- Pregnant women should choose deep sea fish and incorporate the same once a week in the diet. Certain fish contain high amounts of mercury and you should avoid them. These include King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna.
- Avoid lake water fish because of the high level of contamination.
- Fish grown on farms are fed antibiotics prophylactically and should be avoided for fear of developing antibiotic resistance and allergies.
You can ensure adequate magnesium supply by taking magnesium supplements and epsom salt baths. These baths enable the absorption of magnesium through the skin.
Epsom salts contain magnesium sulphate. In water, this breaks down into magnesium and sulphate. When you soak in the warm water mixed with epsom salts, the magnesium is absorbed through the skin into your body.
Though this theory has not been proven, cases have shown increased magnesium levels in the blood after regular epsom salt baths.
Calcium is another important nutrient and can be taken through calcium supplements and calcium rich foods.
You require at least one gram of calcium every day during pregnancy to keep a check on your preeclampsia condition.
However, according to the new WHO guidelines, in populations with low dietary calcium intake, daily calcium supplementation of 1.5 g – 2.0 g oral elemental calcium is recommended for pregnant women to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia.
Calcium rich foods include most types of greens, citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, figs, vegetables like turnips, and broccoli.
Studies show that women with vitamin D deficiency are potential candidates for preeclampsia.
You can avoid vitamin D deficiency by getting that soft sun exposure on some part of your body daily for 15 minutes and taking vitamin D supplements.
Incorporate the following vitamin D rich foods in your diet: fortified milk or soya milk, fatty fish like salmon and herring, cheese, and yogurt.
Increased intake of potassium will also help to level off the increased blood pressure. Foods rich in potassium include banana, potato peels, mint, chicory and dandelion leaves.
Vitamins C and E
Antioxidant vitamins, primarily vitamins C and E, also help to reduce the risk of developing pre-eclampsia.
High vitamin C foods include bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, berries, oranges, tomatoes, green peas, and papayas.
Food sources of vitamin E include almonds, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens, kale, plant oils.
According to a study published by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOG), selenium (a trace mineral) deficiency is a common nutritional cause of preeclampsia in pregnancy.
Women who are at risk for preeclampsia should, therefore, maintain an adequate intake of selenium. Food sources include Brazil nuts, eggs, cereals, tuna etc.
How to prevent preeclampsia?
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Restrict salt intake. Do not add extra salt to your meals.
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.
- Avoid eating fried foods and junk food.
- Get enough rest.
- Exercise regularly.
- Elevate your feet several times during the day.
- Avoid drinking alcohol.
- Avoid caffeine-containing beverages.
- Keep your prenatal visits to the doctor regular.
- Stick to the preeclampsia diet as advised in this post