Nutrition is important at every stage of life, especially important if you are a mother-to-be or already have children. A healthy child has their mother to thank for taking care of their nutrition from conception through to weaning her baby from breast milk. In fact, a mother’s nutritional status during this critical period is a good indicator of her child’s short- and long-term health.
Despite this, an estimated 20 to 30% of women of childbearing age are vitamin deficient. Indeed infertility that can affect one in six couples1also has a lot to do with vitamin deficiencies. Therefore, it is important that women of childbearing age are encouraged to eat a nutritious diet (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics2)
One of these foods is avocado as it contains important nutrients such as folic acid, fiber, monounsaturated fats, potassium and carotenoids. Thanks to their nutritional profile, avocados can support the mother’s diet, the course of labor and the quality of breast milk.3
Avocados for Maternal Health
Admittedly, there isn’t much research on preconception nutrition. However, studies have shown which dietary patterns can support fertility. Studies have shown, for example, that a Mediterranean style diet (which consists of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood, beans, nuts, and avocados) may support fertility results in some women who are having trouble conceiving.
This diet has been linked to a 70% reduced risk of ovulation failure in infertile women, with greater monounsaturated fat intake being associated with an almost 3.5 times greater likelihood of live birth after embryo transfer.4
An important factor of Mediterranean diet is its monounsaturated fat content. While avocados are not part of the traditional Mediterranean diet per seMore than two-thirds (70%) of the fatty acid content of avocados is monounsaturated fat, supporting the inclusion of avocados in this dietary pattern.5
Monounsaturated fatty acids make up nearly 29% of blood fatty acids in pregnant women, 18% in umbilical cord blood, and 23% in newborn blood.6
It has also been shown that the level of monounsaturated fatty acids in newborns who are small for gestational age (SGA) is significantly lower than in newborns born suitable for gestational age.7 One avocado contains 13g of monounsaturated fat, which supports the absorption of this food in the pre-conception period.
Avos during pregnancy
We all know the list of foods not to eat during pregnancy, but it’s also important to know which foods can support a healthy pregnancy. Mainly because these foods can provide the necessary nutrients needed for fetal growth, red blood cell production, enzyme activity, bone growth, and brain and central nervous system development.
One of those foods is the delicious and versatile avocado, which boasts the nutrients to help you maintain a healthy pregnancy. On the one hand, avocados contain vitamin B6, which is not only vital for the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system, but has also been found to reduce nausea in people battling morning sickness.
Avos also contain potassium, which helps balance the fluids and electrolytes in your body’s cells during pregnancy. Another nutrient found in avocados that is essential for a healthy pregnancy is folic acid. Folic acid is crucial for red and white blood cell formation, normal cell division and fetal growth during pregnancy. Poor maternal intake of folate is associated with increased rates of birth defects, low birth weight, prematurity, and cardiac and neural tube defects.3
Avos while breastfeeding
If you are breastfeeding, we recommend that you continue to include Avos in your diet. Because the fat in avocados helps both mother and baby absorb fat-soluble vitamins. This can then contribute to the development of your baby’s brain health.
Additionally, over 50% of the energy in breast milk comes from fat, specifically oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fatty acid, and most of the monounsaturated fat in avocados is oleic acid.5
When that’s not enough, the carotenoid lutein in breast milk increases rapidly, from 25% in the first few days of feeding to 50% by the end of the first month. Lutein is known as the “eye vitamin” and since avocado contains 370mg of lutein, it is thought to be involved in infant eye development and has neuroprotective effects.3
An avocado recipe for moms
Whether you’re a mom-to-be or already caring for a young child, we recommend adding an avocado as part of your mom’s diet. To get you started, enjoy this easy sliced avocado toast recipe courtesy of the South African Avocado Grower’s Association (SAGA).
Sliced avocado on toast
- 1 slice of bread of your choice, toasted
- 1/2 ripe avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 tsp sesame
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- 2-4 rings of red onion, marinated in lemon juice for 2 minutes (optional)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Lemon wedges for serving.
- Place the avocado slices on the toast and mash lightly with a fork.
- Drizzle with avocado oil and garnish with sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and “pickled” red onions, if using. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately.
1. Mousa A, Naqash A, Lim S. Macronutrient and micronutrient intake during pregnancy: A review of current evidence. Nutrient. 2019;11:443.
2nd Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Outcome of Pregnancy. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014;114(7):1009-1103.
3. Comerford KB, Ayoob KT, Murray RD, Atkinson SA. The role of avocados in maternal nutrition during the preconception period, pregnancy and lactation. Nutrient. 2016;8:313.
4. JE Chavarro, DS Colaci, M Afeisch, AJ Gaskins, D Writy, TL Toth, R Hauser. human reproduction. 2012;27.
5. Ford NA, Liu AG. The Forgotten Fruit: An Argument for Containing Avocado as Part of the Traditional Mediterranean Diet. limits of nutrition. 2020; 7:78.Doi:10.3389/fnut.2020.00078.
6. Agostoni C, Galli C, Riva E, Rise P, Colombo C, Giovannini M, Marangoni F. Whole blood fatty acid composition at birth: from the maternal department to the infant. Clinical Nutrition. 2011;30:503-505.
7. Agostoni, C.; Marangoni, F.; Stival, G.; Gateli, I.; Pinto, F.; Rise, P.; Giovannini, M.; Galli, C.; Riva, E. Whole blood fatty acid composition differs in term and slightly preterm infants: small versus gestational age matched. Pediatrics Resolution 2008, 64, 298-302.