Is the Paleo Diet Safe During Pregnancy? Benefits and Risks

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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The Paleo diet is a popular eating plan that many turn to for weight loss. However, there are many risks of this diet to pregnant women.

Overall, it is best to stick with a regular and balanced diet during pregnancy and steer clear of the Paleo diet. The risks of the diet outweigh the benefits, so it is best to avoid it.

In this article, we will cover the risks and benefits of the Paleo diet during pregnancy and more. Read on! 

Is the Paleo Diet Safe When Pregnant?

The Paleo diet is not safe when pregnant because it cuts out major food groups that are essential for a healthy and balanced diet.

When you are pregnant, it is increasingly important for adequate nutrition to support your growing baby. Therefore, it is best to avoid the Paleo diet because it may contribute to nutritional deficiencies in your diet. 

More specifically, the Paleo diet is an eating plan that focuses on foods that were potentially around during the Paleolithic era (source: Mayo Clinic). The Paleo diet often includes fruits, vegetables, lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Primarily, the Paleo diet does not allow for grains, beans or other legumes, and dairy

Various Paleo diet products on wooden table

The Risks of a Paleo Diet When Pregnant

The main concern of the Paleo diet for all individuals, but especially pregnant women, is the lack of whole grains and legumes, which provide essential vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, protein, and more (source: Mayo Clinic).

These vitamins and minerals are needed for a healthy pregnancy. Additionally, fiber is required to prevent constipation (which is common during pregnancy) and encourage overall gastrointestinal health. 

Another issue with the Paleo diet for pregnancy is the avoidance of any foods and beverages from the dairy food group. Dairy contains vitamin D and calcium, which are needed for strong bones and teeth, especially during pregnancy.

When you are pregnant, your calcium needs increase because if your baby is not getting enough calcium from your diet, they will take it from your bones (source: National Institutes of Health [NIH]). 

The primary reason individuals turn to the Paleo diet is to lose weight, which is not recommended for pregnant women by most reputable sources.

Instead, it is recommended that pregnant women who are overweight or obese gain less weight during pregnancy rather than lose weight (source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [ACOG]). 

Finally, there is a significant lack of research done on the long-term effects of the Paleo diet on the general population, let alone pregnant women and their babies. 

The Benefits of a Paleo Diet When Pregnant

The benefits of the Paleo diet for pregnant women are very limited, especially because of how significant the risks are. 

It is beneficial to reduce your added sugar, salt, and processed food intake. However, you can achieve similar benefits through regular physical activity and a healthy and balanced diet, including all food groups, including fruits and vegetables (source: Mayo Clinic).

Additionally, the Mediterranean diet is a more balanced diet that focuses on olive oil, meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat dairy.

Can Paleo Help with Gestational Diabetes? 

While the Paleo diet can theoretically help with gestational diabetes because there are no grains or added sugar in the diet. Additionally, those on the Paleo diet avoid starchy vegetables and legumes containing carbohydrates. Therefore, decreasing your carbohydrate intake could help with gestational diabetes.

However, it is important to still recognize the risks of this diet and to control gestational diabetes through less extreme measures.

Paleo diet. Healthy high protein and low carbohydrate products

Can the Paleo Diet Help Fertility? 

While many believe the Paleo diet can help with fertility, there is limited evidence to suggest this relationship. In fact, a nutrient-dense and balanced diet is recommended for improving female fertility (source: Center for Reproductive Medicine).

Unfortunately, the Paleo diet cuts out many foods and food groups, such as dairy and grains, and therefore is not a well-balanced diet. 

Can the Paleo Diet Help with Nausea or Morning Sickness? 

Since pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting, often known as morning sickness, is so common during pregnancy, many expectant mothers wonder if the Paleo diet can help. However, it may be the opposite because foods higher in carbohydrates may help fight morning sickness (source: Virginia Center for Women). 

Here is a resource list of 12 foods to fight pregnancy nausea and morning sickness

Overall, if you are still considering the Paleo diet while pregnant, make sure to talk to your physician before beginning.

I hope you found this article a helpful guide in navigating whether you should consider the Paleo diet while you are pregnant.