Before, during and after – the role of avocados in maternal nutrition

By the South African Avocado Growers’ Association

by Media Xpose

A healthy child has its mother to thank, for looking after her nutrition from conception to the time she weens her baby from her breast milk. Indeed, a mother’s nutritional status throughout this critical period is a good predictor of her child’s health status, both in the short and long term.

Yet it is estimated that 20% to 30% of women of childbearing age may suffer from a vitamin deficiency. Infertility, which may affect one in six couples, is also strongly related to vitamin deficiency.Not surprising, then, that women of childbearing age are urged to adopt a nutrient-rich diet (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)

Enter the avocado. Avocados contain key nutrients such as folate, fibre, monounsaturated fats, potassium, and carotenoids, and are a unique food to support maternal nutrition, birth outcome, and the quality of breastmilk.

While research on preconception nutrition is limited, studies have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet (healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood, beans, and nuts) may support fertility outcomes in some women struggling to conceive. This diet may be associated with a 70% decreased risk of ovulatory disorders in infertile women, with the greater intakes of monounsaturated fats related to almost 3.5 times higher odds of live birth after embryo transfer.

More than two-thirds of avos fatty acid content is healthy monounsaturated fatty acids

A standout nutritional feature of the Mediterranean diet is monounsaturated fats. Whilst avocados are not part of the traditional Mediterranean diet per se, more than two-thirds (70%) of the fatty acid content of avocados are monounsaturated fatty acids, which supports the inclusion of avocados in this dietary pattern.

Monounsaturated fatty acids make up almost 29% of blood fatty acids of pregnant women, 18% of the umbilical cord blood, and 23% of the blood of a newborn.Monounsaturated fatty acid levels have also been shown to be significantly lower in small-for-gestational-age (SGA) new-borns compared to those born appropriate for gestational age. One avocado contains 13 g of monounsaturated fatty acids, supporting the intake of this food during the pre-conception period.

Avos during pregnancy

During pregnancy, the mother’s diet is extremely important in providing key nutrients to promote foetal growth, red blood cell production, enzyme activity, bone growth, and brain and central nervous system development.

Along with other nutrients (e.g., iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, essential fatty acids), folate is critical for the formation of red and white blood cells, normal cell division and foetal growth in pregnancy. Poor maternal intake of folate is linked to increased rates of birth defects, low birth weight, preterm birth, and cardiac and neural tube defects.  

Avocados are a great source of folate (approximately 40 µg of folate per serving), higher than a serving of most fruits, tree nuts and seeds.

Avos during breastfeeding

More than 50% of energy in breast milk derived from fat, particularly oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fatty acid. One serving of avocado contains 5 g of monounsaturated fat, the majority of which is oleic acid (4.5 g).

Lutein, a plant-based vitamin called carotenoid (sometimes known as the “eye vitamin”), rapidly increases in breastmilk, from 25% in the first few days of feeding to 50% by the end of the first month. One avocado contains 370 mg lutein, which may be involved in infant eye development and have neuroprotective effects.

So be sure to add an avo as part of your maternal nutrition.

For further information and avo recipes, visit , like us on Facebook @iloveavocadoSA and follow us on Instagram @iloveavossa


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