Lectin-Free Diet For Pregnancy
Written by Danielle Hayden
You’re lectin-free, and now you’re pregnant! Congratulations! Or maybe you’ve given up lectins in the hope of getting pregnant soon. Either way, you might be worrying that a lectin-free diet during pregnancy isn’t right for you. Maybe people comment that it’s too restrictive or that you need grains and legumes for folic acid.
Put simply, lectins are not a vital nutrient for expecting moms and babies. They’re indigestible proteins, and you can read more about them here. All of the recommended nutrients for pregnancy–protein, calcium, folate, iron, vitamin C–can be found in nutritious foods that don’t contain harmful lectins. This post explains why eating a lectin-free diet–with some key modifications–can be healthy for expecting mamas and babies.
This article is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified health professional. Consult a doctor or nutritionist before making any dietary or supplement changes before, during, and after pregnancy. This post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy for more info.
A Lectin-Free Pregnancy
If you’ve already given up dietary lectins on The Plant Paradox Diet, your eating habits have improved in a lot of ways. You’re probably buying pastured and wild-caught animal proteins and eating a lot more greens and cruciferous vegetables than you ever have before. Your diet now consists of a lot more olive oil and good quality fats. The most important change you have made, however, is giving up grains, sugar, and processed foods.
Why are these changes really good for you and your baby?
All those salads or green smoothies multiple times a week (or every day) are great for building baby bones. Leafy greens like spinach, romaine, and parsley, plus non-starchy green veggies like asparagus and broccoli contain important minerals like magnesium, calcium, and vitamin K.
They are also high in folate, which is essential for hundreds of processes in the body like detoxification and healthy gene function. In early pregnancy, it’s a vital nutrient for neural tube and spinal chord development in fetuses. If you’re not getting enough, the risk of infertility, miscarriage, and birth defects increase. (2)
A lectin-free diet during pregnancy will increase the amount of natural folate in your diet, supporting crucial early development.
–> Check out my recipes high in dietary folate:
Speaking of folate, when you choose a prenatal vitamin, talk to your doctor about taking one with food-based folate, methylated folate, or folinic acid. These are not the same thing as folic acid, which is the synthetic form of vitamin B9. While the benefits of folinic acid during early and pre-pregnancy are well-documented, an estimated 40 percent of people have a genetic mutation that decreases their ability to convert folic acid into its usable form. The long-term effects of folic acid consumption in this population can increase risk of cancer, mood disorders, and autoimmune disease. (1) (8)
–> This brand is known for its multi and prenatal vitamins that contain methylated folate instead of folic acid.
You may not know whether you have this genetic mutation. However, a lectin-free diet rich in natural dietary folate can substantially reduce the risk of many diseases. The journey to pregnancy doesn’t go quite as planned. You may be consuming prenatal vitamins and still struggling to conceive. Regular helpings of tasty greens will help your body run at its best. And when you get your happy surprise, they’ll also help nurture that lil’ bun!
If you’re following The Plant Paradox Diet you’ve (hopefully!) reduced your sugar intake. You’ve replaced maple syrup with a better alternative and you’ve replaced your fruit smoothie with something green. A lectin-free diet during pregnancy can help decrease complications from something like gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes and type II diabetes increase the risk for of a number of birth complications. Additionally, evidence shows that even moderately elevated blood sugar levels can increase risk for congenital heart defects, high infant insulin levels, and macrosomia. Gestational diabetes specialist and RDN Lily Nichols addresses myths about gestational diabetes in this post. She explains why the body fights hard during pregnancy to keep blood glucose twenty percent lower than usual. (3) (4)
Foods low in sugar, but high in something called resistant starch–sweet potatoes, green bananas, and cassava–act as dietary fiber. These major components of a lectin-free diet are great at keeping blood sugar levels under control. In fact, for every 10 grams of fiber women consume, they reduce their risk of gestational diabetes by a whopping 26%! (9)
–> Read more about how lectins affect your blood sugar and hormones HERE.
There is practically a new study every day about the importance of the microbiome for mamas and babies. And a messy birth, it turns out, evolved as a mechanism for giving babies early protection. We now know that vaginal birth gives a newborn its first dose of gut bacteria. This bacteria helps with nutrient absorption, strengthening the immune system, and healthy brain function. Exposure to this bacteria can even help reduce risk for immune issues like asthma, juvenile arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and leukemia. (5)
Where does the bacteria come from? Mama’s microbiome! A lectin-free diet during pregnancy eliminates foods that cause bad bacteria to thrive. Instead, the diet consists of foods that promote healthy gut flora, including fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. Lactobacillus plantarum, for example, helps create an environment protective against harmful yeasts, viruses, and bacteria. This strain makes its way into baby’s intestinal tract during a vaginal birth. (6)
Even if you don’t have a vaginal birth, there’s still a way to transfer that beneficial bacteria to baby. Vaginal seeding is an innovative, yet still-controversial practice of wiping a cesarean-born baby with mom’s vaginal fluid directly after birth. The practice mimics the journey through the birth canal. This way, baby can still obtain the benefits of that first exposure. (10)
The birth canal is only the beginning! Baby gets exposed to bacteria through skin-to-skin contact with parents, breast milk, and even parents’ oral biomes through nuzzles and kisses. Life with a baby, from conception to birth and beyond, provides an infinite number of reasons to increase those good gut bugs. (7)
Lectin-Free Diet During Pregnancy
Other helpful things a lectin-free diet during pregnancy offers? Lots of polyphenol-rich foods like herbs and berries. Plus, foods high in dietary fibers, like avocados, green bananas, flax, and artichokes. These foods help populate and feed your beneficial gut bacteria. Plus, they help alleviate the constipation that plagues many pregnant women.
Stay tuned to learn about the importance of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D during pregnancy.
2 Folic Acid vs. Folate: What’s the Difference? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZzR1NMg0hM
3 Maternal Midpregnancy Glucose Levels & Risk of CHD in Offspring https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2448716
5 Cesarean Section & Chronic Immune Disorders http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/11/25/peds.2014-0596