Is the Atkins diet safe during pregnancy?

Low-carb dieting has become a very visible part of our society.  Its critics and advocates can be found everywhere, espousing the virtues or exposing the dangers of low-carbing.  Though critics believe the long-term health effects are still undetermined, people like the low-carbohydrate diet because it’s fairly simple to understand, seems to work and there are now plenty of products to keep the low-carb fanatic going.  Today, low-carb products are more readily available than ever before, and many restaurants feature a low-carb section on their menus.  The Atkins Diet was the first to popularize the low-carb approach, and is advocated by many people.  But, is it safe to participate in the Atkins diet while you are pregnant.

Some doctors ask their patients to set aside their low-carb ways (and often other weight-loss plans) for the duration of their pregnancies.  And you should certainly consult your doctor before starting any diet while you are pregnant, because she will be more familiar with your particular situation.  Living the Atkins life can be healthy for both you and your baby, as long as you are consuming enough healthy carbs for normal growth and development of the baby and to meet your own nutritional needs.  Extremely low-carb phases of the Atkins diet such as the “induction” and “weight-loss” phases may not be safe during pregnancy because carbohydrates are needed so they can be combined with fat fragments and used for energy.  Without a certain amount of good carbohydrates the body cannot use its fat in the normal way, and there is an incomplete breakdown of fat, called ketones.

The Atkins diet recommends that pregnant or lactating mothers participate in the "maintenance" phase of Atkins, which incorporates a larger amount of carbs.  The advice given on their own web site is to “build your eating program around protein, including meat, poultry and seafood, and healthy natural fats such as olive and flaxseed oil and avocados. Eat plenty of vegetables and one serving of fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or grapefruit daily. Instead of hydrogenated oils, consume healthy fats, seeds and nuts.” 

It is important that you include enough dietary fiber in your diet while you are pregnant, something that is often lacking in low-carb diets.  While eliminating "white" carbs, such as white bread, white rice and white pasta, is fine to do during pregnancy, incorporating whole grains, fruits and other natural carbs is essential.  Sometimes constipation can result as a side effect of the Atkins diet.  Because constipation can be a complication of pregnancy as well, this is another reason to include enough dietary fiber (10-15 grams) in your daily meal plan, as well as consume at least 6 8 oz glasses of clear liquids each day.

There may also be times when cutting carbs is important during pregnancy.  If you experience low blood sugar, pregnancy may worsen the situation.  Cutting carbs may help in this sort of a situation.  Gestational diabetes is another situation when a doctor might ask you to cut back on your carbohydrates.



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