Rates of food allergies in the US are rising. And in a big way. A 2013 CDC study showed that childhood allergies in the US have increased 50% between 1997 and 2011. The facts and statistics about food allergies can be quite alarming.
The 8 most common food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish.
Having a child with a food allergy is stressful for both the child and the entire family. When children are young, they’re in our safe little bubble, and we can control their environment more closely. As they get older, they are away from us more and more, and things are less within our control. And that can be scary. Very scary.
Since this blog focuses primarily on nutrition during pregnancy, I wanted to take a look to see what research was out there on diet during pregnancy and whether there was any link to future allergy development in kids. Sometimes childhood food allergies are outgrown. Peanut allergies are not as likely to be outgrown as other allergies, so this one was of particular interest.
A study published in 2014 found that dietary peanut intake during the first trimester was associated with reduction in peanut allergic reactions during mid-childhood. This particular study found that the odds were reduced by 47%. That’s huge! The rationale behind this is that immune system cells that are likely involved in developing allergies are formed in early pregnancy. If the child is exposed to peanuts during the first trimester, it’s possible that it can lead to being able to tolerate peanuts rather than react to them. Previous studies hadn’t shown these same results. This study was unique in that it focused on early pregnancy. Obviously, if you don’t like peanuts…don’t eat them. But, you shouldn’t be afraid that eating them during your pregnancy will cause your child to develop an allergy to peanuts.
Peanuts (and peanut butter) are a good combination of carbs, protein, and fats. Protein helps keep us full, so adding foods with protein in them is always a good idea. It can also help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Portion control is important though.
Peanuts are also high in healthy monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fat. Peanuts are high in folate, which is the natural form of folic acid found in foods. Folic acid & folate can help prevent some birth defects, especially if taken early in pregnancy, often times before a woman even knows she is pregnant.
Eating snacks with peanut butter is super easy…and you might just sneak in an extra serving of fruit or veggies too while you’re at it! Here are a few of my favorite peanut butter snacks:
- Apple with peanut butter
- Celery with peanut butter
- Whole wheat crackers with peanut butter
- Peanut butter & banana smoothie (using peanut butter or powdered peanut butter)
- Peanut butter on toast topped with banana slices
What are some of your favorite ways to eat peanut butter? With meals? As snacks? Straight out of the jar? (no judging) Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about it!