Planning a Pregnancy? Eat Your Fiber

Fiber-Rich Diet Before Pregnancy May Help Women Avoid Gestational Diabetes

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 27, 2006

Sept. 27, 2006 -- If you're a woman planning to get pregnant, you might want to pump up your fiber intake.

Doing so could make you less likely to develop gestational diabetes, researchers report in the October edition of Diabetes Care.

Gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy. It affects about 5% of pregnant women in the U.S., or around 200,000 women per year, according to the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD).

Researchers on the new study included Cuilin Zhang, MD, PhD, of the nutrition department at Harvard School of Public Health and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, a teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School.

Zhang's team analyzed data from the Nurses' Health Study II, which included more than 116,000 female nurses. Every two years, the nurses completed questionnaires about their diet and health.

The researchers focused on the more than 13,000 nurses who had a baby during an eight-year period. Of those nurses, 758 had gestational diabetes.

Fiber Findings

The study found gestational diabetes was rarest among nurses with the greatest fiber intake. Those women consumed about 26 grams of fiber per day, on average.

The USDA recommends people consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories. That's 28 grams of fiber per day, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

In Zhang's study, every 10-gram-per-day rise in fiber consumption was linked to a 26% drop in the nurses' odds of getting gestational diabetes.

Carbs Count, Too

Eating high-quality carbohydrates was also associated with avoiding gestational diabetes.

High-quality carbohydrates, such as fruit and vegetables rather than pastries and candy, don't make your blood sugar quickly soar and plummet. Instead, they're steadier sources of energy, keeping blood sugar on a more even keel.

Zhang and colleagues weighed other gestational diabetes risk factors before coming to their conclusions.

They call for more studies, since the nurses may have been particularly health conscious and may not represent all women.

Fiber Sources

Ready to fine-tune your fiber intake? You've got lots of choices.

You'll find fiber in plants and plant-based foods that haven't been refined, and in products with added fiber.

Fruit and cereals were the most common dietary fiber sources in Zhang's study.

But those aren't your only options. Legumes, vegetables, and whole grains are also rich in fiber and are high-quality carbohydrates.

Here's a quick list of 15 foods and their grams of fiber per serving:

  • 1/2 cup cooked navy beans: 9.5 grams
  • 1/2 cup ready-to-eat 100% bran cereal: 8.8 grams
  • 1/2 cup cooked black beans: 7.5 grams
  • 1 medium baked sweet potato with skin: 4.8 grams
  • 1 whole-wheat English muffin: 4.4 grams
  • Small raw pear: 4.3 grams
  • 1/2 cup cooked mixed vegetables: 4 grams
  • 1/2 cup raw raspberries: 4 grams
  • 1/2 cup stewed prunes: 3.8 grams
  • 1 ounce almonds: 3.3 grams
  • Medium raw apple with skin: 3.3 grams
  • Medium raw orange: 3.1 grams
  • 1/2 cup cooked pearled barley: 3 grams
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat spaghetti: 3.1 grams
  • 1/2 cup cooked collard greens: 2.7 grams

Show Sources

SOURCES: Zhang, C. Diabetes Care, October 2006; vol 29: pp 2223-2230. National Institute of Child Health & Human Development: "Gestational Diabetes." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 -- Chapter 2: Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie Needs." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 -- Appendix B-8: Food Sources of Dietary Fiber." News release, American Diabetes Association.

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