There are many foods that are perfectly safe to eat when you're not pregnant, but aren't safe to eat during pregnancy. If you're like most pregnant women, you frequently wonder whether your preferred or favorite foods are pregnancy-approved. Thankfully, high fiber cereal is not only safe during pregnancy, it's a very good idea.
Fiber is an important non-nutritive component of the diet, meaning it serves an essential role, but doesn't provide any calories. The human digestive system can't break down fiber, explain Drs. Mary Campbell and Shawn Farrell in their book "Biochemistry." Regardless of the fact that it provides no energy, fiber increases digestive bulk and absorbs cholesterol and toxins. It improves digestive function, and in particular, fiber increases digestive regularity.
Fiber in Pregnancy
Fiber is safe during pregnancy, and it's incredibly helpful in preventing or alleviating some of the common discomforts of pregnancy. Rising hormone levels and large quantities of iron from prenatal vitamins both slow the digestive tracts of pregnant women, explain Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel in "What to Expect When You're Expecting." This can be uncomfortable, and may lead to constipation and hemorrhoids. High-fiber cereals help relieve these symptoms.
While fiber certainly helps with digestive function, it can also lead to some symptoms of its own, particularly if you don't normally eat much fiber. After fiber passes through your small intestine undigested, bacteria in your lower gut start to break it down. This produces large quantities of intestinal gas, which can cause cramping and bloating. You may wish to start slowly if you aren't accustomed to eating many high-fiber foods and decide to introduce them during pregnancy.
A further concern regarding high-fiber foods, including high-fiber cereal, is that they provide bulk without calories, which can make you feel very full. If you're gaining weight appropriately or are gaining too much weight during pregnancy, this is a good thing. However, for women struggling to gain the amount of weight recommended by their obstetricians, high-fiber cereals can limit your appetite even further, and may further stall weight gain.
A benefit of many high-fiber cereals is that they may be fortified with added vitamins and minerals. Because your vitamin and mineral needs increase during pregnancy, you'll want to be very conscious of your intake of these nutrients. In particular, many pregnant women need extra iron and folate. Thankfully, fortified cereals often contain added iron and folate -- the precise nutrients you need most -- helping you to regulate your digestion and get your nutrients at the same time.