Almonds are a valuable source of nutrients, and they provide healthy fats. Pregnant women have increased vitamin, nutrient and calorie requirements, so almonds could be a useful addition to a pregnancy diet. However, the safety of eating nuts like almonds during pregnancy is a concern because of the increasing rates of food allergies in young children.
Almond Health Benefits
Nuts, like meats and beans, are members of the protein food group that is vital for a healthy diet. Approximately 25 almonds represents a 1-oz. equivalent to contribute to the daily recommended adult protein intake of 5 to 6 ounce equivalents, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. All nuts provide fiber to aid digestion, but almonds also provide high amounts of vitamin E. Almonds are a source of healthy fats that contribute to cell health, and they reduce stress on the body with antioxidant effects.
Tree Nut Allergy
Almonds, along with cashews, hazelnuts and pecans, are tree nuts. Although peanut allergy is most often associated with anaphylaxis, a life-threatening breathing and shock reaction even into adulthood, tree nuts have similar food allergy risks. According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, nearly 2 million people in the United States are allergic to tree nuts. Almonds are not the most common tree nut allergy, but health care professionals may recommend avoidance of all tree nuts when an allergy to one kind is present, because of the risk of cross-reaction.
Pregnancy and Food Allergies
Because avoidance is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction, pregnant women who themselves have an allergy to tree nuts should avoid almonds at all times for their own safety. The effects of eating almonds or other allergenic foods during pregnancy in nonallergic women is still unclear, though. Conventional wisdom in the late 20th century suggested that nuts, including peanuts and tree nuts, should be avoided during pregnancy to reduce the risk of allergy in the newborn. However, the rate of food allergies continues to increase, perhaps as a result of excessive avoidance and cleanliness that do not stimulate the immune system appropriately -- the hygiene concept. Theories connecting food allergies to use or avoidance in pregnancy still have little conclusive evidence.
Food Allergy Safety Exceptions
Because no studies clearly associate avoiding nuts or ingesting nuts during pregnancy with the development of food allergies in young children, concise guidelines are not available for health professionals or for their concerned pregnant patients. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pregnant women with a history of food allergies in the family act prudently by avoiding foods like almonds or peanuts that have high allergy risks.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Much Food from the Protein Foods Group is Needed Daily?
- United States Department of Agriculture; Food and Nutrition Research Briefs; Antioxidant Effects From Eating Almonds; January 2009
- The Parent Review: Peanut Allergy: Tough Nut to Crack
- Sydney Children's Hospital: Fact Sheet: Allergy: Tree Nut