Diet and Preeclampsia

Dear Sue:
I suffered from pre-eclampsia during my first pregnancy. Will a low-sodium diet reduce the chance of getting it in my second? Thanks,


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Marcia:
No one really knows the cause of pre-eclampsia (a blood pressure related disease associated with pregnancy). Many theories have been offered, some without sufficient scientific evidence. This makes prevention somewhat difficult. However, the current belief is that it can be prevented, or at least the symptoms reduced, through changes in diet -- although not necessarily through salt restriction.

You should chose nutrient-rich foods including the following:
-- extra-lean meats, poultry and fish
-- legumes
-- whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta
-- lots of lowfat dairy products, especially yogurt
-- plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables and deep orange ones, which are a good source of vitamin C

Fluids are also very important -- not sodas or empty-calorie juices, but choices like apricot nectar, carrot and tomato juice, orange juice and grapefruit juice. The very best choice is water! Stay away from highly refined or processed foods since they tend to contain extra, unnecessary salt and fat, not to mention additives. Try to minimize simple sugars; instead choose complex carbohydrates. This will keep your blood sugar at a steadier level.

Another dietary intervention that shows promise for pre-eclampsia is calcium supplementation. which lowers the blood pressure in pregnant and nonpregnant women. It therefore makes sense to optimize your calcium intake before you become pregnant with your second child, and to continue with a calcium-rich diet while you are pregnant.

Studies also show that the increase in calcium should be accompanied by an increase in magnesium-rich foods such as legumes, wheat germ, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. If you chose to supplement (vs. getting the magnesium through food), the appropriate ratio of calcium to magnesium is 2 to 1.

Lastly, while not a cure for pre-eclampsia, limiting salt intake is a good idea for anyone.

Happy, healthy eating!

Sue Gilbert

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