Planning to become pregnant


According to the results of a recent study, women who plan to become pregnant should follow a diet low in trans fats and high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Trans fats can be natural or artificial: natural trans fats can be found in some meat (beef, lamb) and fat dairy products (butterfat, for example), but in small quantities; artificial trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils (appearing in the list of ingredients as “partially hydrogenated oils”). Artificial trans fats are used for frying (mainly in commercial fryers, because oils with trans fats can be used many times) or as an ingredient in processed foods (giving them a desirable taste and texture). If we want to reduce our intake of trans fats, we should: use fat-free or low-fat dairy products, avoid products that list “partially hydrogenated fat or oil” on the label, to eat fewer industrial biscuits, cakes and pastries, limit red meat and sugary foods and beverages, use liquid vegetable oil (canola, sunflower or olive oil) for frying at home, and, when eating out, try to eat fewer fried foods.

With respect to the omega-3 fatty acids, remember that there are several different types, but we can focus on three: ALA, EPA, and DHA. ALA (of vegetable origin) does not seem to have the same beneficial effects on health than EPA and DHA, and although our body can produce EPA and DHA from ALA, it only does so in small amounts. Therefore, consuming EPA and DHA directly from foods and/or dietary supplements is the only practical way to increase levels of these fatty acids in the body. EPA and DHA are present in: salmon, mackerel, tuna (fresh), herring, anchovies and sardines; eggs, dairy, juices, and soy beverages fortified with omega-3; and dietary supplements such as fish oil. Formulations of these supplements vary widely, so it is important to check product labels to know the types and amounts of omega-3 in these products.

If you are planning to become pregnant, we hope that you will find this information useful.


Wise LA, Wesselink AK, Tucker KL, Saklani S, Mikkelsen EM, Cueto H, et al. Dietary fat intake and fecundability in two preconception cohort studies. Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Jun 8. [Epub ahead of print]

American Heart Association. Trans Fats.

NHS choices. What are trans fats?

NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.

WebMD. Your Omega-3 Family Shopping List.


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