Maternal diet during pregnancy is of special importance both for the proper growth of the fetus and for the health status of the pregnant woman. Among other dietary practices, habitual consumption of dairy products constitutes a significant part of a balanced diet during pregnancy.
Specifically, a pregnant woman should consume 4-6 servings of dairy products on a daily basis. One serving of dairy products provides 300 mg of calcium and is equivalent to one of the following:
- 1 cup of milk (250 ml)
- 200 grams of yogurt
- 30 grams of cheese
Dairy products are rich sources of calcium, protein and vitamin D, nutrients that are considered essential for the optimal growth of the fetus. According to the World Health Organization, milk consumption during pregnancy reduces pregnancy-associated complications by 24%. Moreover, a habitual consumption of milk during pregnancy has been associated with a lower risk for premature birth and neonatal death.
Additionally, an adequate consumption of dairy products during pregnancy has been found to affect the offspring’s skeletal growth and general health in childhood and adolescence. Specifically, studies have shown that adolescents (boys and girls) whose mothers used to consume more than 150 ml of milk per day during pregnancy were taller, compared to adolescents whose mothers consumed less milk during pregnancy. Moreover, it has been shown that adolescents whose mothers used to consume adequate amounts of milk during pregnancy presented steady blood levels of insulin, a fact that indicates a lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, compared to adolescents whose mothers consumed inadequate amounts of milk during pregnancy.
It is also noteworthy that yogurt and cheese consumption during pregnancy is considered as important as that of milk, and is especially recommended in case of lactose intolerance. This is because yogurt and cheese contain the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose and converts it into lactic acid, therefore preventing the unpleasant symptoms of lactose intolerance.