The saying “good things come in small packages” must have been talking about avocados!
Small but mighty, avocados are not only versatile, but a compact way to get many nutrients during pregnancy.
Avocados contain many of the vitamins essential to help support your pregnancy and baby’s healthy growth and development. However you enjoy them, avocados are a satisfying addition to meals. There are a few easy precautions to help keep this fruit pregnancy-safe.
Many avocado nutrition benefits can be especially helpful during certain trimesters, so in addition to overall health and safety, we’ll break those down for you as well.
Why Avocados are Good for You During Pregnancy
It’s no secret that avocados (sometimes called “avocado pear” or “avocado fruit”) are full of nutrients (source: California Avocados).
The benefits of avocado related to each trimester of pregnancy will be discussed in greater detail below, but there are many great things about avocado no matter what stage of pregnancy you are at!
Healthy fats are arguably avocado’s most widely known benefit. Even as a fruit, they are a good source of monounsaturated fat.
For women with high cholesterol, eating avocados have been shown to reduce the LDL, or “bad” cholesterol (source: UT Southwestern Medical Center). Here, avocado’s high fiber content may play a role.
Both fiber and fat are satiating, so incorporating avocado into your meals can help you feel full and satisfied after eating.
Beyond fiber and fat, avocados are also high in many vitamins and minerals.
Rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium, avocados are a great one-stop-shop to get these important nutrients in your diet (source: Cedars-Sinai).
Vitamins B2, B3, B6, and folate (B9) are all found in avocados and help support healthy growth and development for the baby.
Folate is well-known to be especially essential during pregnancy for the baby’s neurological development. Specifically, adequate folate is needed to prevent neural tube defects.
Just ½ of an avocado is 10% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of folate for pregnant women (source: Nutrients).
If prepared properly, avocado can be very beneficial!
Read more below to learn the best, and safest, ways to prep an avocado during pregnancy.
Are Avocados Safe in Pregnancy? Is There a Risk of Listeria?
As with all fresh fruits and veggies, avocados can carry risk of foodborne illness. The most common bacteria found on avocado is Listeria monocytogenes.
Listeria monocytogenes, which I’ll refer to in this article simply as “Listeria,” can be very serious for women who are pregnant. Listeria infection can be passed on to the fetus and can even cause early labor, stillbirth, and miscarriage (source: CDC).
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that nearly 18% of all avocados tested had Listeria on their skins.
Only 3 samples, less than half of a percent, tested positive for listeria in the actual avocado flesh (source: FDA).
While most of us don’t go around chewing on avocado skins, bacteria can cross-contaminate the inside fruit during preparation.
This means avocados are safer to eat during pregnancy if they’ve been washed prior to cutting.
Thoroughly rinse the avocado under clean, running water for at least 30 seconds in order to ensure you’ve removed all bacteria.
For more information, check out our complete guide to washing fruits and veggies.
Prepared guacamole can be another story, however.
Some packaged guacamole has been processed under ultra-high pressures, effectively killing off bacteria (source: Science Direct).
This process, as well as the addition of vinegar or lemon juice, both inhibit bacterial growth making the prepared guacamole pregnancy-safe (source: Journal of Food Protection).
Both sliced avocado and guacamole should be stored in the refrigerator in order to prevent bacteria from growing.
If not refrigerated after 2 hours at room temperature, the partially-eaten or sliced fruit is best tossed away.
The one type of guacamole that’s not safe? Buffet or self-serve guacamole.
Buffet or self-serve guacamole, or any dish for that matter, has a much greater risk of contamination. This is due to the amount of time it may not have been under correct refrigeration, as well as other customers potentially mishandling (ie: touching the guac without gloves on).
For this reason, it’s better to get store-bought or commercially produced avocado products and guacamole, and avoid it at buffets or from open containers.
If washed and stored properly, avocado is perfectly safe to enjoy while pregnant!
When Should I Eat Avocado During Pregnancy?
Many women wonder whether there is a “best” time to start eating avocado during pregnancy.
Avocados do contain many nutrients that are helpful during various pregnancy stages. However, there is no one “best” time to include avocado in your pregnancy diet- avocado is a healthy addition no matter your trimester!
If you’re looking for more specific benefits related to each trimester, I’ve provided a breakdown for you below.
Benefits of Eating Avocado in the First Trimester
The first trimester of pregnancy is full of wonderful moments of excitement and the joy of carrying new life! But morning sickness and nausea stops some women in their tracks.
Avocado is a rich source of both potassium and magnesium. These two minerals, known as electrolytes, are lost during vomiting and are essential to replace.
Topping a bowl of soup (which is usually also high in electrolytes) with avocado is a great way to replenish your body after sickness.
As I mentioned above, vitamin B3 is another nutrient that can help with nausea. Low body levels of vitamin B3, also termed niacin, can actually lead to nausea (source: Mount Sinai).
While taking supplemental niacin in pill or tablet form is hard on the stomach and often leads to nausea, foods that are high in niacin are better tolerated making avocado a tummy-friendly way to increase your niacin.
If you’re struggling with morning sickness or nausea there are additional foods that can help. Check our list out here.
The benefits of avocado during the first trimester go beyond nausea, however.
Avocado is also high in folate, also known as vitamin B9. Just 1 cup of avocado provides 30% of the recommended amount for women of childbearing age (source: USDA)!
The vitamin B9 in avocado is actually in the folate form, as opposed to the synthetic folic acid form. This natural folate is already in its “active” form and is easier for the body to use properly.
Many women unknowingly have a very common mutation on the gene that converts folic acid into folate- making it harder for their bodies to use all of the folic acid in supplements.
Because of this, the American Pregnancy Association actually recommends women get their vitamin B9 from food sources – such as avocado – or take supplements containing the active folate form (source: American Pregnancy Association).
Folate is famously important during pregnancy as it helps the baby’s nervous system, brain, and spinal cord develop properly.
The need for folate is greatest in early pregnancy, between 3-4 weeks after conception- before many women even know they are pregnant (source: CDC)!
Whether you’ve just found out you are expecting or if you’re actively trying to conceive, adding avocado to your diet can help you meet your folate requirements.
Avocado in the Second Trimester
Oftentimes health needs go unnoticed during the second trimester.
Early and later pregnancy receive much of the focus as they are more “sensitive” times when the baby is rapidly growing, or about to be born.
But that doesn’t mean there are no concerns for the second trimester. After all, women need to ensure their food is safe during all moments of pregnancy!
For mothers continuing to experience nausea, the same benefits of avocado apply during the second trimester too. Magnesium, potassium, and niacin will all continue to help any residual nausea or vomiting episodes.
Muscle cramps are also commonly reported during the second trimester, and that makes sense. Your baby is growing and putting more weight on your joints, bones, and ligaments.
Magnesium and potassium are also especially helpful in relieving muscle cramps (source: Mayo Clinic), and avocados contain both.
Interestingly, food cravings are often the most intense during the second trimester (source: NHS). Cravings for avocado are not uncommon and are perfectly healthy. I’ll cover more on cravings for avocado a bit later on in the article.
Health Benefits of Eating Avocado in the Third Trimester
For many women, the third trimester of pregnancy is when it starts to get “real.” Unfortunately, things can also start to get “real” constipated due to high levels of the hormone progesterone (source: Korean Journal of Pharmacology and Physiology).
If you’re having fewer than 3 bowel movements each week, it’s a good idea to take stock of how much fiber you’re getting in your daily diet. 25-30 grams daily is a good goal (source: American Pregnancy Association).
Luckily, avocado has 10 grams of fiber in a single cup! (source: USDA) We also put together a list of many fiber-rich foods to combat pregnancy constipation.
During the third trimester of pregnancy, your baby grows and develops quickly. Along with that is a large increase in the amount of blood needed by both mom and baby.
While many women think to increase their dietary iron, another nutrient can also help.
Vitamin C, another of the many vitamins found in avocado, works in the body to increase absorption of non-heme iron.
Non-heme iron is iron from plant sources, such as chickpeas, leafy greens, and nuts (source: JAMA- Hematology). Vegetarian or vegan mothers will find vitamin C especially important, as all of their iron comes from non-heme sources.
So while getting more vitamin C from avocado doesn’t automatically mean you’ll increase your iron levels, it sure can help you get there.
You can also check out our list of iron-rich foods for pregnancy, including plenty of non-meat options, too.
Why am I Craving Avocado During Pregnancy?
Cravings for avocado are not uncommon for women to report during their pregnancies. But because avocado is completely safe for pregnant women, there are not any issues with enjoying avocado when you crave it.
Unfortunately, the old-wives’-tale about craving avocado being a tell-tale sign of your baby’s gender are just that.
I was not able to find any scientific evidence behind the gender-reveal myth nor the reason for craving avocado.
Though craving avocado won’t give you a hint about your baby’s gender, there is certainly no harm in having a guess!
Can I Eat Avocado Oil in Pregnancy? Is It Safe?
With a smoke point of over 250°C, avocado oil is perfect for cooking at higher temperatures, such as high-heat sauteing and pan-frying (source: American Oil Chemists’ Society).
Avocado oil retains many of the health benefits of whole avocados. Like whole avocados, avocado oil is made mainly of monounsaturated fatty acids and can be considered a “heart-healthy oil” for this reason.
Best of all, there are no safety concerns when it comes to using avocado oil while pregnant.
Tips on How to Eat Avocado During Pregnancy
Avocados go way beyond Mexican-style dishes! One of the great things about avocados is their versatility.
Avocado blended into smoothies have become popular as they create a thick and ultra-creamy texture.
If you’re like me and that texture isn’t for you, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy avocado’s nutritious benefits.
A few pregnancy-friendly ideas ways to incorporate avocado:
- California rolls and other safe sushi (no raw fish here!)
- Tempura-fried avocado
- Sliced into a taco or burrito
- Fresh avocado corn salsa
- Smashed onto toast and topped with a well-cooked fried egg
- Diced up on top of a bowl of chili
- Chickpea-avocado hummus
and of course, guacamole.
Not just a trendy food, avocado is full of the beneficial nutrients needed to help you support a healthy pregnancy.
From providing a rich source of necessary folate to replenishing electrolytes after a bout of morning sickness and helping keep your digestion running smoothly during the third-trimester, avocado is a great addition to your pregnancy diet.
Washing the skin of the avocado before slicing will ensure it’s pregnancy-safe. Enjoy!
This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.