Pregnancy cravings hit all of us, and an occasional indulgence may seem like a right-of-passage during pregnancy– but watching your sugar intake is more important now than ever, here’s why:
Sugars are important for our body, but the differences between natural and artificial sugars are astronomical. The American Heart Associations recommends that women consume a maximum of 100 calories of sugar per day, preferably through natural sugars occurring in organic fruits and vegetables (YES– these sugars count, too!). These healthy sugars keep your body balanced, but so many sugars we consume, especially in pre-packaged foods, are artificial sugars– which, along with adding unnecessary sugar to your diet, also add chemicals that your body can’t process, and what your body gets, your baby gets, too!
Some of these artificial sugars can be disguised under many names. When shopping, always be aware of labels that include hidden ‘sugar aliases’ such as; sugar high fructose corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, fructose, glucose, dextrose, syrup, cane sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, coconut sugar, agave, or honey– just to name a few. In moderation, the most natural sugars are safe for your and your baby, but excess sugar in your diet can lead to a lot of health issues.
Gestational Diabetes & Excess Weight Gain
The number of pregnant mom’s diagnosed with gestational diabetes has more than doubled in the last several decades. A leading panel of pregnancy experts in the US now believe that about 16% of pregnant women may have gestational diabetes, and this rapid increase is attributed to a few key factors in prenatal health, including sugar intake and maternal weight.
Gestational diabetes is manageable with great diet and exercise habits. However, an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that babies born to mothers with poorly controlled GD are at risk of higher birth weight, more emergency c-sections & other pregnancy/labor complications. Studies also show these babies may be more likely to be overweight throughout their lives, proving the long term health affects of GD. To help avoid gestational diabetes, try to maintain a healthy balance of sugars in your diet, as well as talking with your doctor about your pre-pregnancy health and pregnancy weight gain.
Beware Artificial Sweeteners
FDA approved artificial sweeteners, including saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose, most commonly appear in food labelled low-fat, fat-free, or sugar free, like your morning yogurt or that after-coffee stick of gum. Although these sweeteners are deemed safe for consumption, most have yet to be studied during pregnancy. These artificial sweeteners offer no nutritional value, and are composed of mostly chemicals that haven’t been proven safe for use during pregnancy.
The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that many artificial sweeteners had very few positive human trials, and some have been linked to weight gain, intestinal issues, and cancers. The American Association of Pregnancy lists many of these sweeteners as unsafe during pregnancy, since the chemicals composing non-nutritive sweeteners like saccharin, aspartame, and cyclamate (currently banned in the US) can cross the placental barrier and reach your baby.
Mamas, please be aware that all sugars you consume will reach your baby– and sugars, while in small amounts necessary to the body’s balance, in excess can cause your body to function at a less than optimal level. To be your healthiest and sharpest, avoid processed and artificial sugars, instead opting for the recommended servings of organic fruits and naturally sweetened foods to satisfy your sweet tooth, and your pregnancy cravings.