The Important Reason to Lay Off Sugar (but Not Fruit!) During Pregnancy

You probably don't even realize how much sugar you're consuming.
ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Apr 2018
hand stirring straw in soda which has added sugar
Photo: iStock

It’s no surprise that soda—diet soda included—doesn’t make the list of recommended foods to eat during pregnancy. But in an effort to explain exactly why sugar-sweetened beverages, along with sugar in general, should be avoided during pregnancy, researches examined the effect higher quantities can have on baby. The more sugar moms-to-be consumed, the poorer the child’s cognition skills were.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, found high sugar intake during pregnancy, especially from sweetened beverages, was associated with poorer verbal and non-verbal skills and poorer problem-solving abilities, as well as underdeveloped fine motor skills and visual spatial abilities in kids by the ages of 3 and 7. Fruit consumption, on the other hand, was linked to greater visual motor abilities and verbal intelligence in kids—but replacing fruit with fruit juice doesn’t cut it.

Thanks to added sugars, or the sugars and syrups added to foods and beverages during processing and preparation, Americans are averaging 20 teaspoons of sugar per day, and women, in specifically, are consuming 230 of their daily calories from sugar. This is far above the 6-teaspoon limit, equal to 100 calories, advised by the American Heart Association.

Researchers of the study, which looked at dietary assessments for over 1,000 pregnant women from 1999 to 2002, include recommendations for how to rectify this problem.

"This study provides evidence that there should be no further delays in implementing the new Nutrition Facts label,” says lead investigator Juliana F.W. Cohen, ScD. “The new label will provide information on added sugars so that pregnant women and parents can make informed choices regarding added sugars and more easily limit their intake. This study also provides additional support for keeping federal nutrition programs strong, such as Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the National School Lunch Program, because their promotion of diets higher in fruits and lower in added sugars may be associated with improved childhood cognition.”

We understand that depending on your cravings, cutting sugar during pregnancy can be especially tough. While it’s fine to indulge now and then, try these healthy alternatives when you’re craving something sweet.

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