We all want to give our children the best possible start in life – a new study suggests that eating fruit while you’re pregnant can help.
Food And Your Baby’s Brain
The study was performed at the University of Alberta and evaluated almost 700 mothers and children. Specifically, they looked at what the women ate while pregnant and how the children scored on cognitive tests at a year old. They found that eating more fruit during pregnancy was strongly linked to increased scores on those cognitive tests. That effect continued up to about 6 or 7 servings of fruit per day; eating more than that didn’t seem to increase the children’s scores any more.
Researchers were so surprised by the results that they set up experiments to test the effects of fruit on the cognitive abilities of fruit flies. They found that the flies that got fruit scored 30% higher on cognitive tests than their fruit-free counterparts. Fruit fly cognitive tests aren’t quite as demanding as those for human children, but it’s important that they found the same effect in both tests.
So How Much Fruit Should I Be Eating?
When we hear about these kinds of studies, it’s really tempting to start chowing down on all the fruit in sight. However, like any other food (especially during pregnancy), moderation is key. These results come from a single study and more research is necessary to determine whether the effect is really caused by fruit intake. It could be that mothers that eat a lot of fruit eat healthier in general, for example, giving their babies a developmental boost. In addition, the study didn’t include detailed information on the type of fruit the mothers were eating.
And while we think of fruit as super healthy, it’s not perfect – it has a lot of sugar in it! Eating too much could increase your risk for gestational diabetes. Diabetes aside, that sugar rush can leave you feeling tired if you don’t balance out the fruit with some complex carbs. Acidic fruits can also upset your stomach or even cause ulcers, in extreme cases.
Barring other health problems, the best thing to do is probably to follow standard dietary guidelines. That’s several servings of fruit per day, but only as part of a balanced diet. You need plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, too. And not all fruits are created equal – choose ones that have other health benefits. Bananas and watermelon, for example, have tons of potassium and not much sugar. Blueberries and pomegranate seeds are antioxidants, and pomegranate seeds are also linked to lower risks of some cognitive diseases. Take a look at the fruit you’re eating to make sure you’re getting the nutritional benefits with that sugar. You should talk to your doctor about your dietary needs and any risks associated with your pregnancy to decide if you should raise or lower your fruit intake.
An Apple A Day
We know that our diets during pregnancy are really important for our children’s development. We have to make sure we’re getting the right amount of folic acid, for example, to decrease the risk of neural tube defects. We have to try to avoid junk food, as studies have linked it with ADHD in the baby. We also have to eat a balanced diet to make sure we’re providing the right nutrients and avoid certain foods that can be dangerous during pregnancy.
Fish has long been upheld as a booster for baby brain development – omega 3 fatty acids are crucial for brain health at any age. But this is the first time that eating fruit has been linked to cognitive development. And fruit (in moderation) is good for you either way, so get in that apple (or 3 or 4) a day!