In this blog series, I have been covering the different all-natural sweeteners that are excellent pregnancy foods. As a pregnancy nutritionist, I advocate eliminating sugar and artificial sweeteners from your eating plan, and replacing them with xylitol, stevia, agave syrup, and raw honey. All of these sweeteners have health benefits that out them, nutritionally speaking, miles ahead of sugar and artificial sugar substitutes. In this article, let's look more closely at raw honey and why you should consider it during pregnancy.
What Is Raw Honey?
Everyone knows that honey comes from bees, and is a wonderfully sweet, viscous food that tastes as delightful in tea as it does on a slice of sprouted grain toast. But what's the difference between raw honey, and the honey in a plastic bear on your grocery store shelf? Well, raw honey is just that—raw. It's unprocessed, uncooked, and unfiltered, and as such it provides powerful nutritional and health-giving properties to pregnant women.
Benefits of Raw Honey
Raw honey is antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial food. It contains resins and phytonutrients to help boost your immunity and ward off illness and disease. In addition it contains healthy bacteria, such as 6 species of lactobacillus and 4 of bifidobacteria. These friendly bacteria proliferate in your gut, improving your immunity and your digestion. Raw honey is also more slowly absorbed into your bloodstream than regular sugar, which keeps your blood sugar at a more even level. This keeps you from feeling the blood sugar spikes and lows that can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and binge eating.
Negative Effects of Raw Honey
For pregnant women, the most prominent negative effect of raw honey is that it is relatively high in calories. So you will want to limit your intake to make sure you don't gain too much weight too quickly. Enjoying raw honey in moderation will give you all the healing properties it offers, without gaining too much weight.
In this blog series, I am discussing the all-natural sugar substitutes I recommend in my What to Eat During Pregnancy guide. In the previous blog, I discussed xylitol as a healthy sweetener for your diet during pregnancy. In this installment, let's talk more about agave syrup, also known as agave nectar.
What Is Agave Syrup?
Agave syrup is produced most commonly in Mexico, from several different varieties of agave plants. It is sweeter than honey, but thinner. It dissolves quickly and so it can be used as a sweetener in many recipes that call for honey. In fact, it is commonly used as a way to sweeten iced tea.
Benefits of Agave Syrup
Agave syrup has been used in Mexican culinary traditions for centuries, but it has also been used for its medicinal properties as well. When applied to the skin, agave nectar has been shown to kill the staph aureus bacterium, and has other anti-microbial properties as well. Also, agave nectar has been proven as a weapon against gastrointestinal parasites and bacteria.
These benefits aside, agave syrup has also been shown to have a favorable glycemic index, especially as compared to sugar. It is absorbed into the blood stream more slowly than other sweeteners, helping you to avoid the sugar "rush" that other, high glycemic sweeteners pack.
Negative Effects of Agave Syrup
The only negative effects that have been observed with the use of agave syrup are those caused by overindulgence. As with any sweetener, you should moderate your use of this nectar to avoid weight gain. Unlike stevia, which does not contain calories, agave syrup does contain calories. So be sure to keep this in mind as you use it, and don't overindulge in agave syrup, just as you would refrain from overindulging in sweets in general.
One of the common complaints that can really throw off your healthy eating during pregnancy is morning sickness. The nausea, vomiting, and general malaise caused by this common pregnancy symptom can cause you to become dehydrated, malnourished, and can keep you and your baby from getting the proper nutrition that is needed. There are ways that you can ease your morning sickness with the proper diet, so let's take a closer look.
What Causes Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness is caused by hormonal changes in your body as your body adjusts to your pregnancy. Morning sickness can occur primarily upon waking, but it can manifest itself at any time of day or night. Most women stop having morning sickness after the first trimester, though some may experience it for much longer, even into the third trimester.
3 Ways to Ease Your Symptoms
If your morning sickness is so intense that it becomes incapacitating, you should consult with your OB/GYN, as there are prescription medications that are safe for pregnancy that can ease the nausea. But pregnancy & nutrition can also work hand in hand to ease milder symptoms:
1. Boil slices of ginger root to make a tea and sweeten with stevia; 2. Make your own chicken broth with all-natural, organic chicken, pepper, Celtic sea salt, and ginger; 3. Eat protein with every meal, as protein can help stabilize your blood sugar and ease nausea symptoms.
What Not to Do
Don't ignore the symptoms of morning sickness, and don't take them lightly. It's important to stay nourished and hydrated for a healthy pregnancy. If you are concerned that your morning sickness is becoming too severe, consult with your health care provider to see what options are open to you.
You should also stay away from refined carbs and sugary drinks like ginger ale and juice, as these will cause your blood sugar to spike and dip, making the symptoms of nausea worse.
IN the past two blogs, I've talked to you in-depth about some sugar alternatives that can be safely added to pregnancy diets. If you are a follower of my What to Eat While Pregnant program, you know that I am totally against using sugar or artificial sweeteners during pregnancy—or at any time, for that matter. In the first two blogs, I talked about xylitol and agave syrup. In this blog, let's focus on stevia, which happens to be my favorite of the all-natural sugar substitutes.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia is a sweetener that is derived from several species of the sunflower plant. It's about 300 times sweeter than sugar, so a little bit goes a long way when you use it as a food for pregnancy. Stevia has been widely used as a sweetener in South America for centuries, and has been used in Japan for decades. In recent years, it has gained popularity—and its share of controversy—as a sugar substitute in the United States.
Benefits of Stevia
Stevia has two major benefits. First, it is a calorie-free sweetener, which means that if you are watching your weight during pregnancy as you should be, it's a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth in moderation. Secondly, stevia has a low glycemic load, which means it doesn't cause the same spikes and lows in your blood sugar as regular sugar does. During pregnancy, these highs and lows can be exacerbated, causing faintness, hunger pains, and dizziness, so finding ways to even out your blood sugar levels is essential.
Negative Effects of Stevia
Stevia was the subject of major controversy in the United States recently when the FDA labeled it an "unsafe food additive." However, this ruling was disputed and finally overridden by the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1995, which allows stevia to be sold as a dietary supplement in the US. According to many studies, there are no negative long-term effects from stevia use and it should be safe for use by everyone.
If you have read up in my What to Eat While Pregnant guide, you know that I am a huge advocate of eliminating sugar from your diet. I mention several all-natural sweeteners that I highly recommend making the switch to: raw honey, agave syrup, stevia, and xylitol. In this blog, I am going to talk more about xylitol, since many people haven't heard about it. It can be a great sweetener to include in your pregnancy diet.
What Is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is derived from many fruits and vegetables, such as berries, corn husks, mushrooms, and oats. Nowadays it is usually derived from hardwood or maize. It is manufactured by a Danish company as well by other companies in China. Xylitol has about nine calories per teaspoon, as compared to regular sugar, which has fifteen calories per teaspoon. So while you can enjoy xylitol during pregnancy, you will want to keep a close eye on your caloric intake to keep from gaining too much weight.
Benefits of Xylitol
Xylitol is perfectly safe for pregnant women and nursing mothers to ingest. In fact, studies have shown that regular use by pregnant women can cut back the possibility of transmitting Streptococcus mutans bacteria from mother to child by 80%. This is the bacterium that causes tooth decay. This benefit lasts into the second year of life for your child. It is classified as a "tooth friendly" sweetener and is already commonly used in dental care products like toothpaste, mouthwashes, and fluoride tablets.
Negative Effects of Xylitol
As with most sugar alcohols, xylitol can cause gastrointestinal distress (gas, bloating, and even diarrhea). Regular use can increase your tolerance and reduce these symptoms. Even though xylitol can cause those symptoms, it is actually easier on your digestion than other sugar alcohols such as mannitol and sorbitol.