If you’re pregnant and craving pancakes, desserts or something sweet and sticky, you’re not alone. Many women wonder what kinds of syrups are safe in pregnancy and which should be avoided. And which ones are natural sweeteners, anyway?
Here, I break down all the common types of syrup you might come across, and how good they are for you and your baby.
Is Maple Syrup Safe During Pregnancy?
Pregnant women often wonder if they can have maple syrup, since it’s a natural sugar and sweetener.
Real maple syrup is safe in pregnancy. By real maple syrup, I mean the kind made from distilling the sap from maple trees, and is often the premium, more expensive syrup. So how can you tell?
In the US, anything that isn’t maple syrup can’t use the word ‘maple’, though sometimes manufacturers will make “maple-flavored” syrup, which isn’t the same thing.
Look for real syrup made in states like Vermont, or Canadian imports, such as 100% pure, grade A or B Canadian syrup, and check the ingredients list to see if it’s truly maple syrup. Grade A is lighter, and B is made later in the season, and has a stronger flavor.
Common brands that are made from flavored corn syrup are covered later in this article.
Is Maple Syrup Good for Pregnant Women?
Maple syrup is a natural sugar that contains small amounts of minerals and several antioxidants (source: CFS).
It’s probably better for you than refined sugar or corn syrup, particularly when used as a sweetener instead of sugar. However, it’s still sugar, so you should eat maple syrup in moderation in pregnancy.
As a general rule, maple syrup is best used as a substitute for sugar you already eat, such as a sweetener over yogurt or when baking or cooking. It shouldn’t be added on top of the sugar you already eat. Calorie-dense, sugary food should be kept to a minimum in pregnancy (source: NHS).
Check with your health professional if you have diabetes as maple syrup will raise blood glucose levels.
Is Maple Syrup Pasteurized?
Since real maple syrup is made by boiling down tree sap, it’s not pasteurized in the usual sense of high heat-treatment, but is still made safe by the boiling process, as the temperatures are far above the boiling point of water.
Once opened, real maple syrup can grow mold if it’s left at room temperature, such as in a kitchen cupboard. Put it in the fridge (or even the freezer) and it should last a long time, and remain safe for eating during pregnancy.
Is Organic Maple Syrup Better for Pregnant Women?
“Organic” maple syrup isn’t usually labeled as such because all real maple syrup is made using the same process. Pesticides aren’t usually used on the maple trees, so ‘organic’ is a bit of a misnomer.
However, if you’re keen on getting hold of maple syrup that is labeled organic, it’s a bit hard to find. One of the most popular ones is Baird Farm (click to see its listing on Amazon), which is organic maple syrup from Vermont.
Nutritionally, and concerning pregnancy safety, there is no difference between organic or non-organic maple syrup. So long as it’s real, it’s safe for pregnant women to eat.
Can I Eat Homemade Maple Syrup if I’m Pregnant?
If you’re one of the lucky individuals who have access to trees that yield sap for syrup-making, then it’s safe to have homemade maple syrup during pregnancy if stringent cleanliness and sanitation practices are followed.
The temperatures reached during the boiling down of the sap will usually kill any bacteria present, but it’s important that the jars, bottles or other containers that the syrup is stored in are cleaned and sanitized to a food-grade standard.
Usually, people who make their own maple syrup at home have the correct kit and products to make it safe. However, if a pregnant woman is going to eat the end product, it’s prudent to be extra careful.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Corn Syrup?
First, it’s a good idea to find out what kind of syrup you’re about to eat, especially if it’s NOT real maple syrup.
The following labels are usually applied to syrup that is made from corn syrup (usually the high-fructose kind) and flavorings:
- Pancake syrup
- Pouring syrup
- Maple-flavored syrup
- Table syrup
- Waffle syrup
This is usually the syrup that is on the table at breakfast or pancake places when eating out. Aunt Jemima is probably the most well-known brand of pancake syrup, which is also a high-fructose corn syrup product.
Of course, there’s also corn syrup by itself, such as Karo branded corn syrup, used in baking and cooking.
Corn syrup, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, should be avoided where possible in pregnancy.
One study found a possible link between consuming high-fructose corn syrup during pregnancy and restricted fetal growth, and defects in the placenta (source: Washington University School of Medicine).
Most of us know that consuming large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup isn’t great for us, even if we’re not pregnant. One problem is that it’s found in a staggering amount of foods, from bread to ketchup.
There’s no reason to avoid it entirely – which would be quite difficult – but if you can, read labels and try to limit foods that contain large amounts of it, such as pancake syrup.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Golden Syrup?
This is one for the British and Commonwealth countries, where Golden Syrup is a much-loved baking ingredient (and sandwich filling, if you have an incredibly sweet tooth). It’s usually an inverted sugar syrup made from sugar beet or similar products.
Golden Syrup is safe in pregnancy, but it’s still a refined sugar and should be eaten in moderation during pregnancy. You can still eat it and bake with it, but try to use less of it, or use more natural sugar substitutes such as honey or maple syrup where possible.
Check with your health professional if you have diabetes as it will raise blood glucose levels, too.
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