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Fruit for Babies' Brains

Eating Fruit During Pregnancy Linked with Better Infant Development 

“You are what you eat” is how the saying goes, and research suggests that for expectant mothers, the same may be true for their children. A 2016 study published in EBioMedicine finds infants do significantly better on developmental tests when their mothers consume more fruit during pregnancy. 

Canadian researchers analyzed dietary information of 688 pregnant mothers, focusing how many fruit they ate per day (not including juice). About one year after their babies were born, researchers assessed and scored babies’ cognitive development and behavior—things like memory, communication use, exploration and social behavior. 

Much like fruit, results were sweet and simple: The more fruit the mothers ate during pregnancy, the better the babies’ cognitive development at one year of age. Each daily serving of fruit moms ate during pregnancy was linked with a 2.38 point increase in babies’ cognitive development score. Lycopene, the compound that gives watermelon, tomatoes, papaya and guava their red colors, seemed to have the greatest influence: For every 1 mg increase in lycopene consumed per day during pregnancy, there was a 0.14 point increase in cognitive development (a cup of watermelon contains about 7 mg lycopene). 

Antioxidants like lycopene found in fruit may help improve learning and memory, and this may carry over to unborn children in mothers-to-be. Meeting your daily fruit requirements (about 2 cups for most women) is as easy as slicing banana into oatmeal, sprinkling berries in a salad, and enjoying fresh pineapple for dessert. For a summery fruit-filled dish, try our Blazin’ Fruit Salad made with grilled banana, pineapple and apricots. 

BONUS: Exercise may boost baby’s brains too. As little as 20 minutes three times per week during pregnancy led to improved mental development in newborns. Speak with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.

Published August 1, 2016

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