Does Dairy Reduce Risk of Gestational Diabetes?

Southeast Dairy Association - Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

November is American Diabetes Awareness Month, allowing an opportunity to increase awareness and education around Gestational Diabetes. With nearly 10 percent of pregnant women developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy, many women naturally want to know if there are any dietary changes they can take to reduce their risk of developing the condition. The answer is yes.    

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that a woman can develop during pregnancy. A woman who is diagnosed will not be able to absorb carbohydrates from her food as well as she did before pregnancy and may need to modify her diet until her baby is born. A test is typically conducted in the second trimester of pregnancy to determine whether a woman has gestational diabetes.

Does eating dairy foods help reduce the risk?

Research is mounting about the link between eating dairy foods and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One school of thought is around the calcium provided by dairy foods.   

Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, performs a number of functions such as maintaining bone mass, muscle contraction and insulin secretion. Dairy foods provide the majority of calcium (70 percent) in the average U.S. diet.

Research suggests that higher intakes of calcium before pregnancy, especially from low-fat dairy foods, are associated with lower gestational diabetes risk. In one study, researchers determined that there is a link between eating more dairy snacks and a reduced risk of developing gestational diabetes. The dairy foods may cause a reduction in insulin resistance, therefore lowering the risk of developing gestational diabetes. 

Should I eat dairy if I have gestational diabetes?

Eating dairy foods can help manage gestational diabetes and can be enjoyed during pregnancy. Since some dairy foods, such as cheese, have a low glycemic load, eating these foods have been shown to help manage blood sugars in gestational diabetes. 

Dairy foods can be a positive addition to a pregnant woman’s diet for a reduced risk and management of gestational diabetes. Additionally, dairy foods provide dairy important vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, as well as high-quality protein during pregnancy.

Some easy dairy snacks include:

  • 4 oz. plain Greek yogurt topped with a handful of berries and walnuts
  • 1 piece of string cheese and a fresh-sliced apple
  • A fruit smoothie made with 2% milk
  • A glass of kefir and whole-grain crackers
  • Sliced fresh vegetables dipped in buttermilk dressing

Including dairy foods in your diet during pregnancy is simple, nutritious and delicious! Click here for delicious dairy recipes.

Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian and author who specializes in fertility, preconception, and prenatal nutrition. She currently manages a virtual private practice based in Charleston, South Carolina.  

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