Pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in many women’s lives. For the most part being pregnant does not mean that you are fragile or have to change your life in any drastic way. When it comes to your nutritional intake, however, it is best to practice caution with a few different types of food and drinks.
Here are # foods and drinks to avoid during pregnancy:
1) Sushi and other raw/ undercooked fish
Sushi has become a firm favourite for many people when it comes to a delicious and healthy takeout. Unfortunately, any sushi that contains raw fish is no longer safe. Any fish which is uncooked has the potential to carry dangerous bacteria like Salmonella or Listeria or even parasites (2).
These bacteria or parasites can be fatal to an unborn baby while causing significant illness for the mother.
Pregnant woman are unfortunately extremely susceptible to Listeria infections, in fact up to 20 times more vulnerable than the rest of the population.
It is sad but true, best to rather avoid any sushi for the duration of your pregnancy.
2) Alcoholic Drinks
Alcohol is a drug; the feeling we get when we drink alcohol is essential as a result of us ingesting what our body perceives as a poison. So imagine, therefore, how an unborn fetus will be affected by alcohol?
Drinking also causes a severe condition while pregnant. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is characterised by mental retardation, deformed facial features and in some cases heart defects (5).
Here is the thing with alcohol and pregnancy, a safe limit has not been established and so it is best to abstain completely.
3) Caffeine-rich foods and beverages
The good news here is that you don’t have to give up your favourite hot beverage. Instead, you only need to cut down on the amount of coffee you are drinking.
High caffeine levels have been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage as well as the potential to restrict the growth of the baby (6, 7). This can cause serious issues at the birth of the baby as low birth weight infants are at a higher risk of certain diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and even heart disease (8).
The recommended upper limit for pregnant women is about 2 cups of coffee per day (200 mg of caffeine). This also means to practice caution with ‘energy drinks’ as well as caffeinated soda’s as the caffeine content can add up quite quickly.
Think of it this way, any caffeine you ingest crosses the placental barrier and will affect your baby.
4) Raw or Undercooked Eggs
Many people start the morning off with soft-boiled eggs, or even raw eggs cracked into a smoothie. When it comes to eggs and your pregnancy the golden rule is that your eggs need to be cooked. Properly.
Unfortunately, raw eggs can be infected with bacteria called Salmonella. Salmonella causes quite severe food poisoning with symptoms of vomiting, fever, nausea and diarrhoea. In some cases, the symptoms can be so severe that they cause uterine cramping and premature births. All in all, it is best to avoid any foods that contain raw or partially cooked eggs.
- Hollandaise sauce
- Soft-boiled eggs
- Homemade, unpasteurised mayonnaise or aioli
- Cake icing
- Lightly cooked scrambled or poached eggs
5) Soft, Unpasteurized Cheeses
Most milk and cheese that we purchase from the supermarket has undergone a process called pasteurisation. Essentially Pasteurisation is a heating process, which ensures that any harmful bacteria is killed.
Some of the more delicious ‘smelly’ cheeses, unfortunately, fall in this category:
These cheeses could contain bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, E. Coli, and Campylobacter, which could be extremely harmful to your unborn baby (9,10). Unless the packaging of cheese explicitly states that it is made from pasteurised milk, it is best to avoid any of the soft cheeses.
6) Undercooked Meat
For the average adult ordering, a steak undercooked is standard practice. When it comes to pregnant women, the order needs to change. No more medium rare or rare steaks we’re afraid.
Undercooked meat has the potential to carry several different types of bacteria such as Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella (11, 12). These bacteria can cause serious issues in the unborn child such as blindness, mental retardation and other neurological issues (13).
Aside from your favourite steak, it is also best to ensure that burger patties, sausages, and any minced meat have been cooked completely. When you are making sandwiches for lunch, it is necessary to practice caution with any processed hams or cold meats unless they have been heated properly.
7) Unwashed Fruit and Vegetables
It may be fairly normal to walk past the fruit bowl, grab an apple and bite into it without a second thought. More caution is needed when pregnant. If you think about it, many hands probably handled that apple before you picked it up at your local supermarket? The surface of your fresh produce could have nasty bacteria or parasites.
The usual culprits could be lurking: Toxoplasma, E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria. All of which could be extremely detrimental not only to the unborn baby but for the mother too.
The solution to this is quite easy; just make sure you wash any fruit or vegetables very well before consuming.