11 Foods and Beverages to Avoid During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of the most vital and sensitive periods in a woman’s life.Therefore, it’s very important for pregnant women to eat a healthy diet.

Expecting mothers have to pay close attention to what they eat and make sure to avoid harmful foods and beverages.

Certain foods should only be consumed rarely, while others should be avoided completely. Here are 11 foods and beverages to avoid or minimize during pregnancy.

1.High-Mercury Fish

Mercury is a highly toxic element. It has no known safe level of exposure and is most commonly found in polluted water. In higher amounts, it can be toxic to your nervous system, immune system and kidneys. It may also cause serious developmental problems in children.

Since it’s found in polluted seas, large marine fish can accumulate high amounts of mercury. Therefore, pregnant women are advised to limit their consumption of high-mercury fish to no more than 1–2 servings per month.

High-mercury fish include:

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Tuna (especially albacore tuna)

However, it’s important to note that not all fish are high in mercury — just certain types.

Consuming low-mercury fish during pregnancy is very healthy, and these fish can be eaten up to 2 times per week. Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your baby.

SUMMARY: Pregnant women should not eat high-mercury fish more than 1–2 times each month. This includes shark, swordfish, tuna and mackerel.

 2. Undercooked or Raw Fish

 Raw fish, especially shellfish, can cause several infections. These can be viral, bacterial or parasitic, such as norovirus, VibrioSalmonella and Listeria.

Some of these infections only affect the mother, leaving her dehydrated and weak. Other infections may be passed on to the unborn baby with serious, or even fatal, consequences

Pregnant women are especially susceptible to Listeria infections. In fact, pregnant women are up to 20 times more likely to get infected by Listeria than the general population.

Pregnant women are therefore advised to avoid raw fish and shellfish. This includes many sushi dishes.

SUMMARY: Raw fish and shellfish can be contaminated with bacteria and parasites. Some of these can cause adverse health effects and harm both the mother and unborn baby.

 3. Undercooked, Raw and Processed Meat

 Eating undercooked or raw meat increases your risk of infection from several bacteria or parasites, including ToxoplasmaE. coliListeria and Salmonella.

Bacteria may threaten the health of your unborn baby, possibly leading to stillbirth or severe neurological illnesses, including mental retardation, blindness and epilepsy.

While most bacteria are found on the surface of whole pieces of meat, other bacteria may linger inside the muscle fibers.

Cut meat, including meat patties, burgers, minced meat, pork and poultry, should never be consumed raw or undercooked.

Hot dogs, lunch meat and deli meat are also of concern. These types of meat may become infected with various bacteria during processing or storage.

Pregnant women should not consume processed meat products unless they’ve been reheated until steaming hot.

SUMMARY: Raw or undercooked meat may contain harmful bacteria. As a general rule, meat should be cooked all the way through.

 4. Raw Eggs

Raw eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella. Symptoms of Salmonella infections are usually experienced only by the mother and include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.

However, in rare cases, the infection may cause cramps in the uterus, leading to premature birth or stillbirth. Foods that commonly contain raw eggs include:

  • Lightly scrambled eggs
  • Poached eggs
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Homemade mayonnaise
  • Salad dressings
  • Homemade ice cream
  1. Organ Meat

Therefore, pregnant women should not eat organ meat more than once a week.

SUMMARY: Organ meat is a great source of iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A and copper. To prevent vitamin A and copper toxicity, pregnant women are advised to limit their intake of organ meat to no more than once a week.

6. Caffeine

SUMMARY: Pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg per day, which is about 2–3 cups of coffee. High caffeine intake during pregnancy can limit fetal growth and cause low birth weight.

 7. Raw Sprouts

Raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts, may be contaminated with Salmonella.

The humid environment required by seeds to start sprouting is ideal for these kinds of bacteria, and they’re almost impossible to wash off.

For this reason, pregnant women are advised to avoid raw sprouts altogether. However, sprouts are safe to consume after they have been cooked.

SUMMARY: Raw sprouts may be contaminated with bacteria inside the seeds. Pregnant women should only eat cooked sprouts.

8. Unwashed Produce

The surface of unwashed or unpeeled fruits and vegetables may be contaminated with several bacteria and parasites.

These include ToxoplasmaE. coliSalmonella and Listeria, which can be acquired from the soil or through handling. Contamination can occur at any time during production, harvest, processing, storage, transportation or retail.

While you’re pregnant, it’s very important to minimize the risk of infection by thoroughly rinsing, peeling or cooking fruits and vegetables.

SUMMARY: Fruits and vegetables may be contaminated with harmful bacteria, including Toxoplasma. It’s important to thoroughly rinse all fruits and vegetables.

9. Unpasteurized Milk, Cheese and Fruit Juice

SUMMARY: Pregnant women should not consume unpasteurized milk, cheese or fruit juice, as these foods increase the risk of bacterial infections.

10. Alcohol

Pregnant women are advised to completely avoid drinking alcohol, as it increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Even a small amount can negatively impact your baby’s brain development.

SUMMARY: Pregnant women should not drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and fetal alcohol syndrome.

11. Processed Junk Foods

SUMMARY: Eating processed foods during pregnancy can increase your risk of excess weight gain, gestational diabetes and complications. This can have long-term health implications for your child.

Compiled by healthline.com

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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