Foods that you’ve been eating all this time could be harmful for your baby. The worst thing is, you may not even know that you are eating them. They could be a hidden food ingredient or even camouflaged as “health” foods. Here is the list of foods you should stay away from when pregnant and how to avoid them.
1. Artificial Sweeteners (Aspartame)
Think artificial sweeteners better than sugar? Think again.
NutraSweet, Spoonful, Equal, Equal Measure, Canderel, Tropicana Slim, AminoSweet, are all aspartame – an artificial, non-saccharide sweetener.
Aspartame – about 200 times sweeter than sugar – may cause possible side effects including brain tumors, lymphoma, and cancer, fibromyalgia, to headaches, dizziness and insomnia.
According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, neuroscientist, there are several toxic breakdown chemicals from these aspartame products that make them dangerous for mothers and a developing fetus.
The major concerns about pregnant women ingesting aspartame during pregnancy are birth defects and damage to certain areas of the brain involved in complex learning and hormone control.
Aspartame used as a sugar substitute in lots of foods and beverages including soft drinks, yogurt, chewing gum, frozen desserts, cereal, pudding, breath mints, and gum.
To avoid aspartame read the ingredients and stay away from artificial sweeteners. In the European Union aspartame is codified as E951.
2. Raw Fish
It’s time to say no to sushi, sashimi, seared tuna and other raw fish delicacy.
Raw seafood can be a source of harmful parasites and bacteria. The FDA recommends pregnant women only eat fish and other seafood that has been cooked thoroughly – to an internal temperature of 145 F (63 C). Fish is done when it separates into flakes and appears opaque throughout.
Besides, many of sushi type fish, like tune and yellowtail, contain high levels of mercury and should be completely avoided or eaten very rarely.
3. Raw Shellfish
Same goes for raw shellfish. Just like raw fish, it can contain harmful bacteria Listeria monocytogenes that can cause food poisoning.
Although the bacteria are of little danger to healthy people, in pregnant women the infection can result in premature delivery, serious infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.
Always cook shrimp, lobster and scallops until they’re milky white. Cook clams, mussels and oysters until their shells open. Discard any that don’t open.
4. Seafood High In Mercury
Seafood can be a great source of protein, and the omega-3 fatty acids which help to promote your baby’s brain and eye development.
However, some fish and shellfish contain potentially dangerous levels of mercury. Too much mercury could harm your baby’s developing nervous system.
The bigger and older the fish, the more mercury it’s likely to contain. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourage pregnant women to avoid:
• Mahi Mahi
• Northern Pike
• King mackerel
Limit tuna to no more than 6 ounces (170 grams) a week.
Also, be aware that while canned light tuna on average appears safe, some testing has shown that mercury levels can vary from can to can.
Certain types of seafood contain less mercury.FDA states that 8 to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood low in mercury – two meals per week – are safe to consume for pregnant women. You can still get the benefits of the seafood consuming the following types of fish:
• Ocean perch
• Wild Salmon (Stay away from Farmed Salmon and here is why.
5. Farmed Salmon
Here are 7 things you should know about farmed salmon:
- Farmed salmon are fed pellets of chicken feces, GMO like corn meal, soy, genetically modified canola oil and other fish containing concentrations of toxins.
- Have higher levels of toxins like dioxins, toxaphene and dieldrin, seven times the levels of PCB’s, and hight levels of mercury than the wild caught salmon.
- Have 30 times the number of sea lice.
- Are fed chemicals to give them color.
- Are administered antibiotics at higher levels than any other livestock.
- Have less than 50% of omega 3’s due to lack of wild diet compare to wild caught salmon.
- Contain far less protein than wild caught salmon.
Is it healthy to eat farmed raised salmon for pregnant women?
Dr. Anne-Lise Birch Monsen at the University of Bergen, Norway, has raised serious concerns about high levels of contaminants in farm-raised salmon.
“I do not recommend pregnant women, children or young people eat farmed salmon. It is uncertain in both the amount of toxins salmon contain, and how these drugs affect children, adolescents and pregnant women…The type of contaminants that have been detected in farmed salmon have a negative effect on brain development and is associated with autism, ADD / ADHD and reduced IQ. We also know that they can affect other organ systems in the body’s immune system and metabolism.”
Wild caught salmon is a safer choice to make during pregnancy. If you are looking for a good source of protein and Omega-3 acids you can consume up to 2 meals of wild caught salmon per week.
6. GMO Foods
Genetically modified (GM), or genetically engineered (GE), foods are made from plants that have had traits in their DNA changed. Scientists take genes – the pieces of DNA that differentiate living things – from one plant or animal and insert them into another organism. These plants are also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The purpose of genetically modifying plants is to make them better in some way, for example, make them more tolerant of weather, growing conditions, or more resistant to herbicides, pesticides, insects, or diseases.
The result is usually highly pesticide resistant crops that tolerate enormous amount of pesticides. And the more pesticides they use, the more toxic the plants become, and the more toxins we consume when we eat those plants.
Are GMO safe?
Some studies claim that GMO causes allergies, miscarriage, birth defects, Autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and even cancer tumors.
While the U.S. government assures the public that genetically modified plants are safe for consumers and the environment I agree that the studies’ claim sound quite alarming.
That’s why it’s beat to avoid GMO when pregnant.
Researches show that toxins from GMO food crops are reaching the bloodstreams of women and unborn babies, alarming research has revealed.
A landmark study found 93 per cent of blood samples taken from pregnant women and 80 per cent from umbilical cords tested positive for traces of the chemicals.
When choosing organic you not only avoid GMO but also consume less pesticides and chemicals that may hurt your and your baby health.
About 60 to 70% of processed foods on US grocery store shelves are GMO. That doesn’t mean you can’t avoid it.
How To Avoid GMO
- Read the labels. Certified organic foods don’t contain GMOs. Look for “100% organic” or “USDA organic,” or “Non-GMO project” label on foods.
- Read the ingredients. Avoid GMO ingredients like: corn, soy, soybean, canola and cottonseed oil, beet sugar (usually called “sugar”) – opt in for cane sugar instead that’s not genetically modified.
- Read the PLU numbers. If you pick up an apple in you grocery store you’ll notice a little sticker that contains important information about how the apple was grown. The first number tells the way the apple was grown – if it’s organic or GMO – and the last four letters of the PLU code tells what kind of vegetable it is.Organic
When the PLU code on the sticker that starts with “9” means the apple is organic. For example, 94133GMO
The PLU code on the sticker that starts with “8” means the food is genetically modified. For example, 84133Grown With Pesticides
The PLU code on the sticker that starts with “3” and “4” (usually 4 numbers) means that the apple was grown conventionally or “traditionally” with the use of pesticides. For example, 4133
The good thing is, most produce sold on the market isn’t GMO.
GMO foods include: Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, yellow, squash, corn, soybeans, sugar beets, alfalfa, and cotton.
Better stay away from those.
Kombucha is an “ancient fermented tea beverage” that has a natural effervescence (like bubbly carbonation) that is full of probiotics, antioxidants, B vitamins and so much more.
While there isn’t enough evidence to declare whether this drink is safe for pregnant or not, the fermentation process results in naturally occurring alcohol that may range from 0.5 per cent to up to 3% – as high as some beers. Plus, most kombucha drinks are unpasteurized, and as far as FDA is concerned that’s a no-no during pregnancy.
Leave this one on the shelf until after the baby is here.
8. Uncooked Meat
Rare and Medium rare meal may contain parasite that can cause Toxoplasmosis – an infection that can damage your baby, when pregnant. That’ why it’s important to avoid raw and undercooked meat during pregnancy.
Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly so it’s steaming hot and there’s no trace of pink or blood – especially with poultry, pork, sausages and minced meat, including burgers.
9. Deli Meats
Any processed deli meats including ham, turkey, chicken, salami, hot dogs and bologna should be avoided during pregnancy.
Here is why.
Pregnant women are more susceptible to getting the virus causing Listeriosis – dangerous foodborne illness that can cause miscarriage, severe illness and even stillbirths. The average person would feel mild flu-like symptoms but the disease is much more severe for women who are pregnant. Besides the unborn, developing babies are at a higher risk of developing complications from the disease.
Cook deli meats until they are steaming hot – or avoid them altogether.
10. Smocked Seafood
Refrigerated, smoked seafood often labeled as lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky could also be contaminated with Listeria and should be avoided during pregnancy. The smocked seafood is safe to eat as an ingredient in a cooked meal like casserole. Canned or shelf-safe smoked seafood is fine to eat too.
11. Soft Cheeses
Imported soft cheeses is one more example of food that can contain Listeria.
Avoid soft cheeses such as: Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Mold-ripened soft goats’ cheese, such as Chevre, Feta, Gorgonzola, soft blue-veined cheeses such as Danish blue, and Mexican style cheeses that include queso blanco and queso fresco, unless they clearly state that they are made from pasteurized milk. They are are also safe to eat when they are cooked since cooking process destroys the bacteria. All soft non-imported cheeses made with pasteurized milk are safe to eat.
All hard cheeses including cheddar, parmesan and stilton, are safe to eat when pregnant.
12. Unpasteurized Milk
Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk and juice. Don’t drink raw milk including sheep’s milk or goat’s milk. Unpasteurized milk, along with uncooked and unwashed food, is a vehicle for carrying pathogens that can make you extremely sick and result in the disease Listeriosis.
Same goes for refrigerated pate, including vegetable pâté or meat spreads. They should be avoided because they may contain the bacteria listeria.
Canned pate, or shelf-safe meat spreads can be eaten.
No level of alcohol has been proved safe during pregnancy.
Consider the risks.
Mothers who drink alcohol have a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Too much alcohol during pregnancy can result in fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause facial deformities, heart defects and mental retardation. Even moderate drinking can impact baby’s brain development.
The safest bet is to avoid alcohol entirely.
15. Unwashed fruits and vegetables
Yes, vegetables are safe to eat, however, it is important to make sure they are washed to avoid potential exposure to toxoplasmosis – a disease that results from infection with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, that can contaminate the soil where the vegetables were grown.
For infants born to infected mothers and for people with weakened immune systems, toxoplasmosis can cause extremely serious complications. Babies infected during pregnancy may develop learning, visual, and hearing disabilities later in life.
16. Raw eggs
Uncooked eggs pose a huge risk for salmonella poisoning.
While the pregnant mother can’t pass it on to the baby there are several side effects that can impact the baby’s health and labor. Some of these include causing early labor and dehydration, since salmonella poisoning leads to vomiting and diarrhea.
Make sure the eggs you eat are cooked – the egg whites and egg yolk should be solid.
Some products are made with raw or partially cooked eggs such as some Caesar salad dressings, raw cookie dough, eggnog and home made ice-cream. It’s best to avoid these foods in order to ensure the health of your unborn baby.
Because caffeine is a stimulant, it increases your blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are not recommended during pregnancy. It crosses the placenta to your baby your baby’s still maturing metabolism cannot fully metabolize the caffeine. It can cause changes in your baby’s sleep pattern or normal movement pattern and keep you both awake.
Caffeine also increases the frequency of urination. This causes reduction in your body fluid levels and can lead to dehydration.
Some studies suggest that drinking too much caffeine during first months of pregnancy might be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.
Because of the potential effects on your developing baby, your health care provider might recommend limiting the amount of caffeine in your diet to less than 200 milligrams a day during pregnancy. This is equal to about one 12 oz cup of coffee.
Caffeine is not only found in coffee but also in tea, soda, chocolate and some over-the-counter medications that relieve headaches.
If you are wondering how much caffeine you consuming here is the breakdown:
8 oz cup coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine
8 oz cup of black tea contains about 47 mg of caffeine
8 oz of green tea 40 mg of caffeine
12 oz of cola contains about 33 mg of caffeine
Baker’s chocolate (1 oz) 26 mg of caffeine
Excedrin (per capsule) 65mg of caffeine
Discuss with your health care provider how much caffeine you should consume.
Seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow. These conditions are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. That’s why sprouts carry a risk of foodborne illness.
To eliminate any harmful bacteria, cook sprouts thoroughly, or avoid raw sprouts of any kind including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean.
19. Herbal Tea
Most herbal teas are considered to be safe during pregnancy, but some are not. The lack of research and studies makes it hard to understand if some herbal teas pose any real danger to pregnant women.
The FSA recommends drinking herbal tea in moderation – no more than around four cups tea a day during pregnancy.
It’s best to seek advice from your GP or midwife if you are unsure about which herbal products are safe to consume.
Some herbal teas are unsafe when you’re expecting; these include PMS, diet, cleansing and detoxification teas, as well as those with the herbs black cohosh, blue cohosh, dong quai and others.
Also avoid herbal laxatives, so read tea labels carefully. “In high doses, some naturally occurring substances, such as cascara sagrada or senna, can cause changes in electrolytes,” says Laurie Green, M.D., an obstetrician in San Francisco.
Electrolytes, which include chloride, sodium and potassium, are required for normal cell and organ functioning. These herbal laxatives can promote diuresis (increased urination) or diarrhea, both of which can cause dehydration, says Green. Such varieties are best avoided until after you deliver and finish breastfeeding; even then, use caution.
On the plus side, the Natural Medicines Database helps consumers determine which herbs are likely to be safe and which are better left on the shelf. Here’s a snapshot view of their findings:
Pay D’ Arco
Red Raspberry Leaf
Slippery Elm Bark
Oats & Oat Straw
Insufficient Reliable Information:
Nettles (depending on which part of the plant is used.
20. Green Tea
Green tea is thought to be a health-promoting drink rich in antioxidants that can help to prevent cell damage and even protect against heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Drinking green tea may also be good for your teeth and bones, and help you to maintain a healthy immune system.
However, drinking a large amount of green tea may prevent you from absorbing folic acid properly. Folic acid is an important nutrient, particularly during the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.
One small study suggests that babies can develop neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, if their mums drink lots of green tea around the time of conception.
It’s best to drink green tea in moderation during pregnancy.
Like other teas, green tea can also make it difficult for your body to absorb iron form non-meat foods. So it’s best not to drink it with meals.
One cup of green tea contains about 40 mg of caffeine. So drink no more than 5 cups of green tea a day or avoid it altogether.
Here you go, 20 dangerous foods to avoid during pregnancy and why. For more pregnancy and health advice subscribe to my Fee Skinny Girl’s Guide newsletter here.
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