During pregnancy, your body is working overtime. Not only does it have to fuel itself, but it also has to fuel a second, developing human being. Naturally, what you eat during the 9 months of pregnancy can affect the health of your baby. Here are 5 foods to be wary of if you’re expecting.
Unlike elemental mercury, which you might find in a thermometer, methylmercury can be detected in some seafood. Also called organic mercury, this substance can accumulate in fatty tissues and is not easily excreted by the human body. It can also affect nerve growth and function. All of this is to say that if you’re pregnant, high food-chain fish like tuna and swordfish, both of which contain methylmercury, are off limits.
Raw or undercooked shellfish
When you cook food, the heat kills off and destroys harmful pathogens before you eat them. Raw or undercooked shellfish tend to harbor lots of bacteria and parasites, including Listeria. This bacterium can go undetected in pregnant women, but causes stillbirths and miscarriages. Other infections such as Salmonella poisoning cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.
Raw or undercooked meat
Land animals are also susceptible to bacterial contamination, mostly due to the way factory farms accumulate large amounts of animal feces. Raw beef, chicken, and pork are all carriers of E. Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. Given the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, many strains no longer respond to medication. But the consequences of such bacteria can be fatal for both mother and baby. While this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to completely cut steak out of your diet, just be sure the meat is well done.
Raw and/or unwashed produce
Fecal buildup in cattle farms can also end up contaminating vegetables. This is why we often hear about recalled spinach, lettuce, and other greens. When it rains, the rainwater washes the bacteria from cow farms into vegetable plots. Since we buy raw and bagged vegetables at the store, people sometimes end up consuming these pathogens and getting sick. If you’re pregnant, always wash and cook your vegetables.
In many other places in the world, farmers vaccinate their chickens against Salmonella. In the US, however, chickens aren’t vaccinated. Instead, farmers wash their eggs. This destroys the protective coating on the outside of the egg, and as a result, Americans have to refrigerate eggs while others around the world do not.
Still, the washing process does not remove 100% of salmonella from the egg’s shell. When you eat raw eggs, the small amount of Salmonella that remains on the exterior can transfer from the shell into your food. So if you’re pregnant, avoid things like Hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, and lightly scrambled or poached eggs.