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Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
There is a lot of advice, and even hype, about what to eat during pregnancy to keep mom and baby both strong and healthy. Perhaps less obvious are the guidelines about what an expectant mother should not eat. There may be disadvantages to consuming some of the food that was a part of everyday life pre-pregnancy. This list is not all inclusive, but helps to identify some of the foods that could be potentially harmful to a developing fetus.
1. Raw Foods. While raw vegetables have more nutrients than their cooked counterparts, the benefit may not be worth the risk while carrying a child. Raw fruits can be consumed, but should be thoroughly washed, dipped in a vinegar rinse to remove any pesticide residue, and even peeled, just to be sure that any residual chemicals are not finding their way into baby's sensitive system. Vegetables are typically grown in or close to the dirt, and bacteria (such as E. coli and Toxoplasmosis) from manure-type fertilizer is a common contaminant. All vegetables should be thoroughly washed and cooked to ensure safety. While raw or undercooked meats are never healthy, they are especially scary during pregnancy. Eggs and poultry, in particular, can carry a bacteria known as Salmonella, which can result in fever, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea in healthy people, but can produce severe sicknesses and even death to an unborn fetus. Rarely, salmonella can even enter the bloodstream and become fatal to the mother as well. Raw fish, such as that used to make sushi, should be avoided during pregnancy. Not only may it contain unsafe levels of mercury, but it can contain parasites, like tapeworms. These parasites invade mom's digestive system and soak up the nutrients intended for the growing baby, resulting in lower birth weights and sometimes in prolonged illness.
2. Some Fish. Lots of fish is low in fat and packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are all good things for an expectant mother. Some fish, especially predatory fish, should be avoided because it contains high levels of mercury. Fish that are caught from polluted water bodies should be avoided at all costs. Fish to avoid include marlin, orange roughy, ahi tuna, shark, swordfish, tilefish, and mackerel. These fish include the highest levels of mercury, and are followed closely by sea bass, bluefish, and grouper. High levels of mercury consumed during pregnancy can lead to slower development of the baby, up to and including brain damage. Fish that are all right to eat in moderation include flounder, anchovies, catfish, sardines and salmon.
3. Soft Cheese and Unpasteurized Milk. Certain cheeses, such as brie, feta, gorgonzola, queso blanco, camembert, queso fresco, and Roquefort – are typically made from unpasteurized milk. Unpasteurized milk products can contain a bacteria called Listeria. Listeria can infect the mom and the baby, causing infection, blood poisoning, and even miscarriage.
4. Alcohol and Caffeine. While studies from different countries sometimes publish conflicting results, the general consensus is that no caffeine or alcohol should be consumed during pregnancy. Caffeine can result in lower birth weight of the baby, premature birth, and withdrawal symptoms in the baby. It has been suggested that caffeine should be avoided in order to help lower the risk of miscarriage, especially during the first trimester. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause developmental problems with the fetus, and regular alcohol consumption while pregnant can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which has been linked to mental retardation and the development of physical deformities.
There is not always conclusive information available on what to avoid during pregnancy, but using common sense and avoiding at least the above foods is a good start toward a healthy pregnancy diet!