Health: Foods and Drinks to Shun When Pregnant

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A healthy diet is not only very essential for expecting mothers, but their unborn babies also benefit from it. From fruits and vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, protein and fats, pregnant mothers must go for a balanced and nutritious diet. Others supplements such as calcium, fibre, zinc and iron are extremely important in the diet of a pregnant woman.

Fibre plays two crucial roles in the body of a woman during pregnancy. First, it minimises constipation caused by increased hormone levels in the body, as well as maintains body weight by absorbing fats from the body.  Apart from the development of bones and teeth, calcium also aids digestion and enhances the functions of muscles and nerves. Examples of food rich in calcium are dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt.

Zinc is important for the development of the foetus, protein synthesis and normal growth and development, whereas iron ensures enough circulation of oxygen in the body. Iron forms a major part of haemoglobin, an oxygen-carrying pigment which produces red blood cells that aid in the transportation of oxygen.

Experts often advise pregnant women to avoid or minimize the intake of some foods and beverages for the sake of their safety and their unborn baby. Foods, which cause weight gains such as pizza, cookies, chocolate and ice creams should be ignored at all cost even when you are craving for them.

Pregnant women are strongly advised by health experts to avoid the following foods and drinks:

1. Alcohol

Most doctors have recommended total avoidance of alcohol during pregnancy. They argue that there is no amount of alcohol, which is safe for an expecting woman. Research shows that alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause miscarriage and stillbirth as well as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which entails other developmental disorders such as facial deformities and intellectual disability.

2. Raw meat

A study by the American Pregnancy Association indicates that uncooked meat can get contaminated with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis and Salmonella. The contamination is harmful to both the mother and the baby.

Salmonella infection is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract, usually caused by contaminated food and water (Mayo Clinic) whereas Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by a toxoplasma -the parasite found in cat faeces and contaminated food (Healthline).

Ensure beef or poultry is cooked properly before eating.

3. Processed junk foods

They are low in nutrients and high in calories. A pregnant woman fond of taking these types of food can develop several diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Furthermore, processed junk foods escalate weight gain, which experts have linked to many complications and diseases, including the conception of an overweight baby.

4. Caffeine

Unlike alcohol, which should be avoided at all cost during this vital stage of life in women, consumption of 200mg of caffeine daily is permitted, that is 2-3 cups. This stimulant is found in tea, coffee, chocolate, cola and other soft drinks. Too much consumption of caffeine increases the risk of low birth weight, miscarriage and difficult birth.

5. High-Mercury fish

Pregnant women should reduce the intake of high-mercury fish up to 1-2 times per month, according to health professionals. Fish high in mercury has heavy metal which hinders the development of the baby and it also damages the brain. The consumption of such fish also interferes with functions of your nervous and immune systems as well as Kidney. Examples of high-mercury fish are swordfish, tuna, shark and king mackerel.

6. Unwashed fruits and vegetables

Thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables using clean water to reduce potential exposure to bacterial infection. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come up with 7 tips of cleaning fruits and vegetables.

i. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.

ii. If damage or bruising occurs before eating or handling, cut away the damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.

iii. Rinse produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.

iv. Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.

v. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.

vi. Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.

vii. Remove the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.

7. Unpasteurized milk, cheese and juice

Unpasteurized cheese and juice and raw milk are prone to bacterial contamination such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter. These bacteria are life-threatening, thus you should go for pasteurized ones which are void of harmful bacteria.

8. Raw Eggs

Make sure eggs are properly cooked by ensuring yolks and whites are solid. Avoid poorly cooked eggs or foods that contain raw eggs to prevent the risk of salmonella food poisoning that can lead to premature birth or stillbirth. Besides, these foods can make you ill.

Examples of foods that commonly contain raw eggs are homemade Caesar dressings and ice cream, mayonnaise, lightly scrambled eggs, poached eggs, salad dressings and cake rings.

9. Fish exposed to industrial pollutants

Bluefish, striped bras, salmon, pike, trout and walleage are not safe for pregnant women because they contain high levels of polychlorinated. Since they originate from contaminated lakes and rivers it is good to consult your local health department to determine which fish are safe for consumption in your area.

Finally, for the sake of your health and of that of your unborn baby, try to cook your meal to reduce the risk of being exposed to food poisoning. Avoid ready-made food in restaurants, eateries or supermarkets. In case you have consumed at least one of the foods and drinks mentioned about, seek your doctor’s advice.