In early pregnancy when the embryo is very sensitive and growing rapidly it is important to take extreme care not to ingest foods and beverages that could have a negative impact. Here is a primer on the foods to avoid as soon as you conceive:
* Tuna and other high-mercury fish
Tuna fish is very prone to high mercury levels, it is a large fish and has a long time to accumulate mercury compared to smaller fish which accumulate mercury less. In studies most canned tuna has been found to contain mercury, less so in light tuna but some feel that any mercury is not worth the risk. Other high mercury fish include swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish.
Canned wild salmon or sardines are a lower mercury fish and a safer bet if you are consuming canned fish regularly.
* Undercooked Meats
Meat which is not cooked thoroughly can harbor pathogens such as salmonella, listeria and toxoplasmosis so it is important to cook meat very thoroughly. Beef which has been grass-fed or grass-finished has a lower bacterial load than grain fed beef and so is much less likely to be contaminated to begin with.
* Lunchmeat, Hot Dogs and Deli Meats
These can be contaminated with listeria which when consumed can cause miscarriage or cause your baby to be dangerously ill after birth. Listeria is a bacteria which can cross the placenta so any mysterious stomach upsets in pregnancy may warrant a listeria test to check that you haven’t been exposed. Avoid lunch meats, hot dogs and deli meats while pregnant and ensure that meat is thoroughly cooked.
* Smoked Fish And Seafood
Foods such as smoked salmon, lox and smoked scallops are also a potential source of listeria which can cause miscarriage or serious harm to a newly born baby. You can eat these foods only if they are thoroughly cooked.
* Farmed Salmon
Farmed salmon is known to be extremely high in PCBs which are best avoided when trying to conceive and in pregnancy. If you would like to eat salmon choose a wild salmon and cook it well.
* Local River-Caught Fish
Many rivers and lakes are very polluted with PVCs (polychlorinated biphenyls), the best fish to eat in pregnancy is wild salmon or other low-mercury fish. Fish that are often locally caught from rivers include: bluefish, striped bass, salmon, pike, trout, and walleye.
* Raw Fish And Shellfish
All forms of raw fish and shellfish should be avoided.
* Undercooked Eggs
Eggs should be thoroughly cooked during pregnancy, if you buy local eggs from a farmer be sure to wash the shells with soap and warm water or other effective cleanser before cracking the egg as local eggs maybe unwashed and harbor bacteria on the shell. The main worry with eggs is salmonella, cooking you eggs thoroughly or using pasteurized should kill salmonella making eggs worry-free.
Some foods contain raw egg such as mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce Caesar dressings, ice creams, egg nog, custard so check you are not inadvertently eating raw egg.
* Soft Cheeses
Imported soft cheeses - especially unpasteurized ones - can contain Listeria which can cause miscarriage or serious harm to a newly born baby, soft cheeses include: Brie, Camembert, Feta, Gorgonzola, Queso Blanco and Fresco, Roquerfort. If a soft cheese is US made with pasteurized milk it is far less likely to contain Listeria.
* Un-pasteurised Milk
Any milk you consume should be pasteurized not raw while pregnant to avoid exposure to Listeria.
Any pate in a deli or other refrigerated display should be avoided to minimize the chance of listeria. If a pate has been pasteurized and canned or jarred it should be safe to eat.
There is some variance of opinion regarding how much caffeine might be safe in pregnancy as some studies have found an increase in miscarriage rates and intrauterine growth retardation. It is wise to avoid caffeine during pregnancy and if you do need to drink caffeine stick to a black tea as it has less caffeine that coffee. If you use a decaffeinated coffee check that it is 'naturally decaffeinated' to avoid chemical residues from the decaffeinating process.
All alcohol should be rigorously avoided during pregnancy.
* Unwashed Fresh Produce And Fruit
When you are pregnant even the natural bacteria on fresh produce can pose a threat that is insignificant to a non-pregnant person. Fresh produce can harbor Toxoplasmosis, salmonella and Listeria so thorough washing of fresh produce - even melons - with a vegetable wash and cooking is advisable. If you desire to eat raw vegetables grating a washed peeled root vegetable such as a carrot or beetroot is likely to be ‘cleaner’ than a leafy vegetable which may be hard to wash well. Wash and peel your fruits too.
* Green Potatoes
When a potato turns green which it does in response to light it indicates that there is a build-up of the toxic alkaloid solanine. Studies have associated solanine with birth defects and so green potatoes should be avoided.
Whatever food you eat be sure not to store it in plastics that contain BPA which is known to cause long-term reproductive harm to babies of both sexes. Invest in glass food storage containers and freezer containers to minimize plastics and avoid canned foods of all kinds because the lining of the cans is plastic which leaches BPA into food. Invest in a BPA-free water bottle too so you can get away from plastic bottles which become especially dangerous when kept in hot sunlight.
Hopefully this guide will help you to make wise choices in pregnancy.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT intended to diagnose, offer medical or nutritional treatment or replace medical or nutritional advice for which you should consult a suitably qualified physician or dietitian.