If we listened to every piece of advice out there about what not to eat when pregnant, we'd probably be left with nothing we actually can eat.
Sushi, blue cheese, tofu, prosciutto – do you have to give up your favourites while pregnant?
In the U.S., women are told not to eat any raw fish like sushi; in Japan, that’s hardly the case! Still, there are concerns about mercury in some fish, as high levels of methylmercury can be toxic to your unborn baby’s nervous system. In general, the larger the fish, the more mercury it contains. So, avoid tuna, mackerel, swordfish and shark, and opt for salmon, tilapia, shrimp, cod or catfish.
Have you been warned that eating soy in pregnancy may lead to early puberty or irregular menstrual cycles (in girls) or urological problems (in boys)? Fear not. While soy has been linked to such outcomes in animals, there’s no conclusive scientific evidence that these same effects occur in humans.
Raw or rare red meat, like in steak tartar or koi soi (Thai raw beef salad), can contain parasites that can cause toxoplasmosis, which can cause still birth or long-term structural damage. And cured and luncheon meats can be contaminated with listeria, which can cause miscarriage, as well as premature labour or delivery and stillbirth. The exception: cured meats such as prosciutto and chorizo, which are salted, not cooked, if you cook them until they’re steaming hot and eat them immediately. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service advises that pregnant women avoid all types of pâté, as they can contain listeria.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink, especially considering the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. However, a Danish study, published in the journal BJOG: International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that mothers-to-be could drink up to eight alcoholic beverages per week during early- and mid-pregnancy with no adverse effects on their growing baby. The real danger: frequent heavy drinking or binge drinking (typically four or more drinks in 2 hours).
Soft cheeses made with unpasteurised milk, such as Brie, chevre and Mexican queso blanco may contain listeria. But the list of cheeses that are safe to eat is long and includes: hard cheeses, such as Cheddar, Parmesan and Stilton, even if made with unpasteurised milk; soft cheeses made from pasteurised milk, like mozzarella, feta, paneer and halloumi; and blue-veined cheeses (Gorgonzola, Roquefort) only if they have been cooked (until melted and bubbling).
There is no need to say farewell to a morning coffee! While high levels of caffeine, found naturally in coffee, tea (including green tea) and chocolate, can result in low birth weight and, possibly, miscarriage, most doctors, as well as Singapore’s Health Promotion Board, say you’re safe if you drink up to 200 milligrams a day. That’s the equivalent of two cups of instant coffee, four cups of green tea, or one Starbucks Grande flat white or cappuccino.