To pro­tect your and your baby’s health, make sure to avoid these top 10 food nas­ties – bet­ter yet, cut these pages out and stick them on the fridge, writes Me­lany Bendix

Your Pregnancy - - Pregnancy Files -


Say good­bye to all your soft, smelly cheeses, such as brie, camem­bert and blue cheese – feta, too, if it hasn’t been pas­teurised. That’s be­cause unpasteurised cheeses, milk and other dairy prod­ucts are more likely to grow bac­te­ria such as lis­te­ria (see also p46). Preg­nant women, as well as new­borns and peo­ple with vul­ner­a­ble im­mune sys­tems, are more sus­cep­ti­ble to get­ting in­fected by this nasty lit­tle germ. It can cause an ill­ness called lis­te­rio­sis, which is usu­ally mild for you (caus­ing flu­like symp­toms) but it can harm your baby and, in rare cases, even lead to mis­car­riage or death. Here’s the good news: nowa­days many soft cheeses and feta are made with pas­teurised milk, in which case they are per­fectly fine to eat. Al­ways check the la­bel to be sure and prac­tise this golden rule: if in doubt, leave it out.


Big­ger fish live longer and are higher on the food chain, and the more other fish they eat, the more mer­cury is ac­cu­mu­lated in their meat. Mer­cury is a neu­ro­toxin that can build up in your blood­stream and can dam­age your baby. How­ever, seafood is a great source of pro­tein, iron and zinc – all cru­cial for your baby’s growth, while Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish help your baby’s brain devel­op­ment. So eat fish in mod­er­a­tion, just make sure it’s the kind that’s low in mer­cury and high in Omega-3 acids, such as an­chovies, her­ring, sar­dines and trout. An on­go­ing study by marine sci­en­tist Brent New­man at the CSIR found sword­fish, kingk­lip, Cape salmon and yel­lowfin tuna to be the South African fish with the high­est mer­cury con­tents. UK guide­lines al­low up to four tins of tuna a week for preg­nant women.


In Ja­pan and other eastern coun­tries sushi is con­sid­ered healthy in preg­nancy. But in the West it’s pre­vi­ously been ad­vised against be­cause raw fish such as salmon can con­tain small par­a­sitic worms, which have the po­ten­tial to make you quite ill (nau­sea, ab­dom­i­nal pain, vom­it­ing) and in very rare cases can be fa­tal. So should or shouldn’t you eat sushi? The lat­est word from the UK’s Na­tional Health Ser­vice’s ad­vis­ers is that eat­ing sushi while preg­nant is “usu­ally safe”.

Fol­low these ba­sic rules and you should have no trou­ble

If it’s raw fish, make sure it’s been frozen first, as this should kill off worms. If it’s cured fish, such as smoked salmon, it doesn’t need to be frozen be­cause smok­ing, pick­ling and salt­ing should kill off worms. If it’s shell­fish, only eat it if it’s been well cooked.


Raw shell­fish, such as oys­ters, mus­sels, scal­lops, clams, shrimp, crabs and cray­fish, may con­tain bac­te­ria, viruses and tox­ins that can make you quite ill. If you eat shell­fish, al­ways make sure it’s been thor­oughly cooked.


Raw or undercooked eggs may carry the sal­mo­nella bac­te­ria. Sal­mo­nella poi­son­ing is un­likely to harm baby, but it will make you un­pleas­antly ill with vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea, ab­dom­i­nal pain, headaches and high tem­per­a­tures. So lay off the eggs bene­dict and – get ready for hor­ri­ble news – avoid foods such as meringues, choco­late mousse and tiramisu, which all con­tain un­cooked eggs. Most com­mer­cial may­on­naises are made with pas­teurised eggs and are okay to eat, but check the la­bel to be sure.

6 PRO­CESSED OR DELI MEATS Polony, salami, ham, hot dogs... they all carry a risk of lis­te­ria. Rather be safe than sorry and ei­ther avoid these meats or heat them to over 73°C to kill off any bac­te­ria. 7 LIVER Too much liver and foods rich in liver, such as pâté and some sausages, are a no-no, be­cause they con­tain high lev­els of retinol, which is a type of vi­ta­min A. Too much retinol can build up in your body, which can be harm­ful to baby. But don’t avoid vi­ta­min A com­pletely – it’s im­por­tant to keep your skin, eyes and im­mune sys­tem healthy. Get it in good amounts by eat­ing a bal­anced diet that in­cludes but­ter, eggs, cheese, oily fish and veg­eta­bles such as car­rots and broc­coli. 8 RAW AND UNDERCOOKED MEAT AND POUL­TRY Say good­bye to rare steaks – undercooked meat and poul­try has a risk of car­ry­ing lis­te­ria, sal­mo­nella and the tox­o­plasma par­a­site (also found in cat lit­ter). This last one can lead to tox­o­plas­mo­sis, which is a flu-like ill­ness that may be mild for you, but po­ten­tially se­ri­ous for baby, even caus­ing mis­car­riage or death. 9 LIQUORICE Liquorice in its pure root form is a uter­ine stim­u­lant that may lead to pre­ma­ture con­trac­tions, while a 2013 study found that over­con­sump­tion of nat­u­ral liquorice (the sticky black kind) might also be dan­ger­ous dur­ing preg­nancy. The study, con­ducted in Ed­in­burgh and Helsinki, where eat­ing this kind of liquorice is as com­mon as eat­ing choco­late, found it can de­crease the strength of the pla­centa, which in turn can al­low harm­ful hor­mones into your baby’s sys­tem. A few Liquorice All­sorts now and then is un­likely to cause prob­lems. 10 SUGAR Var­i­ous stud­ies show that moms who con­sume ex­ces­sive amounts of sugar dur­ing preg­nancy give birth to ba­bies “ad­dicted” to sugar, which puts them at risk of health prob­lems such as di­a­betes. Ex­ces­sive sugar in­take also in­creases your risk of ges­ta­tional di­a­betes. Re­mem­ber, you don’t have to be di­a­betic or even prone to di­a­betes to suf­fer from ges­ta­tional di­a­betes, so re­duce your risk by lay­ing off the sugar! YP

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