I often get asked about which foods women should avoid using in their green smoothies when pregnant. There is a lot of conflicting information and rumors out there on the Internet about certain foods that may harm your developing baby.
The good news is that you can still have almost all of the foods you are used to enjoying. However, there are a few that come with some caveats, and I’ll discuss each one below.
But the main thing is that you want to avoid, as much as possible, foods that are contaminated with bacteria. Some bacteria, such as Listeria, is known to cross the placenta and infect the fetus, increasing the chance of miscarriage. While listeria contamination of fruits and vegetables is rare, it has been reported in cabbage, celery, lettuce, and most recently in cantaloupes during the late summer and fall of 2011. You can keep track of current food recalls at the United States Food Safety website.
Don’t get paranoid about food contamination, though. I have eaten copious amounts of raw fruits and vegetables (including cantaloupes, spinach, tomatoes, celery, lettuce, etc…) over the past five years and not once during that time have I ever gotten food poisoning. I think part of this has to do with my healthy gut flora facilitated by my healthy, produce-rich diet, as well as buying mainly whole fruits and vegetables, preparing them myself, and choosing organic and/or foods from small farms.
Smoothie Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy…Or Not
The following list of foods are often on the “avoid” list for pregnant women, but eating them won’t necessarily kill your baby or terminate your pregnancy. Instead, some of these foods come with precautions that you should look out for when you are carrying a child.
If you experience severe cramping, bleeding, or other signs of miscarriage after eating any food, see your doctor immediately. Keep in mind that most miscarriages or pregnancy complications have nothing to do with particular foods you may have eaten.
Papaya: Papaya is one of the top “fruits to avoid” for pregnant women…according to Internet rumors. It is said that eating the fruit may cause miscarriage. The truth, however, is that ripe papaya poses no known risk to a fetus. Unripe, or semi-ripe papaya, on the other hand, MAY pose a risk since the papain in the fruit latex may trigger uterine contractions. Even so, papaya isn’t listed as a “food to avoid” on any of the top pregnancy websites backed by scientific organizations, including the American Pregnancy Association. So in short, enjoy moderate amounts of ripe papaya and don’t worry about your growing baby.
Pineapple: I was surprised to see pineapple on a list of fruits pregnant women should avoid. Fortunately, there is no science behind this. Fresh pineapple is perfectly safe for pregnant women. However, some anecdotal evidence suggests that pregnant women should avoid drinking excessive amounts of pineapple juice, as the bromelain, when taken in concentrated amounts, may pose a risk, though I don’t know of any scientific studies that have demonstrated this.
Grapes: I’ve read on a few obscure websites that grapes should be avoided during pregnancy. There is absolutely no science to support this, and while researching this, I encountered numerous women who ate grapes during pregnancy and gave birth to healthy babies. The “grape danger” is just a rumor, and nothing more.
Parsley: Parsley contains an oil called apiole. Apiole is a kidney stimulant. Because this oil can also stimulate uterine contractions, pregnant women should avoid eating large quantities of it. A couple sprigs chopped into a salad is nothing to worry about, but I don’t recommend using parsley in green smoothies while pregnant.
Cacao: There’s some conflicting information about whether or not cacao or raw chocolate is safe for pregnant women. Chocolate is not on any of the “foods to avoid while pregnant” list on any scientifically-backed pregnancy website. And while it is best to limit caffeine intake while pregnant, raw cacao contains very little and not enough to cause concern. As with anything, I do not recommend going nuts with raw cacao while pregnant, but using it on occasion should be fine, as there are no scientific studies expressing concern about this food.
Raw Sprouts: Pregnant women should avoid consuming raw sprouts including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean. Sprouts, and the process of sprouting, are prone to contamination with bacteria. Since it is almost impossible to wash the bacteria off the sprouts, the FDA recommends that pregnant women cook sprouts before eating them.
Unpasteurized Fruit Juices: Unpasteurized juices have not been heated to remove potential bacterial contaminants. While it is virtually impossible to purchase unpasteurized juices in a grocery store, they are often available at farmers markets or road-side stands. It is generally safe to make your own fruit juices at home, provided that the fruits or vegetables used in making the juice have been washed thoroughly and not been contaminated.
Herbal Teas and Supplements: The concern with consuming herbal teas during pregnancy is the lack of data available on most herbs and their effects on a developing fetus. Because of this, the American Pregnancy Association recommends that pregnant women avoid consuming herbal teas. The same goes for herbal supplements, as some herbs are known to cause birth defects or other complications in pregnant women when taken in medicinal amounts.
Raw Milk and Dairy Products: As with unpasteurized fruit juices, there is a risk of bacterial contamination from raw milk and dairy products. It is important to understand these risks, and to know how your milk and dairy products were processed.
There are a few other food warnings for pregnant women such as potential contamination from deli meats and pates, and mercury content of seafood. The risks associated with these foods are well explained on most pregnancy websites, and since they are not smoothie foods, I won’t go into the details in this article.
Green smoothies are an excellent food for pregnant women as they are rich in calcium, iron, folate and other nutrients a developing baby needs. So don’t worry and drink a green smoothie for the health of your baby!
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Tracy Russell is the creator of RESET 28: A 28-Day Program For Energy, Weight Loss & A Healthy Glow, and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She has been helping people take control of their health and well being with green smoothies, a whole foods diet, and fitness since 2009.