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Is It Safe to Eat Potato Chips, Papaya, or Balut When You're Pregnant?
PHOTO BY @Chet_W/iStock
  • Pregnancy makes women very selective about what they eat (sometimes it's involuntary, especially if they develop an aversion to food while they are infanticipating). Naturally, they will choose what will nourish the baby to grow healthy and strong. However, it is interesting to note that at this stage, it is actually the mom's body that is a bit compromised. Pregnancy suppresses a woman's immune system, which means that her body's defenses are slightly weaker than normal.

    In her book Getting Pregnant Faster, UK nutritionist Dr. Marilyn Glenville explains, "Pregnancy suppresses the body’s immune system (to ensure the fetus isn’t rejected as something foreign) which means your body is less able to fight off infection and illnesses, making it more susceptible to colds and flu."

    It really makes sense to ensure that what you take in will not only nourish your body to sustain the growing life inside you, but also won't make you sick. Can you eat your favorite dishes without worrying about bacteria? Here are some of the most common questions pregnant women ask about food. When in doubt, talk to your doctor!  

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    Is it safe for pregnant women to eat pork, beef, lamb, or chicken? YES, WITH CAUTION. 

    Generally speaking, pregnant women can eat meat safely, "as long as they are properly cooked," says Dr. Barbara Jane Papa, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Perpetual Help Medical Center in Las Pinas. However, she cautions against consuming chicken meat if you have allergies.

    Undercooked meats, like steak cooked rare, or cold cuts that are cured (not cooked thoroughly), should be avoided due to possible contamination with coliform, salmonella, or toxoplasmosis, which may infect your unborn baby.

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    Is it safe for pregnant women to eat fish, shrimp, squid, and shellfish? YES, IN MODERATION.

    Make sure the fish is freshly cooked. Limit your intake of tuna which has a high mercury content that could affect your unborn baby's nervous system. 

    Is it safe for pregnant women to eat sushi, sashimi and other raw fish prepared kinilaw-style? NO.

    It is not advisable to eat raw food while pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration both recommend that pregnant women only eat fish and shellfish that have been cooked to 64°C to destroy any potentially harmful parasites and pathogens in the food.

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    Is it safe for pregnant women to consume cakes, pastries, and desserts? YES, IN MODERATION.

    Limit your consumption of sugary food while you're pregnant so you don't gain weight unnecessarily, and so as not to run the risk of getting gestational diabetes

    Is it safe to consume cheese and dairy while pregnant? IT DEPENDS.

    It is best to consume only hard cheeses during pregnancy like cheddar and parmesan. Avoid soft cheeses like camembert, brie, danish blue, and gorgonzola if they are not cooked, as they could cause listeriosis. However, feta, ricotta, cream cheese, and processed cheese spreads are okay to eat if they are made from pasteurized milk.

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    Is it safe to eat eggs? YES, IF...

    Eggs are safe to eat if they are fully cooked. According to eggsafety.org, "the [egg] white will coagulate (set) between 62 and 65°C, the yolk between 65 and 70°C, and whole egg between 62 and 70°C." 

    Is it safe to eat balut while pregnant? YES, SURPRISINGLY.

    Balut is cooked egg with meat (chick), so yes, it is safe to eat, says Dr. Papa.

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    Is it safe to eat bagoong? YES, BUT NOT TOO MUCH.

    According to Dr. Papa, bagoong, or fermented shrimp, which infanticipating women like to dip sour fruits in, is safe to eat. Just make sure it is thoroughly cooked, and eat in moderation.

    Is it safe to eat spicy foods? YES. 

    Dr. Papa does advise: "However, you may run the risk of hyperacidity or hemorrhoids if you consume too much."

    Is it safe to eat papaya during pregnancy? IT DEPENDS.

    Ripe papaya is safe to eat, but according to Healthline, the papain in raw, green papaya could trigger uterine contractions and lead to early labor when consumed in large amounts.

    Is it safe to eat packed potato chips during pregnancy? NO.

    Carley Mendes, a prenatal nutritionist and founder of Oh Baby Nutrition which advocates holistic health, says, “Junk food doesn’t provide the nutrients necessary to support the proper growth and development of your baby’s body, including his brain, bones, immune system and organs.” Moreover, consuming food that are high in salt and sugar while pregnant could increase your child's risks for developing allergies and asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. When you're craving potato chips, reach instead for kale chips, which is a good source of folate, or dried seaweed, which is rich in fiber.

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