I drink raw milk, and I eat raw eggs. Oh, and I eat a lot of beef. Yes, while pregnant.
Some of you are now horrified. After all, we’re told that pregnant women need to be very careful about what they eat, and that they should never consume raw eggs or milk, and that they should limit beef. Not to mention skipping the lunch meat, soft cheeses, and other supposedly “dangerous” foods. But are these foods always dangerous? And are there other foods that maybe should be skipped?
First, let’s talk beef. Most say to skip beef much of the time (limiting to one or two servings a week) because red meat causes heart disease. I don’t know about that. I believe that most beef — that comes from cows pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and artificially fattened with corn — isn’t so good for you. But I don’t think this applies to all beef. All the research showing a link between heart disease (or obesity, etc.) and beef uses this hormone- and antibiotic-laden “regular” beef. But grass-fed organic beef just isn’t the same. Beef is actually a really good source of iron and B12 and a number of other nutrients. If you can find grass-fed beef for a decent price, eat it! We bought a whole cow early this year and eat it very frequently (pretty much daily).
What about raw eggs? Or even eggs in general? Some research shows they’ll cause your cholesterol to rise. But first, 70% of your cholesterol is produced by your body…not your diet (hence all those new cholesterol drugs and their marketing schemes — “It’s not just what you eat”). Eggs are full of wonderful nutrients — yes, fat and cholesterol, but also choline, vitamin A and lots of other good stuff. And actually, these nutrients are best absorbed when the yolks are eaten raw. Now…don’t run down to your local grocery store and pick up a $1 carton of eggs and eat them raw. I don’t think that’s safe at all. Factory-farmed eggs are often contaminated with salmonella, and it’s not worth the risk. If you can get real farm-fresh, local eggs though (where you know your farmer and how healthy the chickens were), these are safe to eat raw. I’d never eat any eggs I bought from a store — even a health food store — raw. But I do get eggs from a local farmer, and these I eat raw daily.
Raw milk is very similar. It can’t be mass-produced safely (and so it isn’t). But pasteurization and homogenization change the delicate protein structures in the milk, and the fat, making them harder for the body to digest (and even causing allergies for some…many people I know can’t even drink pasteurized milk; but do not have problems with raw). But it’s very, very important to know your farmer, know that his milk is clean and that he follows safe procedures. His cows should be out on pasture, eating only grass, and they should not be given hormones or antibiotics. If you cannot find a local farmer you can trust, skip raw milk for sure. (I’m lucky that I have a farmer I know well and trust…and his milk has never made anyone sick. I’ve been drinking it for more than a year. I didn’t even like milk before but I crave this milk constantly.)
It probably is a good idea to skip raw cheeses or deli meats or any food that’s been sitting out…just in case it could be contaminated.
What about other foods? Is it a good idea to skip any others?
Sugar — we eat way too much of it. And it’s in just about everything we eat these days, including ketchup, salad dressing, bread, and so on. A lot of pregnant women feel like pregnancy is an excuse to “throw caution to the wind,” because they’re going to gain weight anyway. But the truth is, a lot of sugar isn’t good for you or your baby. It can cause you to gain extra weight (which will be much harder to lose after the baby comes), and it can even cause your baby to get too big, cause you to get gestational diabetes, etc. Don’t go crazy with the sugar! Treats are fine in moderation, as always (and if you can stick to homemade treats sweetened with honey or maple syrup, even better), but don’t use pregnancy as an excuse to go nuts.
Diet foods — Skip all of these. They’re too low in fat, they’re highly processed, and most contain a lot of sugar. They have to use something to make up for the fat, and that’s often it (especially in desserts). Diet “butter spreads” aren’t very good either, because they’re usually made from trans fats. And we all know that trans fats are not good for us! Artificial sweeteners aren’t so good, either. There’s new research suggesting that these sweeteners (especially aspartame, the most commonly used) cause cancer.
Fast food — This is really a moderation thing again. There will be days you have cravings, or are really busy…. But generally, fast foods don’t have much nutrition in them and have a lot of salt and bad fats (good fats and good sea salt are good for you….but refined, processed versions of both are not). Whenever possible, try to eat healthy foods at home.
Peanut butter? Some women want to skip peanut butter because of potentially causing peanut allergies. Peanut allergies are on the rise, but the research is conflicting. Some studies show that avoiding peanuts helps; others show avoiding causes more allergies! Talk to your doctor on this one, and consider carefully. If you have no family history, it’s probably not necessary to avoid.
While a lot of the advice out there is good, there’s often more to the story. Check out your options thoroughly and talk to a trusted health professional when making decisions about what to eat during pregnancy.
(And while we’re talking food and diet…I released a new cookbook today, Against the Grain: Delicious Recipes for the Whole Food and Grain-Free Diet! It’s normally $7.95. As a launch special, get 40% off with GRAINFREE40 — only the first 40 copies sold though! — or 30% off with GRAINFREE30 through Tuesday, April 19th.)
Do you eaten any “taboo” foods in pregnancy?
Top image by kthread