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Licorice Risky For Pregnant Women. What Else?

A recent study reinforced the finding that licorice can have negative effects on pregnancy. So it’s recommended that pregnant women avoid licorice. The warning  refers to glycyrrhizin, the acid responsible for the sweet taste of licorice. Glycyrrhizin affects cortisol regulation. The recent study found that the children of women who ate licorice regularly during pregnancy, had cortisol levels higher than children of mothers who hadn’t eaten licorice at all. This applied to women who ate small amounts of licorice as well as larger servings.

But there’s licorice, and then there’s licorice. How do you know if licorice contains glycyrrhizin?  It turns out that licorice isn’t the only source of this risky ingredient, either.

Because of its intense sweetness, glycyrrhizin is used as a natural sugar substitute. It can sometimes be found in combination with stevia, because the combination of the two have a better flavor than either ingredient alone. Stevia is generally considered safe during pregnancy.

Real licorice contains either licorice root or licorice root extract.So you will definitely want to avoid those.  But many black licorice candies are flavored with anise or fennel, two unrelated plants that do not have negative pregnancy effects.  And then there are the products that are entirely artificially flavored. It’s not always possible to get a complete list of ingredients on a package of candy—the phrase “naturally and artificially flavored” doesn’t really give you the info you need—but it’s much more likely that a European or Australian product will contain actual licorice. Anything that says “natural” licorice is likely to be risky as well. If licorice flavor is a staple of your diet and want to keep it that way, you could consider trying to get your fix in other ways. These candy coated fennel seeds taste remarkably like Good ‘n Plenty candies. And they’re not bad for your digestion, either.

photo: Craig Kanarick/RockMade

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