Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: August 10, 2022

A few years back, when I was pregnant with my younger son, I craved BBQ and deli, but I was curious to see whether it would be good for me and my growing baby.

So, I consulted a dietician and my gynecologist to understand if it was safe to eat meat during my pregnancy. More precisely, I wanted to see if there was any type of meat I should avoid altogether.

Here's what I found.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Meat is a good source of protein for the mother and the baby.
  • The best meat for pregnant mothers includes chicken and liver.
  • Consuming red meat in excess can cause health risks like gestational diabetes.

Meat and Pregnancy

A pregnant woman using a laptop

Meat is enriched with all the nutrients and minerals that can help the mother and the baby. It's, however, essential to take precautions when consuming it during pregnancy.

When eating meat during pregnancy, it's best to ensure the meat is thoroughly washed and cleaned before you start the cooking process. Cook the meat until well done and ensure no traces of blood or pinkish color.

It's recommended that you should avoid eating raw shellfish, corned beef, or cured deli meats unless they're steaming hot or at 165° Fahrenheit. This reduces the risk of food poisoning caused by eating raw meat or undercooked one.

Pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting food-borne illnesses from poultry and red meat when eaten raw because they have low immunity and the baby's growing immune system is not strong enough to fight such diseases [1].

4 Best Types of Meat to Eat During Pregnancy

Close up shot of raw meat

Here are the 4 best types of meat that you can eat during pregnancy:

  1. Lean Meat: Lean meat, like veal, gives you lean proteins that lower blood pressure and boost good cholesterol (LDL) [2].
  2. Chicken Breasts: Chicken is an excellent source of protein necessary for the baby's body development. It's a white meat that gives about 3.5 daily protein per 100g serving.
  3. Salmon: A balanced diet with salmon is highly recommended for pregnant women because it's one fish with low mercury levels. It's also good for the developing baby because it has omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D [3].
  4. Liver: During pregnancy, iron is a woman's best friend, and the liver is fully loaded with these key nutrients such as folic acid [4]. It's advisable to cook the liver very well and eat it while it's hot with leafy vegetables for more iron.

3 Health Benefits of Meat in Pregnancy

Eating the right amount of meat comes with great benefits.

1. Protein Source

A cluster of sources of protein on a table

Protein is an essential nutrient because they deliver the cornerstones for the development of developing fetus tissues immediately after conception.

In addition to the amniotic fluid, proteins are involved in forming the uterine wall and the placenta. Protein is also suitable for increasing a baby's birth weight and general body development [5].

Pregnant women should eat 71g of proteins per day, equivalent to around 5 ounces of lean meat. And if you’re on a vegetarian or vegan diet, eat meals that’ll maximize your protein dietary supplements.

2. Rich Iron Source

Quality red meat contains Heme-iron that's more easily absorbed than the nonheme iron' locked proteins' found in a plant-based diet [6].

Pregnancy increases the need for these essential nutrients even more than usual, particularly in the third trimester of the pregnancy.

During pregnancy, the body is forced to produce new blood supplies to transport nutrients to the fetus [7]. 

And if there's no iron, there'll be a shortage of blood cells to generate blood for the mother and the baby. More iron is needed to increase maternal red cell mass to replenish the placenta and the fetus [8].

3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Fetal Development

Close up shot of a salmon dish with rice on a teal plate

During pregnancy, it is strongly advised to consume meat, mainly fish, to obtain the precious long omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are also present in red meat though in smaller quantities.

DHA is one of the primary building elements of the cellular membrane and is required to create fresh tissue, particularly for the fetal growth of the brain, nervous system, and retina, all of which continue to evolve within the first pregnancy months [9].

Side Effects Of Excess Meat

Even though meat spreads have excellent health benefits, there are some severe side effects of consuming it in excessive amounts.

1. Greater Risk of Toxoplasmosis

Two pieces of raw meat on paper bags

Toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by harmful bacteria commonly found in rare or undercooked beef and other red meats, should be avoided during pregnancy.

It's an infection caused by Toxoplasma gondii, one of the second most prevalent parasites [10]. In non-pregnant women, infection is usually painless and asymptomatic.

On the other hand, toxoplasmosis can increase the likelihood of miscarriage, preterm delivery, or destroying the baby's organs like the liver and spleen [11].

2. Mercury Consumption from Fish Meat

Mercury is a toxic metal that can endanger your child. Fish absorb mercury from the water they swim in and from eating other fish that contain mercury.

You can pass mercury to your baby during pregnancy if you consume mercury-containing fish. This can harm your baby's brain and impair their vision and hearing abilities [12].

Eating 8 to 12 ounces of mercury-free fish a week during pregnancy, such as shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish, and canned light tuna is healthy. 

It's also okay to consume 5.5 ounces of albacore (white) tuna per week. But remember to cook fish meat until the internal temperature reaches about 147 degrees and check to see if it separates into flakes.

3. Gestational Diabetes

Higher animal protein is linked with an increased cause of chronic diseases. Red meat intake has been shown to cause gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes in pregnant women [13].

Pregnant women should eat more plant-based protein and Supplement with white meats like poultry or good fish [14].

4. Increased Risk Of Listeriosis

Top view of raw meat

Listeria infection is a bacterial disease that can be fatal in pregnant women. Eating inaccurately manufactured deli meats and raw or undercooked low-fat dairy products is the primary cause [15].

Storing deli meat in the refrigerator can encourage the growth of Listeria because the bacteria thrive well at those freezing temperatures. With a compromised immune system, this illness can be fatal to babies in the womb, newborns, and the mother.

Even though a listeria infection can cause mild symptoms to the pregnant mother, it can cause severe illness to the unborn baby.

If you've been eating deli meats regularly while pregnant, it would be best to consult your doctor and diagnose Listeria for an immediate responsible medicine treatment.

"Deli meats are unsafe for pregnant women because the Listeria bacteria can cause a miscarriage or stillbirth."
- Kara Hoerr, RDN

FAQs

Is Raw Meat Good During Pregnancy?

Raw meat during pregnancy is not good because it can cause food poisoning due to bacteria.

How Much Meat Should I Eat During Pregnancy?

You should eat meat amount, which gives you roughly 71g of daily recommended protein.

Should I Eat Meat Every Day During Pregnancy?

You should not eat meat every day during pregnancy because protein takes longer to digest. It's best to give room for the protein to digest and be absorbed into the body before your next meat dish.

Is Meat Safe During Pregnancy?

Even though meat is an excellent source of protein, iron, and vitamin D levels crucial for pregnant women, any mishandling during the cooking process can pose serious health risks for the mother and the baby.

Eating the right kind of meat in the recommended amounts is also essential.

If you're looking for a safe and healthy way to get your lean protein fix during pregnancy, check out these fast and reliable meat delivery services that will deliver quality, organic, fresh meat to your doorstep. Dedicated to sustainability and best farming practices, these companies provide hormone and antibiotic-free cuts pregnant ladies can consume without worrying about harmful chemicals.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2939108/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15927927/
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/finding-omega-3-fats-in-fish-farmed-versus-wild-201512238909#
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7600162/
  5. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/156482651303400223&ved=
  6. https://agro.icm.edu.pl/agro/element/bwmeta1.element.agro-b0116a90-aa4d-402b-b2b2-c27166dbf757/c/DOI_-10.5601.
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235217/#
  8. https://www.britannica.com/science/pregnancy/Blood#:~:text=
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3046737/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1118145/

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