Jerky is a convenient option for a satiating, salty snack that is also high in protein and ideal for when you’re on the go. However, the fact that something was a tasty option for a snack before you became pregnant does not guarantee that it will continue to be so after you become pregnant.
“In general, only cooked meats are safe in pregnancy,” says Shivani Patel, MD, a maternaly is typically made by drying meat rather than cooking it, I would advise pregnant women to avoid eating jerky.”
Continue reading to find out why you should avoid eating jerky while pregnant and what you should eat instead to satisfy your salty cravings.
Eating Jerky While Pregnant
Eating jerky while pregnant is not advised. “Jerky isn’t cooked in the traditional sense of the word,” Yaffe Lvova, RDN, owner of Baby Bloom Nutrition, explains. “It’s dried, a process that takes a long time at low temperatures.”
Meats that have been dried at low temperatures are more likely to contain bacteria such as E. coli, putting the consumer at risk of infection. While most E. coli strains are harmless or cause temporary digestive problems, infection with certain rarer strains has been linked to foetal death in pregnant women.
Dr. Patel adds that jerky is also high in salt, which is why expecting parents should avoid it. High salt consumption has been linked to an increased risk of hypertension. During pregnancy, high blood pressure can cause swollen hands and feet, constant headaches, difficulty breathing, organ damage, and an increased risk of heart disease.
Is it suitable for a baby?
Eating jerky while pregnant is not safe for your baby because it can potentially compromise your immune system, which is already compromised during pregnancy.
Salty jerky can cause high blood pressure during pregnancy, leading to poor foetal growth, low birth weight, placental abruption, preterm birth, or even stillbirth. Meanwhile, if a pregnant woman contracts a bacterial infection, it may only affect her temporarily, but it can result in foetal death in rare cases.
Why Should You Avoid Eating Jerky While Pregnant?
Because pregnancy affects the immune system, it’s best to avoid eating jerky while pregnant. “The immune system is somewhat compromised during pregnancy, which increases the risk of illness,” says Lvova.
When your baby begins to develop, your immune system adapts to ensure that your body does not reject the foetus. While this does not weaken your immune system in general, it does increase your risk of contracting specific infections, including those caused by bacteria in jerky.
The Problems of Eating Jerky While Pregnant
A pregnant woman is more likely to contract certain infections because her immune system is compromised. “Not cooking meat increases the risk of bacterial infections and parasite toxoplasmosis infections,” explains Dr. Patel. Infections caused by E. coli in pregnant women can cause urinary tract infections and, in rare cases, foetal death, depending on the bacterial strain.
Meanwhile, according to one study published in Pediatrics, children born to toxoplasmosis-infected mothers were twice as likely to be deaf, 60% more likely to have smaller-than-normal heads, and 30% more likely to have low IQs.
“Jerky also contains a lot of salt,” Dr. Patel adds. “I would advise women with medical conditions such as high blood pressure or kidney disease to avoid eating salty foods.”
If you already have high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop preeclampsia, a type of high blood pressure during pregnancy that can harm the pregnant parent’s organs and stunt the baby’s growth.
Is it safe to eat homemade beef jerky while pregnant?
NO! Homemade beef jerky is even more likely than store-bought jerky to cause foodborne illness. That’s because they should (or should be) made safely and inspected by professionals.
When Can I Eat Jerky Again?
Jerky fans will have to forego their favorite snack while their child grows. “I would avoid jerky for nine months of pregnancy,” says Lvova. A study published in the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology found that immune cell levels begin to rise and return to normal function approximately three months after birth. As a result, it is recommended that you refrain from eating jerky until after this period has passed.
Safe Pregnancy Alternatives
There are numerous snacks available to pregnant women to satisfy their savoury, salty cravings while remaining safe to consume.
Dr. Patel suggests eating olives to mimic the savoury flavour of beef jerky. Olives are high in monounsaturated fats, which aid in developing the baby’s brain and eyes and lower the risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Snacks made from seaweed
While not an obvious choice, Crispy seaweed snacks may satisfy your jerky craving. “Adding seaweed to food, or even eating seaweed snacks,” Lvova suggests, “would provide that salty, umami flavour similar to jerky.” Seaweed is one of the richest food sources of iodine, a trace element essential for thyroid function, and keeps your metabolism running smoothly during pregnancy.
Mixture of Trail Mixes
A classic trail mix can replicate beef jerky’s flavour, texture, and convenience. “Dried fruits can provide a similar bite, while nuts can provide salt and convenience,” Lvova says. In addition, the dried fruit and nuts provide immune-boosting antioxidants and energizing protein.
Because jerky is dried and not cooked, you should avoid eating it while your immune system is compromised during pregnancy. This will help you avoid getting a bacterial infection that could be harmful to you or your baby. Choose other salty, savoury snacks instead. If you have any concerns about eating jerky while pregnant, consult with your doctor to see what is best for you.