Eating Spicy Food When Pregnant: Safety, Risks And Tips

✔ Research-backed

Spices, with their explosive flavors, are known for stimulating the palette. Therefore, you may seek such foods to boost your mood and appetite during pregnancy. But wait, can you eat spicy foods while pregnant? Are they safe for consumption?

It is common to crave specific flavors and food items during pregnancy. Although the exact reason for the spicy food cravings remains unknown, hormonal changes and nutritional deficiencies might be the underlying factors (1). Nevertheless, pregnancy is a stage where utmost caution is required, and it is natural to wonder about the safety of consuming spices. And if you want to ask ‘can I eat spicy food while pregnant?’ then read on as we answer this significant question.

In This Article

Is It Safe To Eat Spicy Food During Pregnancy?

Yes, it is safe to eat spicy food during pregnancy (2). But it’s better to avoid it in pregnancy. There are no known effects of spicy food on the development of the fetus in any trimester. Therefore, spices can be consumed regularly during pregnancy. Women who have always consumed spicy food may not have any issues. If you occasionally eat spicy food or want to try spicy food for the first time, you may consume minimal quantities.

protip_icon Be watchful
A small amount of nutmeg in your food may not harm your baby; however, having an excess of it during pregnancy may have mind-altering hallucinogenic effects (10).

What Are The Side Effects Of Eating Spicy Food When Pregnant?

Spicy foods do not affect the mother or the fetus inherently. Nevertheless, they may increase the risk of certain common conditions in the mother.

  • Indigestion: It is a common discomfort among pregnant women, especially in the later stages of gestation. Spices may aggravate indigestion in women experiencing the condition already (3).

    Spices may aggravate indigestion in pregnant women.

    Image: IStock

  • Morning sickness: It is a pregnancy discomfort characterized by nausea, vomiting, and food aversions. Consumption of spicy foods may worsen morning sickness in a few pregnant women.
  • Heartburn: Most pregnant women complain of uncomfortable heartburn or reflux during the later stages of pregnancy. Spicy foods may aggravate stomach acids, increasing the severity of heartburn (4).

The aggravation of these issues due to spicy food may depend on several factors, including whether the woman is used to consuming spicy food, the intensity of the spiciness, and whether the spicy food was eaten with other food items that may aggravate these conditions.

protip_icon Research finds
Studies show that hemorrhoidsiA condition in which the rectal and anal region veins get swollen. do not worsen with spicy food. Therefore, an occasional spicy meal during pregnancy is permitted even if you have hemorrhoids (11).

What Are The Myths About Consuming Spicy Food When Pregnant?

It is a myth that spicy foods cause preterm labor.

Image: IStock

There are many myths regarding the consumption of spicy foods during pregnancy. You may have heard of the following statements, none of which are backed by adequate scientific evidence (2) (5).

  • Spicy foods cause preterm labor due to their high-heat generating capacity.
  • Spicy foods can cause congenital disabilitiesiA medical condition present from birth. or even a miscarriage.
  • Spicy foods can cause your baby to be born blind.
  • Some women experience irritable uterus due to spicy food, causing labor.
  • You can consume spicy foods to induce labor.

If adding spice foods stimulates your palette, you may proceed with it. But their intake is better limited in case you experience any discomforts.

How To Safely Consume Spicy Food?

Prepare dishes at home to monitor the amount of spice.

Image: Shutterstock

If spicy food does not cause any issues during pregnancy, you may consume it the way you usually do. However, if it increases the severity of digestive problems, you may observe the following precautions when consuming spicy food during pregnancy.

  • Avoid consuming spicy foods outside. Instead, prepare the dishes at home as you can monitor the amount of spice.
  • Always check the ingredients list and expiry dates on the packaging of spices.
  • If possible, purchase whole spices and powder them by yourselves. The pre-packed powders may be adulterated, which could cause digestive discomfort in sensitive individuals.
  • Reduce or avoid spicy food if they cause you discomfort. You may try limiting a particular spice as well.
  • Purchase spices from brands approved by food-regulatory authorities only.

Are There Any Benefits Of Eating Spicy Food During Pregnancy?

Spices improve various aspects of your health during pregnancy.

Image: Shutterstock

A touch of spice to the food enhances its taste and may benefit infant and maternal health in the following ways:

  • Stimulates a baby’s taste buds: A study notes that fetal taste receptors develop 30 weeks after conception. Every day, the fetus swallows a bit of amniotic fluidiA yellowish fluid surrounding the fetus in the womb to keep it protected. . When a pregnant woman eats food of a specific flavor, it seeps into the fluid and introduces the unborn baby to new tastes (6). Therefore, spicy food in diet could expose the fetus to the flavor, potentially helping stimulate the fetus’ taste buds.
  • Good for overall health: Spices may help improve various aspects of your overall health during pregnancy. For instance, a study notes that those who ate spicy foods five or more times a week had low levels of bad cholesterol (low-density lipids or LDL) levels in their blood. The study also emphasizes that pungent spices increase the levels of good cholesterol (high-density lipids or HDL) in the blood (7).

How To Include Spice In Diet During Pregnancy?

The following spice products may be incorporated into food recipes. Start with minimal amounts and add them in moderation.

  • Curry sauce: This Indian spice mix has onion, garlic, chilly, and other common spices. It is available in most stores, and you may add it to curry.
  • Piri-Piri sauce: It is made from African bird’s-eye chili, onion, garlic, and tomatoes. As they are high in spice, use in scanty amounts.

    Piri-Piri sauce has African bird’s-eye chili, onion, garlic, and tomatoes.

    Image: Shutterstock

  • Wasabi peas: These are the peas coated in wasabi, which is a pungent condiment. You may eat this moderately as it is a healthy snack.
  • Black pepper: Freshly ground black pepper has a soothing effect and the antioxidant piperine. It is safe for consumption during pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can babies in the womb taste spicy food?

Research shows that flavors from your foods can pass to amniotic fluid, which helps develop the baby’s taste and smell abilities. However, no evidence exists that spicy foods can burn babies’ eyes or cause miscarriage. You may eat them without heartburn since spicy foods can worsen it (8) (9).

2. What spices to avoid while pregnant?

Some spices should be avoided in pregnancy, especially in large amounts, since they contain ingredients that can impact pregnancy. They are poppy seeds, peppermint, rosemary, nutmeg, and garlic (10).

3. What does it mean when I crave spicy food while pregnant?

It is common for pregnant women to crave hot and spicy foods. Changes in the sense of smell and taste due to fluctuating pregnancy hormonal levels can be a reason for spicy food cravings. You may include more vegetables and proteins with spices to maintain a healthy balanced diet while satisfying your taste buds (9).

4. What gender does it specify if I crave spicy foods?

Cravings may indicate what your body needs; for instance, a feeling to chew ice often means a low iron level in your body. Food cravings are not gender predictors; only ultrasound imaging from an experienced sonographer helps identify the gender (8).

5. Why do I want spicy food while pregnant?

Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can alter smell and taste perceptions, which can affect an expecting woman’s taste preferences (1). While the exact cause of cravings is unknown, such physiologic changes may make you crave spicy food during pregnancy.

6. Can I eat spicy chips while pregnant?

Like any other food, you may consume spicy chips in moderation unless recommended otherwise by the doctor. Since spicy and greasy food can aggravate heartburn symptoms and indigestion, ensure you do not have these chips in access (3).

7. How much spice is safe in food?

You can consult with your healthcare provider to ensure that you are following the appropriate pregnancy guidelines regarding the safe consumption of spices. Generally, it is recommended to exercise caution and consume spices in moderate amounts to ensure optimum food safety.

Spices have been a part of regular diet in several cultures worldwide. Now you must have got an answer to your question, can you eat spicy food while pregnant? If you have always consumed spicy food, there is no reason to stop eating it during pregnancy if it does not cause any problems. If you notice exacerbation of digestive problems, such as heartburn, due to spicy food during pregnancy, you may cut down or avoid spicy food. Eat spices in moderation and as part of a healthy balanced diet.

Infographic: A Few Pregnancy-Safe Spicy Food Recipes That You Can Try

After reading so much about spicy food, we are sure that you must also be craving something spicy. So, what is healthy, easy-to-make, spicy, and satisfying as well? The below-given infographic contains recipes that can satisfy your cravings for spicy food during pregnancy. Read and save it as well for times when those cravings strike again.

spicy recipes to satisfy your pregnancy cravings (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Spicy food is a common craving during pregnancy, but excessive consumption should be avoided.
  • Consuming spicy food can cause indigestion, morning sickness, and heartburn.
  • If the craving cannot be suppressed, precautions should be taken to safely consume spicy food, such as preparing it at home and carefully selecting ingredients.
  • Eating spicy food may have health benefits for the mother, but it is recommended to consult a doctor for guidance on dietary choices.
can you eat spicy food while pregnant_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Are you constantly craving spicy food? Watch this video to learn if it’s safe to indulge while you are pregnant.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Food cravings during pregnancy.
    https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/food-cravings-during-pregnancy
  2. Maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
    https://blogs.bcm.edu/2022/01/06/maintaining-a-healthy-pregnancy/
  3. Indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy.
    https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/indigestion-and-heartburn/
  4. Juan C Vazquez; (2010); Constipation, haemorrhoids, and heartburn in pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217736/
  5. Which Pregnancy Myths Are Actually True?
    https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_qtd1io6q
  6. L. Paglia; (2019); Taste development and prenatal prevention.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31850766/
  7. Yong Xue, et al.; (2017); Association between spicy food consumption and lipid profiles in adults: a nationwide population-based study.
    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/association-between-spicy-food-consumption-and-lipid-profiles-in-adults-a-nationwide-populationbased-study/5662CC442BFC8558C807A125174C04A4
  8. Gender positions and cravings in pregnancy: truth or myth.
    https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/worries-and-discomforts/common-discomforts/gender-positions-and-cravings-pregnancy-truth-or-myth
  9. Eating spicy food in pregnancy.
    https://www.aptaclub.co.uk/pregnancy/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-food-groups/spicy-food-during-pregnancy.html
  10. Spicing Up Your Life during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Are Spices and Herbs Ok?.
    https://mothertobaby.org/baby-blog/spicing-up-your-life-during-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding-are-spices-and-herbs-ok/
  11. Donato F Altomare et al.; (2006); Red hot chili pepper and hemorrhoids: the explosion of a myth: results of a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16708161/
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Dr. Kritika Verma is a renowned gynecologist and IVF specialist in Ayodhya. She has done her MBBS from SGRR Dehradun and MS from UP University of Medical Sciences Etawah (Saifai), where she was a gold medalist. With over seven years of experience, Dr. Verma currently runs her own hospital in Ayodhya.read full bio