Eating Spicy Food When Pregnant: Safety, Risks And Tips

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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. In this post, we answer this significant question.

Is It Safe To Eat Spicy Food During Pregnancy?

Yes, it is safe to eat spicy food during pregnancy (2). but it’s always 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.

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 late stages of pregnancy. 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.

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 disabilities 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.
  • 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 also provide you the following benefits during pregnancy.

  • 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 fluid. 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, 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).

Spices have been a part of regular diet in several cultures worldwide. 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

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/
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