Pepperoni is an Italian-American variation of salamiiXA cured sausage typically made of pork. and is prepared with cured beef and pork seasoned with different spices. While relishing its spicy flavor isn’t a cause for concern in general, knowing about the safety of eating pepperoni during pregnancy is vital if you are pregnant.
Pepperoni can increase your risk of foodborne illness if consumed raw or undercooked. Since pregnant women have naturally lower immunity, knowing about the safety of pepperoni before adding it to your diet is necessary. Keep reading to know about the safety of pepperoni for pregnant women, including its side effects and safer alternatives.
Is It Safe To Eat Pepperoni During Pregnancy?
If you are thinking, Can I eat pepperoni while pregnant? It’s important to note that pepperoni is not among the healthy food choices for pregnant women. It is high in fats, salts, and spices. But if you have a strong craving for it, you might take it in moderate amounts. However, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with consuming cured meat during pregnancy.
The cured meat could be vulnerable to toxoplasmosisi, a parasitic condition that causes no or mild flu-like symptoms in most cases. However, it can pass the placenta and adversely affect the unborn baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 300-4000 cases of toxoplasmosis occur each year.
Some of the possible risks of overeating pepperoni include indigestion, weight gain, ulcers, and water retention. You may eat the one that does not have nitrates and nitritesiXPreservatives for processed foods that prevent the growth of microorganisms and increase the shelf life. or use shredded chicken or lean ground beef as toppings. However, it is best to look for healthy eating choices to maintain optimum fetal and maternal nutrition during pregnancy.
Possible Side Effects Of Pepperoni During Pregnancy
Think before you extensively add pepperoni to your prenatal diet. The ingredients and preservatives used in this processed meat could affect you and your fetal development.
- Pepperoni is a high-fat food that offers around 141 calories and 13g of fat in a one-ounce serving (2). They are mostly saturated fats that may result in unhealthy weight gain and other problems such as preeclampsiaiXA condition in which the blood pressure of a pregnant woman suddenly increases after 20 weeks and leads to complications. , gestational diabetesiXHigh blood sugar during pregnancy. , and heart disease.
- Cured and salted meats contain nitrite and nitrate They could react with meat components and produce nitrosamines, which are carcinogeniciXLikely to cause cancer. (3).
- The spicy content of pepperoni is likely to cause heartburn.
- One ounce of pepperoni contains around 443mg sodium (2). It increases the salt content in the body, and a study has found that high sodium intake during pregnancy can adversely affect fetal renaliXRelated to the kidneys. functions (4). If you are worried about the side effects of taking pepperoni, you may try some alternatives.
Safer Alternatives To Pepperoni
- Go for pepperoni made of turkey as it contains fewer fats and saturated fats.
- Read the label before you buy commercial pepperoni. Take the one that has no nitrates and nitrites.
- Make your pizza with whole-grain tortillaiXThin, unleavened flatbread made from maize or wheat flour. or pitaiXYeast-leavened flatbread made from wheat flour. , and substitute pepperoni with lean meats such as grilled chicken breast and lean ground turkey.
Next, we answer some common queries raised by our readers about pepperoni and pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I eat cold pepperoni during pregnancy?
Cold pepperoni is safe to eat only if the label says the product is ready to eat. The risk of bacteria is reduced when it is frozen (5). But the risk of getting toxoplasmosis or listeriosisiXA disease caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes which may enter the body when consuming contaminated food. from cold meats can’t be completely ruled out. Therefore, you may consider eating hot and adequately cooked pepperoni to ensure optimum food safety.
2. Can I eat raw pepperoni when pregnant?
Raw pepperoni poses the risk of toxoplasmosis that is usually associated with raw meat. Toxoplasmosis could increase the risk of preterm labor, stillbirth, and miscarriage and cause congenital disabilities in babies (6).
3. Does pepperoni contain listeria?
Pepperoni is a cold cured meat and holds less chance of carrying listeria bacteria as freezing kills the parasite.
4. Is uncured pepperoni safe during pregnancy?
Uncured meats are cured with natural products such as celery powder rather than nitrates. There is no evidence to say that uncured meat is safer than cured one.
5. Can I have Hormel pepperoni when pregnant?
Hormel pepperoni contains nitrite preservatives, high saturated fats, added sugars, and high sodium content. Therefore, it is good to avoid it for your overall health.
Pepperoni is prepared from beef or pork and contains high amounts of fats, spices, and salt. Further, improper handling, storage, or cooking of pepperoni can lead to food infections. Hence, eating pepperoni when pregnant is not recommended since it may negatively affect the fetus. Instead, you could pick healthier alternatives, such as lean meats or pepperoni made from turkey. Be careful to avoid commercial pepperoni that is rich in nitrites and nitrates. Finally, discuss the safety of consuming pepperoni when pregnant with your healthcare provider or nutritionist.
Infographic: How Does Pepperoni Affect Pregnancy?
One of the first things that come to mind when we think of a pizza is pepperoni. But, as it is made of raw meat, it is not advised for expecting mothers. So let’s take a look at the infographic below to learn about the potential adverse effects of pepperoni and alternatives you may consider.
- Pepperoni should be consumed in moderation during pregnancy to avoid foodborne infections from consuming raw or undercooked pepperoni.
- Overeating pepperoni may lead to indigestion, weight gain, ulcers, and water retention.
- Pepperoni contains high levels of nitrite and nitrate, which are carcinogenic due to its high-fat content.
- The spice in pepperoni may cause heartburn, and overconsumption of salt during pregnancy could harm fetal renal functions.
- A safer alternative for pepperoni during pregnancy is to choose those made of turkey and other lean meats.
- Food prep for pregnancy; Northwell Health; 2018
- Pepperoni beef and pork sliced; Basic Report 174575; USDA
- Caiping Mao et al.; High-salt diets during pregnancy affected fetal and offspring renal renin–angiotensin system; J Endocrinol (2015)
- Foods to avoid in pregnancy; NHS (2017)
- Erin Digitale; NIH study supports screening pregnant women for toxoplasmosis; Stanford Medicine (2012)