Is It Safe To Eat Ricotta Cheese When Pregnant?

Ricotta Cheese While Pregnant

Image: iStock

Say cheese!

And I can name the different varieties of this dairy product that people love to eat! One of them is the Ricotta cheese that is commonly found in Italian pasta dishes and desserts. If you wish to indulge in it during pregnancy, you should consider the benefits and risks of doing so.

Read on this MomJunction post to clear your doubts regarding the safety of Ricotta cheese during pregnancy.

What Is Ricotta Cheese?

Ricotta cheese is a fresh, creamy white and fine-textured Italian cheese made of leftover whey from the making of other cheeses such as Mozzarella and Provolone. The whey is recooked along with the acids until the proteins in the whey form fine curds. Ricotta cheese is similar to cottage cheese, but it has a slightly sweet and creamy flavor. It is mostly made with cow’s milk and sometimes with sheep’s or goat’s milk as well. It is one of the most popular variants of cheese used in the US and is also known as Ricottone (1).

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Is It Safe To Eat Ricotta Cheese During Pregnancy?

Yes, it is safe to eat Ricotta cheese because it is usually made from pasteurized milk. Check the labels before buying commercially-made ricotta cheese. Consuming dairy products made of unpasteurized or raw milk is not safe as it increases the risk of infections from bacteria such as Listeria, E.coli, and Salmonella (2).

Ricotta cheese is also safe for consumption when cooked or baked and served hot.

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Health Benefits Of Eating Ricotta Cheese While Pregnant

Ricotta is not only safe but healthy if made with low-fat or skimmed milk. Here, we discuss the benefits of ricotta cheese during pregnancy.

1. Protein builds lean muscles:

The protein you get from Ricotta cheese helps in building new cells and tissues in the body. It will, therefore, assist in muscle development and keeps you healthy (3).

2. Calcium for bone development:

Adequate intake of calcium is vital during pregnancy for strong and healthy bone development. Ricotta cheese serves the right amount of calcium which will help in preserving your bone health and build fetal bones too (4).

3. Rich in vitamins that support pregnancy:

Ricotta contains vitamins A, B2, and B12 in considerable amounts. Vitamin A boosts the immunity of growing fetus, vitamin B2 helps in maintaining healthy skin and eyes, and vitamin B12 prevents congenital abnormalities (5).

4. Great energy source:

Ricotta cheese made of fat-free or skimmed milk is a good source of carbohydrates which are essential during pregnancy. They play a crucial role in the development of the growing fetus (6).

Next, we give you the complete nutritional profile of Ricotta cheese, to help you include the right amount of it in your diet.

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Nutritional Value Of Ricotta Cheese

The nutrition present in 100 grams of Ricotta cheese made of whole milk is as follows (7):

NUTRIENTAMOUNT
Calories150kcal
Water73.69g
Carbohydrates7.27g
Sugars0.27g
Protein7.54g
Fat10.18g
Vitamins
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)0.013mg
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)0.298mg
Niacin (Vitamin B3)0.137mg
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)0.097mg
Folic acid (Vitamin B9)4mcg
Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)0.85mcg
Retinol (Vitamin A)445IU
Alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E)0.11mg
Phylloquinone (Vitamin K)1.1mcg
Vitamin D10IU
Electrolytes
Potassium219mg
Sodium110mg
Minerals
Calcium206mg
Iron0.13mg
Phosphorus154mg
Magnesium20mg
Zinc0.53mg
Lipids
Total saturated fatty acids6.420g
Total monounsaturated fatty acids2.659g
Total polyunsaturated fatty acids0.445g
Total trans fatty acids0.333g
Cholesterol49mg

g=grams; mg=milligrams; mcg=micrograms

Try making Ricotta cheese at home, and avoid the store-made cheese laced with preservatives and additives, for obtaining maximum nutrition and benefits from it.

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How To Make Ricotta Cheese At Home?

Here is how you can make ricotta cheese at home:

You will need:

  • 2 liters skim milk
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 3tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • Cheesecloth
  • Colander

How to:

  1. Take cold milk in a large pan and add salt.
  2. Place the pan on medium flame, and gently turn to simmer.
  3. As small bubbles start to form, keep stirring to distribute the heat evenly.
  4. Turn off the flame.
  5. Add vinegar and stir for one minute. You will notice that the milk starts to curdle.
  6. Close the container and allow it to rest for two to three hours.
  7. Pour the contents through a cheesecloth-lined colander.
  8. Once all the whey is drained, take the ricotta in a container and store in the refrigerator.
  9. It will remain fresh for about five days.

Now that you have the Ricotta cheese ready, read on how to use to make delicious dishes.

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Easy Pregnancy-Friendly Ricotta Cheese Recipes

1. Ravioli with Ricotta cheese filling

Ravioli with Ricotta cheese filling

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 4 eggs plus 2 beaten eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Ricotta cheese filling (1 cup ricotta cheese, 1 egg, salt, and pepper)
  • ½ cup water

How to:

  1. Using an electric blender fitted with dough hook, put eggs, flour, and water. Blend until it forms a ball.
  2. Remove the ball, and knead it until smooth and elastic by sprinkling some flour.
  3. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap, and let it rest for half an hour.
  4. Cut the dough into two halves. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into a sheet (of 1/8 inch thickness) by dusting the counter and dough with flour.
  5. Brush the surface of the sheet with egg beaten with water.
  6. To make ricotta cheese filling, combine all the ingredients necessary for filling in a mixing bowl, and keep in the refrigerator for some time.
  7. Put one tablespoon of ricotta cheese filling on one half of the sheet, leaving about a half inch between the fillings.
  8. Fold the unfilled part over the filling to seal the sheet.
  9. Cut each mound of filling using a crimper, and seal the edges well before cooking.
  10. Cook the mounds in boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes. They will float on water when cooked properly and you can remove them using a large strainer.

Preparation time: 1hr 15min
Servings: 4

2. Easy lasagna rolls

Easy lasagna rolls

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 12 lasagna noodles (cooked and drained)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tbsp parsley (chopped)
  • 32oz spaghetti sauce

How to:

  1. Combine ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and parmesan with eggs and parsley.
  2. Take one lasagna noodle on the surface and spread about 1/3 cup cheese mixture on it.
  3. Roll the pasta in such a way that it goes all up around the filling part. Keep repeating the same steps with the remaining filling and noodles.
  4. Next, spread a thin layer of the pasta sauce on the bottom of a baking dish and place the rolls on it so that the sides of the seams are facing downwards.
  5. Add the remaining pasta sauce over the rolls and sprinkle some cheddar cheese on the top. Cover the dish with safe microwave wrap.
  6. Place the dish in the oven and bake it for about 40 minutes or till the topping of cheese has started to melt and the sauce begins to bubble over.

Preparation time: 30min
Servings: 6

3. Chicken Alfredo fettuccine pasta

Chicken Alfredo fettuccine pasta

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 pound fettuccini pasta
  • 1½ cup butter
  • 1 pound boneless chicken breast halves (cooked and cubed)
  • 2 containers whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1-pint heavy cream
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Pepper as per taste
  • Water

How to:

  1. Take water in a pan and add some salt. Place it on heat and bring it to a boil.
  2. Once the water begins to boil, add fettuccini and cook it for eight to ten minutes or till it starts to become tender. Drain the water and set it aside.
  3. In the meanwhile, put a large skillet on the heat and once it becomes hot, add the butter followed by chicken breasts. Cook on medium heat until it is cooked properly.
  4. In another big pan add ricotta cheese, cream, salt, Parmesan cheese, and remaining butter. Let it be on medium heat for about ten minutes or till all the ingredients are mixed properly.
  5. Add the cooked fettuccini and chicken, and toss well.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

Try these delicious recipes to enjoy the benefits of Ricotta cheese.

As nutritious as it may be, Ricotta cheese can also be bad for you when consumed in excess. Read on to know about the possible risks of ricotta cheese when you are pregnant.

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Side Effects Of Eating Ricotta Cheese During Pregnancy

Some of the possible risks of having ricotta cheese during pregnancy are:

  • Ricotta cheese made of whole or full-fat milk may result in an unhealthy saturated fat build-up in the body (8). This could contribute to heart diseases and also affects fetal brain development.
  • Although ricotta cheese is a low-sodium alternative, over-consumption will cause bloating and water retention (9).

During pregnancy, it is essential to be extremely careful about what you are eating. Therefore, it is highly recommended to speak to your doctor before including ricotta cheese in your diet. There is no harm in adding the cheese made of pasteurized milk in your food as long as you do not overeat it.

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If you are planning to try any new ricotta cheese recipes, or if you have already included them, share them in the comments section below.

References:

1. All About Ricotta Cheese; American Culinary Federation Chef & Child Foundation (2015)
2. The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk; U.S. FDA (2017)
3. Protein; American Dietetic Association (2010)
4. Calcium for Bone Health; University of Pennsylvania (2013)
5. Sareen S. Gropper & Jack L. Smith; Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism; page 208
6. Edited by Thomas PR; Interpretation and Application of the Recommendations in the Diet and Health Report; National Academy of Sciences. (1991)
7. Basic Report; Cheese, ricotta, whole milk; USDA
8. The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between; Harvard University (2018)
9. Guidelines for a Low Sodium Diet; UCSF Medical Center (2002-2012)

 

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Rebecca Malachi

She is a Biotechnologist with a proficiency in areas of genetics, immunology, microbiology, bio-engineering, chemical engineering, medicine, pharmaceuticals to name a few. Her expertise in these fields has greatly assisted her in writing medical and life science articles. With 8+ years of work experience in writing for health and wellness, she is now a full-time contributor for Momjunction.com. She is passionate about giving research-based information to readers in need. Apart from writing, she is a foodie, loves travel, fond of gospel music and enjoys observing nature in silence. Know more about her at: linkedin.com/in/kothapalli-rebecca-35881628
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