When you’re pregnant, what you eat may directly influence your baby’s growth and development. Therefore, your doctor may suggest you eat some nutrition-rich foods more while completely avoiding other foods. However, some foods are tricky; for example, eating liver during pregnancy may have both beneficial and negative impacts on the development of your unborn child.
Although the liver is a good source of many essential nutrients, consuming too much may have negative consequences.
This post will guide you on the forms in which the liver is consumed and the benefits as well as negative impacts of consuming the liver during pregnancy.
Forms Of Liver
The liver is eaten in many forms in different parts of the world:
- Liver Pâté
- Chopped liver
- Liver sausage
Whatever be the form of the liver that you are consuming, the impact is almost the same. Some difference lies in the source from where the liver is coming.
Benefits Of Eating Liver During Pregnancy
The liver has many nutrients which are good for our health. It contains (1):
- Vitamin A
- Folic Acid
While protein and folic acid are important for supporting your baby’s growth, iron ensures the formation of adequate hemoglobin in the blood. It is the Vitamin A part that may cause problems.
Negatives Of Eating Liver During Pregnancy
The liver contains the most concentrated form of Vitamin A (1). The exact amount found in various sources will differ. For example, beef liver will have a higher degree of Vitamin A than chicken liver. But even in small quantities, it can cause harm because vitamin A in the liver is in the form of retinol. Excessive intake of vitamin A in this form can lead to congenital disabilities (2).
- The Vitamin A in the liver is in the form of retinol.
- Excessive intake of vitamin in this preformed version can lead to birth defects.
- The defects can be in the form of mutations and can even lead to development of cancerous cells.
- So retinol is considered harmful for pregnant women and should be avoided in any form.
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG), women in developed countries rarely have vitamin A deficiency, so eating high amounts of liver and liver products can cause increased vitamin A levels resulting in issues with the fetal nervous system development (3). Moreover, the liver is also high in cholesterol, which is unhealthy for pregnant and non-pregnant people.
How Much To Consume?
There is no clear evidence that prescribes a certain quantity of liver that can be consumed while you are pregnant. So, it all depends on your personal judgment. However, avoiding it will be the best course of action due to higher concentrations of vitamin A which is a fat soluble vitamin and it’s excess doesn’t get excreted easily. You can have other forms of vitamin A which are safer(4).
It is said that about 2500 international units of Vitamin A can be safely consumed per day during pregnancy. Women who take a higher amount are at risk of facing birth defects and complications(5).
What To Avoid?
When you are abstaining from having liver, you must also try and stay away from these products:
- Spreads or sauces that contain traces of the liver.
- Supplements having Cod liver oil or shark liver oil.
- Medicines or supplements which have a high concentration of Vitamin A in the retinol form.
- Skin care products that have retinol as a component.
Other Sources Of Vitamin A
- Sweet potatoes
- Turnip Greens
- Beet Greens
- Red peppers
- Oily fish
These sources are great for building good vision and immunity and act as effective antioxidants. The best part is that Vitamin A in these vegetables is in the form of beta carotene, which is good for your body.
Liver consumption during pregnancy can be beneficial since it is rich in iron, protein, and folic acid. However, the liver also contains high amounts of vitamin A in the form of retinol, which may increase the risk of congenital abnormalities. Hence, some doctors recommend against consuming liver and liver products such as cod liver oil supplements and sauces containing liver. Instead, you could include carrots, pumpkin, spinach, etc., in your pregnancy diet for a healthy dose of vitamin A. However, if you are craving liver during pregnancy, consult your gynecologist to know if you can safely consume it.
Infographic: Vegetarian Alternatives To Liver And Meat
Although you enjoy eating liver during pregnancy, there may be moments when you may not crave it. During such situations, you may consider the following vegetarian options packed with a lot of nourishment. Check out this infographic that will help you with some vegetarian alternatives for liver or meat.
- The Liver Files.
- Vitamin A Excess.
- Healthy eating and vitamin supplements in pregnancy patient information leaflet.
- Vitamin A in pregnancy: a review.
- Vitamin A.