Is It Safe To Eat Sprouts During Pregnancy?

✔ Research-backed

The foods that you enjoyed pre-pregnancy may not be suitable while pregnant. For example, consuming sprouts during pregnancy may not suit you and your baby.

Sprouts, mainly alfalfa and mung bean, are commonly used raw as salads or as ingredients in different dishes such as sandwiches. They are highly nutritious and delicious at the same time. But pregnant women may be more prone to contracting a bacterial infection if sprouts are eaten raw.

The sprouts may induce food poisoning, and the bacteria can ultimately affect your baby. According to the US Federal Department Of Agriculture (FDA), if you are eating out while pregnant, request for any dish served with sprouts to be served without them.

Read on to know more about sprouts and their effects on pregnancy, including ways to have them safely.

In This Article

Effects Of Eating Sprouts During Pregnancy

There are several ill effects of having sprouts in pregnancy:

  • Alfalfa, a perennial crop from the Fabaceae legume family, is known to give rise to complications because of e-coli bacteria.
  • Beans, radishes, and clover are some examples of raw sprouts that are reported to result in salmonella caused by the bacteria contained in them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the consumption of clover sprouts in 2020 resulted in 51 cases of E.coli infection.
  • It is particularly suggested that you stay away from raw sprouts in your pregnancy after the salmonella outbreak from alfalfa.
  • As salmonella can proliferate very fast, a single sprout may contain an infectious dose.
  • You are likely to get the disease by consuming the contaminated seeds.
  • Even though the seeds remain dormant in dry conditions, once they are sprouted in warm conditions the growth of bacteria gets activated.
  • Symptoms of salmonella and e-coli include nausea, cramping, fever and diarrhea.
Fever is a symptom of symptom of salmonella and e-coli

Image: Shutterstock

  • The bacterium is likely to get transmitted to the new life developing inside you. It may also result in meningitis, fever and diarrhea in your growing child.
  • Risks of ailments are high even in sprouts that are grown at home. As a matter of fact, sprouts that are grown at home are riskier than the commercial variants that use disinfectants.
  • Commercial farmers use different products to sanitize the sprouts.
protip_icon Expert says
The U.S. FDA advises pregnant women to avoid undercooked or lightly cooked sprouts to avert salmonella infection risk (4).

How To Control Cravings For Sprouts During Pregnancy?

Here is what you can do to stay safe when you want to include sprouts in your pregnancy diet even though in small amounts:

  • Rinse them thoroughly to remove bacteria.
  • If you are eating sprouts in pregnancy, make sure they are well cooked.
Eat well-cooked sprouts to ensure safe and healthy pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

  • You must avoid sprouts completely if your immune system is weak, as you are more likely to develop food-borne diseases during this time.

protip_icon Quick tip
You can safely include cooked brussel sprouts in your pregnancy diet to meet your daily need of 70 mg of Vitamin C (5).

However, that was not the case for an anonymous mother of three and a nationally certified fitness instructor. In her blog, she shares how she ate sprouts during her pregnancy and enjoyed the benefits. She says, “I started sprouting when I was pregnant with my first child, over 7 years ago. I started doing it because I wanted to feed my body the highest quality nutrients, and also because being a vegetarian, I have to be smart about my food choices to make sure I do not lack vitamins and minerals, which can easily happen during pregnancy. Sprouts ensured that I was getting sufficient and high-quality life force enzymes… You can add sprouts to anything. I love to eat them as is, or on salads. Sometimes I make a little sprout bowl with varying sweet and savory flavors… I cannot encourage you enough to start sprouting if you haven’t been doing it. It makes my body so happy to be eating such live foods (i).”

Key Tips For Buying Sprouts:

How safe are sprouts for pregnant women? To ensure the sprouts you buy are safe and fresh, there are some general purchasing, storing and eating guidelines that you must follow:

  • Buy sprouts that are fresh and kept in the refrigerator.
  • Avoid sprouts that have a musty smell or look skinny.
  • At home, keep the sprouts at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The refrigerator must be clean.
  • Before using them, rinse and clean thoroughly.
Rinse and clean the sprouts before cooking

Image: Shutterstock

  • Cooking sprouts reduces the chance of food-borne disease.
  • Cooked sprouts can be added to soups, fries, stews, and vegetable curries to enhance the dish’s overall nutritional value.
  • If you are baking them in an oven, toss until they are brown and crisp.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do sprouts cause gas?

Yes, in some individuals, sprouts (such as Brussels sprouts) may cause gastrointestinal issues, such as gas, when consumed in excess (1).

2. Which sprout has the highest protein?

One study found that sprouted grains, including chickpea, green gram, and cowpea, could have high protein content. The study also revealed that chickpeas had the highest protein content compared to the others (2). However, note that you must avoid consuming raw sprouts while pregnant.

3. Which sprouts are rich in calcium?

Brussels sprouts are calcium-rich sprouts from the Brassica oleracea family of cruciferous vegetables. Just eight Brussels sprouts could give you about 60 mg of calcium when consumed daily (3). Besides, it contains several other nutrients, such as vitamin A, folate, and some iron, that can benefit overall health. However, avoid raw sprouts and speak to a doctor about safe ways to consume sprouts or alternative calcium sources during pregnancy.

Sprouts indeed provide a lot of health benefits and have high nutritional content. However, since pregnancy is a crucial phase, you should be cautious about consuming them.

Sprouts are mostly consumed raw for their maximum benefits but eating raw sprouts may increase your risk of developing E.coli and Salmonella infections during pregnancy. These infections may lead to fever, diarrhea, and nausea. Nevertheless, if you wish to include sprouts in your diet, consume only cooked sprouts in small amounts to avoid food poisoning. If you feel uneasy after eating sprouts, consult your doctor.

Infographic: Safety Guidelines For Consuming Sprouts While Pregnant

Sprouts are nutritionally loaded that render several health benefits. However, due to their potential bacterial contamination, pregnant women should follow certain safety guidelines while consuming them. So the infographic below will help you learn the precautionary measures to follow while purchasing and cooking sprouts for pregnant women.

precautions for eating sprouts during pregnancy (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Raw sprouts may contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning in pregnant women.
  • In general, sprouts should be purchased fresh, stored in a clean refrigerator below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and cleaned thoroughly before cooking.
  • However, consuming raw sprouts during pregnancy can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramping, fever, and diarrhea.
  • The bacteria found in raw sprouts can also affect the fetus.
  • Pregnant women with a weakened immune system should avoid consuming sprouts to prevent food-borne illnesses.
can pregnant women eat sprouts_illustration

Image: Dall·E/MomJunction Design Team

Personal Experience: Source

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. Foods that May Cause Gas
    https://iffgd.org/gi-disorders/symptoms-causes/intestinal-gas/foods-that-may-cause-gas/
  2. Kavita Dipnaik and Deepika Bathere; (2017); Effect of soaking and sprouting on protein content and transaminase activity in pulses.
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319661585_Effect_of_soaking_and_sprouting_on_protein_content_and_transaminase_activity_in_pulses
  3. Calcium and Strong Bones.
    https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/health-concerns-about-dairy/calcium-and-strong-bones
  4. Chow Line: Raw or Lightly Cooked Sprouts not Safe to Eat for Certain Populations.
    https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-raw-or-lightly-cooked-sprouts-not-safe-eat-for-certain-populations
  5. Diet During Pregnancy.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/diet-during-pregnancy/
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Jenny Champion
Jenny ChampionMS, RD, CPT
Jenny is a registered dietitian, personal trainer and mother of three who is passionate about teaching women how to stop yoyo dieting, have healthy pregnancies and get back in shape after childbirth. After suffering from eating disorders and weight problems herself, she’s helped over 1,000 women change their lives by eating more of the right foods and less of the rest while enjoying their lives and having healthy relationships with food.

Read full bio of Jenny Champion