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Is It Safe to Eat Sour Cream In Pregnancy?

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Unpasteurized dairy products can cause foodborne illnesses. Hence, consuming dairy items such as sour cream in pregnancy warrants caution. Sour cream is a fermented dairy product prepared by fermenting regular cream with lactic acid culture (1).

You can use sour cream to prepare tasty dips or pair it with roasted/grilled foods such as chicken tenders or nachos to enjoy a burst of flavors. Whatever way you use it, remember to exercise caution while eating sour cream when pregnant.

Read on to learn if sour cream is safe for consumption when pregnant and the risks and precautions to observe.

Is Consuming Sour Cream During Pregnancy Safe?

According to the NHS, UK, sour cream made with pasteurized milk is safe to consume when pregnant (2). However, this may not be true for homemade sour cream. It is because homemade sour cream, even if made with pasteurized milk, does not undergo pasteurization after preparation.

As a result, it may cause pathogens to contaminate the product and make it risky for consumption. The risk could be higher during pregnancy when your immune system naturally weakens. Hence, you should only use store-bought pasteurized sour creams for consumption.

Pasteurization is a process where a food item is treated with mild heat to kill harmful pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses. Check the product label carefully and pick sour cream labeled “pasteurized.”

Is Sour Cream A Healthy Choice For Pregnant Women?

Here’s a brief overview of nutrients that a tablespoon (15g) of light sour cream provides (3).

NutrientsAmount
Protein0.525g
Total lipid (fat)1.59g
Calcium, Ca21.2mg
Phosphorus, P10.6mg
Potassium, K31.8mg
Sodium, Na12.4mg
Vitamin A, RAE13.5µg
Cholesterol5.25mg

Source: US Department of Agriculture

  • Total fats: Sour cream has high amounts of fat, particularly saturated fat, and it contains significant amounts of cholesterol. Fat is a vital nutrient that plays a supportive role in pregnancy. However, consuming too much fat could cause weight gain and health issues, such as gestational diabetes (4).
  • Probiotics: Being a fermented product, sour cream is often considered to have probiotics (good bacteria) that support healthy digestion. However, commercial sour cream may not contain adequate gut-friendly bacteria due to its pasteurization.

Besides these, sour cream contains calcium, protein, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, and vitamin A, which can contribute to your total nutrient intake, but that can’t outweigh the risks of its high-fat content. Hence, expecting mothers should consume sour cream in moderation.

Note: People often opt for light sour cream since it’s made with cream derived from low-fat milk. While light sour cream has less fat than regular sour cream, it may contain additives, such as guar gum and starch, to give it a creamy consistency. Hence, it’s better to choose healthy sour cream substitutes high in protein and calcium, such as Greek yogurt.

What Are The Potential Health Risks Of Consuming Sour Cream During Pregnancy?

Consuming moderate amounts of sour cream as a part of a well-balanced, healthy diet shouldn’t raise any concerns. However, if you eat significant amounts of sour cream daily or eat a high-fat diet in general, keeping a close watch is necessary as sour cream intake may raise the risk of the following problems.

1. Unwanted weight gain

There’s a healthy weight range you should stick to for your and your baby’s health. Gaining too much weight may raise your and your baby’s risk of developing the following health issues (5).

  • Hypercholesterolemia and hypertension
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Having a large baby (macrosomia)
  • Birthing difficulties, leading to cesarean section

2. Foodborne illnesses

Unpasteurized milk and milk products, such as sour cream and cream cheese, may contain harmful pathogens, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and Campylobacter, which cause food poisoning (6). According to experts, food poisoning during pregnancy may cause severe complications, such as preterm birth, miscarriage, and even stillbirth (7). Hence, buy only pasteurized sour cream and consume it before its expiration.

How To Safely Consume Sour Cream During Pregnancy?

Here are some simple tips that could help ensure your and your unborn baby’s safety while consuming sour cream.

  • Pick pasteurized sour cream packed in a container. Discard the pack if it’s leaking or looking puffed, indicating contamination.
  • Opt for a sour cream pack with the most recent manufacturing and packaging date. It will ensure the freshness and safety of the product.
  • Store the product refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) or below until ready to consume (8). Remember, refrigeration kills harmful bacteria. If sour cream is kept out for long, bacterial contamination may begin, making the product unsafe for consumption.
  • Don’t eat sour cream, which smells off and appears too watery.
  • Avoid consuming homemade sour cream since it is difficult to pasteurize it correctly, raising the risk of bacterial contamination.
  • Avoid eating sour cream at restaurants since it may not be pasteurized or may contain non-pasteurized milk additives.

Sour cream is a dairy product that several mothers enjoy relishing while pregnant. While consuming sour cream or products made of sour cream doesn’t pose any health risks, its high intake may not be healthy. Hence, ensure you eat pasteurized sour cream in moderation and as part of a balanced diet to ensure your and your baby’s good health.

References:

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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more