Top 10 Spices To Eat & Avoid During Pregnancy

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It is not fully known whether you should eat spicy dishes or ingest various spices during pregnancy. Some say it may cause problems during pregnancy, while others say it’s beneficial. Furthermore, you may have turned down all outside food because you are unsure of which spices to consume and which to avoid while pregnant.

This post includes an extensive list of spices to eat and spices to avoid during pregnancy to address all of your questions.

In This Article

What Are Spices?

Spices have a very special place in our cooking, as the blanched vegetables once treated with a variety of spices can do wonders and produce a lip-smacking dish.

A spice is defined as a dried kernel, root, bark, vegetable, or fruit substance that adds flavor, aroma, and taste to your recipes. You can use spices, not just for flavoring, but also serve as coloring agents and preservatives for a food item.

Spices differ from herbs, as the latter has a green leafy part attached to it. It is mostly used for garnishing or flavoring.Some examples include cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cumin, fennel, paprika, and anise.

What Are The Top Five Spices To Eat During Pregnancy?

1. Turmeric

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Spices during pregnancy can be extremely beneficial and should be a part of your healthy eating plan. We all are well aware of the nutrient value of turmeric as a pain reliever and could do wonders for your skin. However, it contains a substance called curcumin which is a natural detoxifier that protects the liver from the damage of alcohol, chemicals, and some pharmaceuticals. It also helps in reducing oxidative stress. The safe limit is up to 8g a day.

2. Ginger

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Ginger is an effective home remedy to treat morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting during pregnancy. Women suffering from morning sickness could take a dose of 1 gm ginger daily for four consecutive days to get immediate relief. Studies done in the past have shown that it helps in treating women with morning sickness but it is important not to overdo this.

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Pregnant women should avoid food supplements and beverages, including tea, containing large amounts of ginger, to avert adverse outcomes (15).

3. Black Pepper

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Black pepper is a rich source of chromium, which is required by a pregnant woman. Low chromium levels can increase blood sugar levels and cholesterol, which could result in diabetes or heart diseases. A study has shown that for women who get diabetes as a result of pregnancy if they are on a regular diet of chromium could help in reducing it. Studies are ongoing for more accurate results and to announce a clear verdict. The recommended level is 30mcg daily and excess use is restricted.

4. Cardamom

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You can use cardamom scents or tea during pregnancy as they can help to beat nausea and are pretty safe (1).

5. Chives

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Fresh Chives are a rich and natural source of folate. As we know a pregnant woman needs folic acid for the fetus’s brain development, cell division, and DNA synthesis. Enough folate levels in your diet could prevent your baby from neural tube defects. It is advisable to consume folate-rich items with high vitamin C foods.

To promote optimal maternal nutrition during pregnancy, it is beneficial to stay informed about which spices are safe to consume. Some commonly used spices, like cayenne, coriander and mustard, can provide nutritional benefits when consumed appropriately.

What Are The Top Six Spices To Avoid During Pregnancy?

1. Fenugreek

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Fenugreek seeds have a stimulant effect on the uterus and, therefore, are not advisable for pregnant women. Also, ingesting seeds through the mouth could cause bloating, gas trouble, and diarrhea. A high dose of fenugreek seeds could cause growth retardation in children (2) (3).

2. Asafetida

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A daily spice used in every household, it should be avoided during pregnancy as it may lead to miscarriage. It works as a contraceptive and could also result in blood loss so you need to be cautious.

3. Garlic

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Garlic contains some potent and potentially toxic substance that is not advisable for a pregnant woman. Also, if taken in a large amount, it could cause heartburn and bleeding as well (4). So, it is better to avoid it.

4. Angelica

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This spice contains a substance that could cause thinning of blood and hence is not advisable in pregnancy (5).

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A study found Angelica to be beneficial for successful embryonic implantation. However, it isn’t considered safe for expecting women (16).

5. Peppermint

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Peppermint tea relaxes the uterus, and this could cause a miscarriage. Also, applying peppermint oil during pregnancy can trigger menstruation hence be extra cautious before using peppermint in any form (6) (7). From the list, you now know that there are herbs and spices to avoid during pregnancy. We have told you five spices to avoid during pregnancy. Do let us know more if you want to add to the list.

6. Sesame seeds

The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has released new guidelines that identify tahini-containing foods—like hummus dips—as high-risk meals for expectant mothers. During pregnancy, foodborne infections pose significant health risks for both the mother and the baby. Despite sesame seeds being generally nutritious, there is a potential risk of contamination with Salmonella. Consuming products containing sesame, such as tahini, halva, and hummus, may expose individuals to this bacterium, potentially leading to food poisoning. Salmonella infection can also progress to salmonellosis, which may cause more severe issues such as extreme dehydration, reactive arthritis, and bacteremia. While such occurrences are uncommon, they could result in severe complications, including miscarriage (8) (9) (10).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the side effects of eating spices during pregnancy?

Having spices or spicy food during pregnancy can cause heartburn or indigestion-related issues, which might lead to discomfort (11).

2. Do spices induce labor?

It is a myth that eating spicy food or spices can cause contractions or stimulate labor (12).

3. Can consuming spicy food during pregnancy harm the baby’s digestive system?
Excess consumption of spicy food can lead to indigestion and heartburn in the mother. However, spicy food is generally not known to affect the unborn baby’s digestive system. Instead, exposing a baby to different tastes during pregnancy can help develop their gustatory sensory memory. Remember, moderate spicy food consumption during pregnancy is safe for most women (13) (14).

Spices add flavor, color, and aroma to our food. Moreover, they also contain substances that positively affect health. However, when it comes to pregnancy, spices may work differently. Therefore, spices during pregnancy need to be consumed with caution. While some spices are beneficial during pregnancy, some are to be avoided. Therefore, if you are pregnant, consume turmeric for its liver-detoxifying properties and ginger for its anti-nauseating properties. Avoid fenugreek because it stimulates the uterus and peppermint because it may cause miscarriage. Stay well-informed about the role of spices and maintain a healthy pregnancy.

Infographic: What Spices To Include And Avoid In Your Pregnancy Diet

Spices are an integral part of cooking in cuisines the world over. However, not every spice is suited for consumption during pregnancy. Therefore, it is essential to know what spices to consume and avoid to ensure your and your baby’s safety. Scroll through the infographic below to learn about the safe consumption of spices during pregnancy.

safe and unsafe spices during pregnancy (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

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Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Some spices can be beneficial for pregnant women while others can cause harm to both the mother and the unborn child.
  • Turmeric can relieve pain, ginger and cardamom can help with nausea and morning sickness, black pepper can improve the level of chromium in the body, and chives are a natural source of folate.
  • Fenugreek, asafetida, garlic, angelica, and peppermint should be avoided during pregnancy as they may cause retardation in children, act as contraceptives, and cause thinning of the blood.

Pregnancy cravings are quite common and sometimes pregnant women may prefer to eat different flavors and spices. Watch this video to learn which spices are safe to indulge in and which aren’t.

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. Perfume and Pregnancy.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/perfume-and-pregnancy/
  2. Fenugreek.
    https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/fenugreek
  3. Loubna Khalki et al.; (2012); The developmental neurobehavioral effects of fenugreek seeds on prenatally exposed mice.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22178172/
  4. A Year of Herbs: Garlic.
    https://keeperofthehome.org/a-year-of-herbs-garlic/
  5. Dong Quai.
    https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/936.html
  6. Benefits of Peppermint Tea.
    https://www.newhealthguide.org/Benefits-Of-Peppermint-Tea.html
  7. Peppermint Oil.
    https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2007/0401/p1027.html
  8. Treating Salmonella Naturally During Pregnancy.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/treating-salmonella-during-pregnancy/
  9. Foods to Avoid When Pregnant.
    https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/foods-to-avoid-when-pregnant
  10. Pregnancy and Healthy Eating.
    https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/generalissues/pregnancy/Pages/default.aspx
  11. Pregnancy and Heartburn
    https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=pregnancy-and-heartburn-134-10
  12. Myth or Fact? How to Induce Labor Naturally
    https://www.lancastergeneralhealth.org/health-hub-home/motherhood/your-pregnancy/myth-or-fact-how-to-induce-labor-naturally
  13. Indigestion and Heartburn in pregnancy.
    https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/indigestion-and-heartburn/
  14. L Paglia; (2019); Taste development and prenatal prevention.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31850766/
  15. Warning for food supplements containing ginger and ginger tea and similar.
    https://www.ruokavirasto.fi/en/foodstuffs/food-sector/food-information/labelling/instructions-for-use-and-warning/warning-for-food-supplements-containing-ginger-and-ginger-tea-and-similar/
  16. Seong-Eun Kim et al.; (2020); Decursinol from Angelica gigas Nakai enhances endometrial receptivity during implantation.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7076876/
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