Pregnancy comes with a lot of caution, especially if you’re a first-time mom. Like many other pregnant women, you’ll receive a lot of advice and tips on what you eat, like bacon, and the things you do, like regular exercise. This is for your health and also for the health of the new life growing inside you.
In fact, bacon may be one of the many things you may be counseled not to eat. You may be reading this article now because someone told you to avoid bacon now that you’re expecting your baby.
Really, should you avoid bacon as a pregnant woman? You will find the ultimate answer to that question in this article.
You will also get to know what bacon is, the health benefits of eating bacon, why it is discouraged for pregnant women, the safety of bacon during pregnancy, and how to cook bacon properly.
What is bacon?
Bacon is meat gotten from the side of a pig after the spare ribs have been removed. Sometimes, it is taken from the thigh part of the pig, which is leaner meat. The meat is then cured, dried, or pickled and then smoked.
Bacon is generally sold in two major styles; slab and sliced (regular sliced, thin sliced, thick sliced, and ends and pieces). After the slab of bacon is taken from the pig’s side or belly, it is cured for 10–14 days under refrigeration and then cooked and smoked. One side of the meat is usually covered with skin, and it contains streaks of fat and lean meat. The sliced bacon is cut from the slab and does not contain any skin.
Bacon is generally enjoyed for its smoky flavor and it is usually eaten with eggs.
What are the health benefits of eating bacon?
Bacon contains an extremely high amount of fat. It is not really nutritious meat as it doesn’t provide your body with many nutrients. The few nutrients bacon does provide can be gotten from less processed meats. The processing of bacon makes it contain high amounts of sodium and nitrite. These substances are not good for your health, whether you’re pregnant or not.
Why is bacon discouraged for pregnant women?
Bacon is not one of the best meats to eat while you’re pregnant. Some of the reasons it is discouraged include:
1. High risk of contamination
As a pregnant woman, you are at a higher risk of food infection from poorly processed foods. This is due to the reduced immune function that comes with pregnancy. Furthermore, raw meat can serve as a breeding ground for some pathogens. When they are not properly handled or cooked, they can result in food poisoning.
Some of the pathogens that may be present in raw meat, including pork are:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Yersinia enterocolitica
- Toxoplasmosis gondii
Some of these bacteria can still continue to grow, even in the refrigerator! Fortunately, they can be killed under high heat. This is why you should properly cook your meat before eating it. Failure to thoroughly cook your meat during pregnancy can result in infection. These infections can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, and infection in the newborn baby.
2. High nitrates and nitrites content
Processed meats like bacon are preserved by the addition of chemicals known as nitrates and nitrites. The mixture of these chemicals gives bacon its bright red color; bacon would naturally turn brown in the absence of these chemicals.
A build-up of nitrates and nitrates in the body during pregnancy puts you at risk of preterm delivery. Preterm delivery can sometimes cause serious health complications for the baby.
Also, nitrates and nitrites are classified as highly carcinogenic substances (cancer-causing substances). This effect is increased in pregnant women due to their low immunity. High nitrates and nitrites in food also put the baby at risk of childhood cancers, brain tumors, and autism.
3. High Fat Content
Bacon is a kind of red meat, and all red meats are high in saturated and unsaturated fats. Fat is an essential nutrient for everyone. It helps to absorb and use other nutrients, like vitamins. All fats are needed by the body (in different proportions) for effective functioning. During pregnancy, your body needs fat to help nourish and develop your baby.
Bacon contains a very high amount of fat without providing so much of other nutrients. This can lead to a high cholesterol level in the body. If you have high cholesterol or heart disease, you should steer clear of bacon. Also, if you are at risk of preeclampsia, it is best to avoid bacon until your baby is born.
4. High sodium content
Highly processed foods like bacon contain a very high amount of salt and other additives. Consistent consumption of bacon during pregnancy will lead to a buildup of sodium, which is not good for your blood pressure.
When is bacon safe during pregnancy?
For bacon to be safe during pregnancy, it must be properly stored, cooked, and handled. It must also be void of bacteria. If you want to eat bacon to satisfy your pregnancy cravings, it is best if you prepare it yourself.
Other tips to ensure your bacon is safe include:
- Store the bacon in the refrigerator as soon as you buy it.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before touching the raw meat and after you have handled it in hot, soapy water.
- Ensure that all your cooking utensils are also properly washed to avoid cross-contamination.
- Cook the bacon under high heat. The heat will help to kill any bacteria that may be present. Also, cook the bacon until it is crispy.
It is best to avoid bacon during pregnancy.
This is because you really can’t tell when the bacteria are all gone or when the nitrates are too much. Staying off bacon for nine months is a big sacrifice, but it is worth it. By so doing, you and your baby will not be exposed to any threat that may be as a result of eating bacon. Apart from bacon, you should do away with highly processed foods, especially during pregnancy.