Can you eat thai food when pregnant?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat thai food when pregnant?” and discuss what are the risks of eating thai food when pregnant and which food is to be avoided during pregnancy.

Can you eat thai food when pregnant?

Yes, you can eat thai food when pregnant. Pregnant women are permitted to consume spicy meals with moderation. 

During pregnancy, the risk of having heartburns is high. Physicians suggest avoiding or reducing intake of reflux-inducing foods (such as greasy and spicy foods, tomatoes, highly acidic citrus products, and carbonated drinks) during pregnancy.

Heartburn is one of the most common gastrointestinal symptoms in pregnant women, with an incidence in pregnancy of 17% to 45%. In some studies, the prevalence of heartburn has been found to increase from 22% in the first trimester to 39% in the second trimester to between 60% and 72% in the third trimester. (1).

What are the benefits of eating Thai food during pregnancy?

The benefits of eating thai food during pregnancy are the variety of healthy ingredients composing the thai cuisine. Pregnant women may benefit from consuming fresh herbs, vegetables, meat and spices. 

Vegetables, including broccoli, leafy vegetables and pulses, are a source of vitamins, such as folate, which is important to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (6). These are present in many thai foods.

Meat and fish are sources of zinc. During pregnancy, zinc deficiencies may lead to congenital malformations and low birth weight. Zinc is present in typical dishes such as Tom Kla Kai, made of chicken meat, spices and vegetables (7). 

Fruits are a source of vitamins and fibers. Fruits are present in dishes like Som Tum, a papaya salad with spices, peanuts and seafood. Seafood contains vitamin D, which is essential in bone formation and growth and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are necessary for the optimal development of cognitive functions.

Kang Liang is a traditional Thai recipe with low calorie and high fiber and a source of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals such as beta-carotene and flavonoids. Beta-carotene is a pro-vitamin A, which is important in the regulation of gene expression and in cell differentiation. 

What are the risks of eating Thai foods when pregnant?

The risks of eating thai foods during pregnancy are, besides of having heartburn, the increased amount of heavy metals that some teas and spices may carry.

Some pregnant women are afraid to eat spicy meals out of worry that it may lead to miscarriage. However, research has shown that spicy spices do not have any negative impact on infants. However, spices, teas and other foods may be contaminated with lead, which can cause lead poisoning (3).

Some herbs are unsafe during pregnancy because they can induce uterine contractions that could lead to miscarriage, a premature birth or injury to the fetus. Other herbs are harmful during pregnancy because they can cause high blood pressure, birth defects or even death. 

Although herbs have served us well for centuries as seasonings and natural remedies, it is important to know which to consume and to be avoided. While parsley should be avoided, ginger can be used (5).

In addition, many thai dishes are made with seafood or fish. Fish may present a risk to pregnant women, as they can be contaminated with methylmercury, a form of mercury. Methylmercury can be harmful to the developing brain and nervous system (8). 

The highest methylmercury levels are found in large, long-lived fish, such as king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish and tuna. 

In addition, thai food can contain raw or undercooked ingredients, which should be avoided during pregnancy, as they can carry pathogenic microorganisms. 

It is crucial to wash, clean and cook vegetables and cook meat and dairy products in order to prevent foodborne illness during pregnancy, as the repercussions of such diseases can harm both the mother and the developing baby (2).

When pregnant, what food items in thai food should you avoid?

During pregnancy, any food item that may bring a risk to the development of the baby and any food which is a potential risk to provoke a foodborne disease should be avoided. 

Food is a vehicle for pathogens and may be a risk during pregnancy. Examples of pathogens of special concern to pregnant women are Listeria monocytogenes, Toxoplasma gondii, Brucella species, Salmonella species and Campylobacter jejuni. 

The listeria bacteria may induce miscarriage, premature labor, or stillbirth if it isn’t cooked correctly. Processing foods, soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk, and uncooked seafood are all sources of Listeria (2). 

The following food items should be avoided during pregnancy:

  • Mercury-contaminated fish (shark, marlin, some tuna, king mackerel, etc.)
  • Seafood that is either raw, uncommon, or tainted
  • Food that has been undercooked
  • No-pasteurized food
  • Teas with herbs
  • Excessive use of caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Foods containing raw or undercooked eggs

Pregnant women should avoid papayas that are semi- or unripe since they might cause miscarriage. The normal consumption of ripe papaya during pregnancy does not pose any significant danger. 

Only small quantities of ripe papaya fruit should be consumed during pregnancy, as green papaya and papaya seeds can cause miscarriage, particularly in large amounts, due to their contraceptive and abortifacient competence. However, the use of unripe or semi-ripe papaya could be considered as unsafe in pregnancy (4).

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat thai food when pregnant?” and we discussed what are the risks of eating thai food when pregnant and which food is to avoid during pregnancy.

Reference

  1. Vazquez, Juan C. Heartburn in pregnancy. BMJ clin evid, 2015. 
  2. Dean, J., and P. Kendall. Food safety during pregnancy. Food and nutrition series. Food safety; no. 9.372, 2004.
  3. Klitzman, Susan, et al. Lead poisoning among pregnant women in New York City: risk factors and screening practices. J Urban Health, 2002, 79, 225-237. 
  4. Ali, Amanat, et al. Nutritional and medicinal value of papaya (Carica papaya L.). Nat prod bio compound dis prev, 2011, 34-42.
  5. Shinde, Poonam, Pankaj Patil, and Vinod Bairagi. Herbs in pregnancy and lactation: a review appraisal. Int J Pharmaceut Sci Res, 2012, 3, 3001.
  6. Jouanne, Marie, et al. Nutrient Requirements during Pregnancy and Lactation. Nutrients, 2021, 13, 2.
  7. Harmayani, Eni, et al. Healthy food traditions of Asia: exploratory case studies from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Nepal. J Ethnic Foods, 2019, 6, 1-18.
  8. Selecting and Serving Fresh and Frozen Seafood Safely | FDA. Food and Drug Administration.

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