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Can You Eat Kimchi While Pregnant?

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Kimchi is a delectable Korean dish that can bring you numerous health benefits. This traditional food can be served as a side dish or as the main course.

Still, this raw dish is made up of fermented vegetables, which can cause concern in view of foodborne illness in pregnancy.

So, can you eat Kimchi while pregnant? The answer is yes. You can add it to your daily meal but in moderation!

If you’re a big fan of this spicy food and want to check if it is safe to have when pregnant, let’s dive into this post to discover the facts!

Is Kimchi Safe for Pregnancy?

Though no official medical publication recommends you avoid Kimchi while pregnant, it can be risky at times. So if you want to eat this spicy dish during pregnancy, you should consult with your doctor before consuming it.

It’s best to choose pasteurized store-bought brands and check their use-by date before purchase. For a better understanding, you can refer to the reasons below.

1. Ingredients

People make Kimchi from cabbage, red pepper powder, and fermented fish sauce with seaweed, garlic, ginger, and green onion.

When presented alone, these ingredients are safe for pregnant women. But when it comes to kimchi recipes, they can be prone to contamination, which can affect your health and your baby’s.

Therefore, you should avoid eating DIY products unless the cook is a kimchi pro!

Kimchi has various ingredients.
This Korean food has various ingredients.

2. Safe Storage

Kimchi has a long shelf life, but it doesn’t make sense if you’re pregnant. Due to your impaired immune systems during this period, your doctor would suggest not eating Kimchi that has been open for a few days.

It’s easy to tell if the dish has gone bad since it smells different and/or has mold on it, but you should be cautious during pregnancy.

Mycotoxins in spoiled Kimchi can upset the stomach and cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea for those who have compromised immune systems, such as pregnant women like you.

So if you are going to enjoy it in a restaurant, make sure their kitchen follows the food safety!

3. Raw Vs. Pasteurized Kimchi

It’s important to note that fermented foods are easily contaminated by E. Coli and other pathogens, which is also the biggest concern with kimchi consumption during pregnancy. So, they are often unpasteurized by nature.

The FDA advises pregnant women to avoid unpasteurized foods since they may be infected with dangerous microorganisms.

Kimchi is related to E.coli infections in Korea and norovirus outbreaks in South Korea. Nonetheless, this is uncommon in the United States.

Pasteurization is the heating of foods in order to destroy microorganisms and extend their shelf life. While many states enact strict rules requiring the pasteurization of dairy products, no such regulations exist for Kimchi.

The process of making spicy kimchi in a factory.

The fermentation of Kimchi also depends on beneficial bacteria, and pasteurization kills both good and bad ones.

Some store-bought kimchi and Kimchi served in restaurants, however, are pasteurized. So, make sure you read the label or ask the seller first.

Another effective option for making an unpasteurized dish safe is to heat it until it’s hot. You can utilize this method for kimchi stew and fried rice, too!

Are There Benefits Of Eating Kimchi During Pregnancy?

This section will walk you through some significant benefits of eating this Korean dish during your pregnancy.

1. Nutrient Dense

Kimchi is nutrient-dense yet low in calories. Its main ingredient, Chinese cabbage, contains vitamins A and C, ten minerals, and more than 34 amino acids.

The ingredients of Kimchi vary greatly, so the nutritional profile is also different depending on batches and brands. Nonetheless, a 1-cup (150-gram) of Kimchi contains approximately:

  • 23 grams of calories
  • 4 grams of carbs
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 747 mg of sodium
  • vitamin B6: 19% of the daily value
  • vitamin C: 22% of the DV
  • vitamin K: 55% of the DV
  • niacin: 10% of the DV
  • Folate: 20% of the DV
  • Iron: 21% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 24% of the DV

It’s no secret that Vitamin K and riboflavin are abundant in many green vegetables. Because this Korean food contains green vegetables like cabbage, spinach, and celery, it’s a good source of these nutrients.

Vitamin K brings many benefits to body activities, including blood clotting and bone metabolism. Meanwhile, riboflavin supports cellular growth, energy production, and metabolism.

Eating kimchi provides some benefits for pregnancy
Eating kimchi provides some benefits for pregnancy.

2. Boost Your Immune System

The Lactobacillus found in this fermented food may help to strengthen your immune system.

According to a study, mice injected with Lactobacillus Plantarum showed lower inflammatory marker TNF alpha levels than the control group.

TNF alpha levels frequently increase during disease and infection; the decrease means that the immune system functions correctly.

Another test-tube study isolated Lactobacillus Plantarum from Kimchi likewise demonstrated that this bacterium has immune-enhancing effects.

Furthermore, the fermentation process can provide additional nutrients that your body can easily absorb during pregnancy.

3. May Support Heart Health

According to studies, this food can lower your risk of heart disease due to its anti-inflammatory qualities. As you may not know, inflammation could be a factor in heart disease.

A study involving 100 people discovered that eating 15–210 grams of Kimchi daily reduced total cholesterol, blood sugar, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Most importantly, all of them are risk factors for heart disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Pregnant Women Crave Kimchi?

Typically, fermented Kimchi can be a tempting indulgence during pregnancy due to its spicy, sour flavor.

On the scientific side, lactobacillus is growing more prevalent in your gut microbes. They’re tinkering with your appetites to match what they want.

If you suddenly ate sugar and flour, your bacteria/yeast would take control and make you crave simple carbs.

How Do I Know If Kimchi Is Pasteurized Or Unpasteurized?

If you find your Kimchi labeled with “naturally fermented” or “contains live cultures”, this brand was not pasteurized. It’s because pasteurization will kill the live probiotic bacteria. Otherwise, you’re likely to get pasteurized Kimchi.

Is It Ok to Eat Kimchi Every Day?

Daily use of Kimchi offers you numerous health benefits. The only disadvantage is that it is vital in sodium and garlic.

Daily Kimchi consumption is not ideal for those with IBS or at risk of stroke, high blood pressure, or heart disease.

So if you or your family has a history of these diseases, you should eat Kimchi in moderation.

Researchers believe that you should consume probiotics and good bacteria regularly to maximize the benefits of Kimchi. Specifically, 100 grams of Kimchi would be great for your daily meal!

Is It Ok Not to Refrigerate Kimchi?

Absolutely not! Kimchi should be placed in the fridge once opened if you want to extend its shelf life. Because of its various beneficial bacteria, Kimchi is not shelf-stable and will go rancid at room temperature.

As you may not know, store-bought Kimchi is fermented and kept at a consistent temperature of 39 degrees Fahrenheit, equivalent to 4 degrees Celsius.

Can You Get Listeria from Kimchi?

Listeria can cause listeriosis, a foodborne infection that is particularly dangerous to children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

Fever, muscle aches, loss of balance, headaches, or gastrointestinal symptoms are among the signs of listeria.

Unfortunately, according to the FDA, there is a chance you can get listeria from Kimchi. In July 2021, the agency announced a recall on the products of 5000 Years Foods company after they found potential listeria contamination.

So if you’ve got Kimchi in your fridge, it’s time to check the label and discard it right away if you find it from 5000 Years Foods.

Which is Healthier Kimchi or Sauerkraut?

While Kimchi features a higher number of primary ingredients and a higher probiotic concentration, sauerkraut comes with only two fundamental elements. It also explains why Kimchi offers you more nutritious value during pregnancy.

Are Kimchi and Pickles The Same?

They are not! Pickles are cucumbers that have been soaked in vinegar for a period, while Kimchi is a spicy fermented cabbage originating from Korea.

Regarding nutrients, Kimchi is a rich source of iron and pickles are full of calcium. Although pickles include more pantothenic acid and thiamin, Kimchi has more Vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.

Conclusion

So, can pregnant women eat Kimchi? The answer is yes, but in moderation. 

Kimchi can bring you enormous benefits, giving you strong health during this sensitive period. The most important thing is to always ask your doctor before consuming Kimchi (and other “raw” food) while pregnant.

Hopefully, this article has given you a better insight into eating Kimchi during pregnancy. Good luck!

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