IS EATING PICKLES SAFE FOR PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING MOM?
What is pickles?
Pickling is a food preservation technique, not just well known internationally, but it has started since ancient times! Pickling is actually the process of preserving food in a solution, usually vinegar, salt solution (brine), sugar water or lemon juice. Either substance (or combination) is poured over vegetables or fruits, which are then placed in a tight jar for a few days.
There are two basic categories of pickles. The first type includes pickles preserved in a strong acid solution in which few bacteria can survive. The other category includes soaking in a salt brine to encourage fermentation, which is the growth of “good” bacteria.
Here, we will discuss the first type.
Pickles in Malaysia
One of the famous pickled vegetables in Malaysia is acar. There are many different recipes for acar out there. However, generally, acar consists of mixture of raw vegetables (cucumber, carrot, cabbage or other vegetables depending on preference) and spice paste (shallot, chilli, turmeric, tamarind juice, oil, salt and sugar).
The mouth-watering pickled fruits (jeruk) are not something to new to us. Examples of pickled fruits commonly found in Malaysia includes pickled mango, pickled papaya, pickled nutmeg, and ambarella (kedondong). Recipes for pickled fruits are pretty simple, simply make a solution with sugar and vinegar or lime, chilli or salt based on preference, and add into the jar with fruits, and there you go, the irresistible pickles!
Is eating pickles safe during pregnancy & breastfeeding?
It is common to crave for certain foods during pregnancy, pickles for instance. You should eat homemade pickles carefully during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is because they may contain traces of bacteria if not being prepared properly and when hygiene is not guaranteed. Otherwise, it is safe to consume.
Potential health risk of over consumption
Basically, the nutritional value of pickles is not much. Although pickles provide you with some of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from the fruits or vegetables, pickles are generally high in sodium and sugar as well as chemical preservatives (each pickle varies accordingly). So, it is important to check the product labeling detailing the nutritional facts.
Here are lists of potential health risk of overindulgence in pickles:
- Dehydration and even hypertension due to the high content of salt.
- Avoid eating pickles if you are prone to heartburn or other digestive issues like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Consuming pickles treated with excess chemical preservatives can cause unnecessary complications during pregnancy.
- Excessive weight gain due to the high content of sugar.
- Risk of gestational diabetes mellitus due to the high intake of sugar.
- Baby’s health might be affected if you are breastfeeding.
It is not advisable to make the Malaysian’s typical pickles as a part of your daily diet during pregnancy. Moreover, during breastfeeding, it is important to pay attention to your dietary intake for your health as well as your baby’s health. Pickles don’t have much nutritional value. Therefore, their consumption is best kept to the minimum.
Eating pickles is generally safe, however keep the intake minimal due to the high salt, sugar and preservative contents.
AsiaSociety (n.d). The Science of Pickling and Fermentations. Retrieved from https://asiasociety.org/education/science-pickling-and-fermentations
CookLight (n.d). What’s the Difference between Fermenting and Pickling? Retrieved from https://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/techniques/difference-between-fermenting-and-pickling
Firstcry Parenting (2020). Eating Pickles During Pregnancy – Health Benefits and Risks. Retrieved from https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/eating-pickles-during-pregnancy-benefits-and-risks/
The Accidental Scientist Science of Cooking (n.d). What is Pickling? Retrieved from https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/pickles/pickling.html