In our earlier blogs we discussed some tips to stay healthy during pregnancy and some must-have nutrients during pregnancy. In this blog post we’ll talk about some toxic chemicals in food that pregnant women should avoid.
When babies are exposed to numerous toxic compounds in the womb, it can damage the body and affect development, brain function, and reproduction.These chemicals can also impair the immune system and increase vulnerability to carcinogens and can lead to other diseases later in life. Eliminating these harmful substances can give your baby the best chance at a happy, healthy life.
Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners
There is very little evidence to show the long term effects of sweeteners on health. Most sweeteners do carry the warning that they are not safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Our body does not recognize these substances and when it tries to metabolize the foreign elements it can result in various health problems. Toxic effects of synthetic sweeteners can include headaches, dizziness, seizures, vision impairment, and strokes – just to name a few. If we as adults cannot recognize, digest or metabolize it , then the developing fetus can definitely not handle it at all
Sweeteners such as Sweet & Low, NutraSweet, Equal, Splenda, and Neotame can be found in yogurt, chewing gum, soft drinks, and other desserts. A common indicator that a product contains artificial sweeteners is with marketing such as “Sugar Free” or “Diet” or “Light”. Always read labels carefully and look for terms like aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame, sucralose.
It is safer to use regular table sugar in moderation . Also, we Indians have the wonderful option of using jaggery or honey to sweeten our foods.
MSG is a flavour enhancer commonly found in soups, snacks, salad dressings, seasonings, chips, and most Chinese food.This additive is categorized as an excitotoxin, which causes hyperactivity to brain cells as they try to communicate. They literally over stimulate the brain cells causing them to die.
This additive has also been shown to cause side effects such as cancer, heart problems, obesity, learning and behavioral disorders, as well as many others. Unfortunately, MSG is harder to recognize on labels as it is disguised by a multitude of names. Another ingredient which is just another name for MSG is Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein. Best ways to avoid MSG is to avoid fast foods, processed foods (even healthy types or labeled as No MSG), and avoid foods that contain a long ingredient list.
This additive is used in cured meats, hot dogs, etc to impart a pleasing and attractive colour to the meat product. As the meat is cooked, a carcinogenic compound is released that is highly associated with various cancers. Studies have shown that consumption of this chemical during pregnancy by mothers lead to children with higher risks for developing brain tumors.
Nitrates were originally used to preserve meat and prevent botulism. processed and packaged meats are more likely to contain these in large amounts, it is better to buy fresh meat from local grocers
Pesticides and herbicides are sprayed onto many commercial fruits and vegetables, or even manufactured into GMO seeds. These chemicals can have dangerous effects on fetuses; especially during the developmental stages. The best way to avoid this is to eat only organic/ freshly grown fruits and vegetables available from local farmers.
It is extremely important for parents to educate themselves on the multitude of environmental toxins to limit the exposure to their unborn babies. Avoid processed food and eat local, organic, seasonal foods as often as possible.
Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.