Pregnancy is a time when women need to be extra cautious about what they eat.
While ham is a good source of protein and other nutrients, it’s important to know whether it’s safe to consume during pregnancy.
The internet is full of conflicting information, with some sources saying it’s fine to eat, while others warn against it.
In this article, we’ll explore the safety of uncured ham during pregnancy and provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.
So, if you’re pregnant and wondering whether you can indulge in your favorite ham sandwich, keep reading!
Is Uncured Ham Safe During Pregnancy?
Uncured ham is a type of ham that has not been treated with nitrates or nitrites, which are commonly used as preservatives in cured meats.
While some people prefer uncured ham because it’s considered to be a healthier option, there are concerns about its safety during pregnancy.
The main concern with uncured ham, as with all types of ham, is the risk of listeria contamination. Listeria is a type of bacteria that can cause listeriosis, a serious infection that can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or other complications during pregnancy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get listeriosis than the general population.
While the risk of listeria contamination in uncured ham is lower than in cured ham, it’s still important to take precautions.
What Is Uncured Ham?
Uncured ham is a type of ham that has not been treated with nitrates or nitrites, which are commonly used as preservatives in cured meats. This means that uncured ham is not injected with the same chemical brine, smoke, or flavorings that are used in cured meat.
When purchasing uncured ham, you may notice that it has a slightly different, yet naturally occurring color than the cured ham you’re used to. This coloring difference is because the nitrates used in the brine of cured meat often increase the reddish-pink color of cured ham.
Contrary to its name, uncured meat is actually cured. It just undergoes a different, more natural curing process than that of traditionally cured meat. Curing, at its very root, is the method of preserving meat through the use of acid, salt, and sugar. This preservation process works to remove excess water from the meat and prevent it from spoiling.
When curing meat naturally, produce like celery and beets are used in combination with seasonings and fresh sea salt to create a delicious meat cure that is free of chemicals. Not only is the uncured meat process free of synthetically-sourced nitrates and artificial flavors, but it’s also better for you and much more flavorful! Throughout the natural curing process, the flavor and texture of the meat develop, turning the ham into a delicious treat that’s ready to eat.
It’s important to note that while uncured ham may be a healthier option for some people due to its lack of nitrates and nitrites, it still carries a risk of listeria contamination during pregnancy. It’s recommended to take precautions and ensure that all ham products are cooked thoroughly before consumption.
Why Is It A Concern During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, the immune system undergoes changes that make pregnant women more susceptible to infections. This includes the risk of contracting listeriosis from contaminated food, such as uncured ham. Listeriosis can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women, as it can lead to serious complications such as preterm labor, stillbirth, and even maternal death.
Therefore, it’s important for pregnant women to take extra precautions when it comes to food safety, including avoiding unpasteurized dairy products and deli meats unless they have been heated to steaming hot temperatures. While uncured ham may be a healthier option for some people, pregnant women should consider the potential risks and consult with their healthcare provider before consuming it.
Potential Risks Of Consuming Uncured Ham While Pregnant
Consuming uncured ham during pregnancy can pose potential risks to both the mother and the unborn baby. Since uncured ham is not treated with nitrates or nitrites, it has a higher risk of containing harmful bacteria such as listeria.
Listeria contamination in uncured ham can cause serious health problems for both the mother and the baby. It can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or a life-threatening infection in the newborn. In addition, pregnant women who contract listeriosis may experience symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal problems.
To reduce the risk of listeria contamination from uncured ham, pregnant women should avoid consuming it altogether. If you must consume uncured ham, make sure it’s cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160°F. It’s also important to avoid cross-contamination by washing your hands and kitchen utensils thoroughly before and after handling raw meat.
Benefits Of Eating Ham During Pregnancy
While there are concerns about the safety of consuming ham during pregnancy, there are also benefits to including it in your diet. Ham is a good source of protein, which is essential for the growth and development of your baby. It also contains important nutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.
Iron is particularly important during pregnancy as it helps to transport oxygen to your baby and prevent anemia. Zinc is essential for the development of your baby’s immune system and nervous system, while vitamin B12 is important for the development of their brain and nervous system.
In addition to its nutritional benefits, ham can also be a convenient and tasty option for pregnant women who are looking for quick and easy meal options. It can be added to sandwiches, salads, and pasta dishes, making it a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of recipes.
However, it’s important to remember that not all types of ham are safe to consume during pregnancy. Pregnant women should avoid deli or processed meats that may contain listeria or salmonella bacteria, or toxoplasma parasites. Instead, opt for pre-packaged ham that has been cooked thoroughly or cook your own ham at home to reduce the risk of contamination.
How To Safely Enjoy Ham During Pregnancy
If you’re a fan of ham and want to enjoy it safely during pregnancy, there are some guidelines you should follow.
Firstly, it’s best to avoid deli or processed meats, such as prosciutto, ham, salami, luncheon meat, chicken meat and other smoked or cured meats. These types of ham may contain listeria or salmonella bacteria, or toxoplasma parasites.
However, well-cooked cured meats are safe to eat during pregnancy. If you’re going to eat ham, make sure it’s cooked until it’s steaming hot (75 degrees C), and eat it straight away. This will kill any bacteria or parasites that may be present.
If you’re eating out or ordering in, make sure the ham is cooked thoroughly before consuming it. If you’re not sure whether the ham has been cooked properly, it’s best to avoid it altogether.
It’s also important to pay attention to how the ham is stored and served. If the ham has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it’s best to avoid it.
Other Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy
In addition to uncured ham, there are several other foods that pregnant women should avoid to reduce the risk of contracting infections or harming the developing baby.
Deli meats, such as prosciutto, ham, salami, luncheon meat, and chicken meat, should be avoided due to the risk of listeria or salmonella bacteria or toxoplasma parasites. These types of meats are often handled more than other food products, which increases the likelihood of contamination. If you do choose to consume deli meats, make sure they are cooked until they are steaming hot (75 degrees C) and eat them right away.
Pâté, ham terrines, and Rillettes should also be avoided during pregnancy because they are formed from chopped and mixed pieces of ham, making them more susceptible to listeria contamination. Even if these dishes are heated up, it is best to avoid them altogether.
Undercooked pork is another food to avoid during pregnancy as it increases the risk of being infected with tapeworms.
Raw or undercooked meat, fish, and poultry should also be avoided as they may contain harmful bacteria or parasites. This includes sushi and other raw seafood.
Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, such as brie, camembert, feta, blue cheese, and queso fresco should also be avoided due to the risk of listeria contamination.
Alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy as it can cause fetal alcohol syndrome and other developmental problems in the baby.
Caffeine intake should be limited to 200 milligrams per day (about one 12-ounce cup of coffee) as excessive caffeine intake has been linked to miscarriage and low birth weight.
By avoiding these foods and taking necessary precautions when consuming others, pregnant women can reduce the risk of infections and complications during pregnancy.