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Can Pregnant Women Eat Pepperoni?

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When you find out you’re pregnant, there is a long list of dos and don’ts. While some are straightforward, others fall into a bit of a gray area. By this, I mean some people will do it without thinking twice while others will avoid it all costs. 

This can happen a lot when you’re talking about what foods pregnant can eat and which ones they should avoid. Pepperoni falls on the list of questionable foods because of the way it’s made.

Many women like to eat it on pizza, in a sandwich, or raw. Is it safe in any of those configurations? We’re going to take a look at whether you can eat pepperoni while pregnant and what risks may or may not be involved.

Why is Pepperoni a Questionable Food for Pregnant Women?

The main issue when it comes to pepperoni and pregnant women has to do with the fact that pepperoni is a cured deli meat and is technically undercooked. Undercooked meats can harbor bacteria and parasites like listeria.

Also, pepperoni often uses nitrates, which are preservatives. There are some reports that these preservatives can produce some carcinogenic agents, which is another reason why pregnant women are told to avoid them.

Pepperoni is also typically made from beef and pork trimmings.

It’s also pretty spicy as it’s seasoned with chili peppers, cayenne, and other seasonings. While there’s nothing bad health-wise, too many spices can lead to heartburn and that can be very uncomfortable.

When is it Unsafe for Pregnant Women to Eat Pepperoni?

Many women have questions regarding pepperoni and pregnancy like is it safe to eat pepperoni during pregnancy. Eating pepperoni is not advisable during pregnancy as it has high fat, added sugar, spices, and salt content.

The main reason to avoid pepperoni sticks while pregnant is the nitrates and nitrites used for the preservation of pepperoni for curing.

So craving pepperoni while pregnant due to its spicy and distinct taste is normal. However, it should be consumed occasionally after taking the advice of the doctor

When is it Safe for Pregnant Women to Eat Pepperoni?

If you’re pregnant and you just can’t cure your pepperoni cravings, pepperoni that’s cooked is generally safe for pregnant women to eat. So, if you’re putting it on pizza you should be okay. But, always consult with your doctor before calling for delivery! 

If you want to just eat a few slices of pepperoni, you can put them in the microwave or heat them up. Remember, it’s usually not advised to start eating pepperoni right out of the fridge or pepperoni that’s sliced at the deli counter.

We all know pepperoni pizza isn’t the healthiest thing to eat, so always be conscious that you’re putting good foods into your body. After all, you are eating for two!

Does Pepperoni Have Any Health Benefits?

Pepperoni doesn’t get a completely bad rap.

Pepperoni is high in fat, so pregnant women that are too thin or lean may be told to eat foods like pepperoni to gain weight. It also contains selenium, which is known for its antioxidants. Selenium helps to strengthen the immune system.

Pepperoni also contains vitamin B12, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, and Niacin.

It also contains a high content of zinc and manganese. Manganese is known to protect body cells. We all know foods with vitamins and minerals are good for pregnant women so this is a plus.

Are There Any Side Effects to Eating Pepperoni While Pregnant?

One of the main concerns about eating pepperoni while pregnant is whether it will lead to food poisoning, like listeriosis or toxoplasmosis.

Either of these can be very dangerous for your baby. If toxoplasmosis reaches your baby, it can lead to developmental delays, vision problems, or hearing loss. 

Pregnant women with listeriosis during the first trimester may also have an increased risk of miscarriage. If this occurs during the third trimester, premature labor or having a baby with low birth weight is possible. Getting the infection later in pregnancy can also increase your risk of other health problems.

Food poisoning has some common symptoms to keep an eye out for, including:

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38°C)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen Glands

There are other potential side effects when it comes to eating pepperoni while pregnant. Since pepperoni is high in fat and can lead to unhealthy weight gain, you do need to keep out for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.

Pepperoni is also high in sodium. High sodium can cause fluctuating blood pressure and impact fetal renal function. 

Does Pepperoni Have Any Nutritional Value?

We all know pepperoni doesn’t measure up to a salad and veggies in the nutritional department. Here’s a look at what’s inside 3 ounces of pepperoni:

  • 428 calories (21% daily value)
  • 16 grams protein (33% daily value)
  • 39 grams fat (50% daily value)
  • 1,345 mg of sodium (56% daily value)

As you can see, pepperoni isn’t the healthiest option. But, they say everything in moderation! It’s up to you whether you want to indulge (at the advice of your doctor, of course).

Pepperoni Alternatives

If you don’t want to eat pepperoni while pregnant, there are safer alternatives.

  • Try pepperoni made from turkey because it’s lower in fat and saturated fat.
  • Look for nitrate-free pepperoni
  • Instead of having pepperoni on your pizza, try lean ground turkey or grilled chicken breast on it

Always be sure to check with your doctor before consuming pepperoni, or any other questionable foods while pregnant.

Kristina is a freelance writer and children's book author. She's the mother of two girls who keep her very busy! When she's not spending time with her family, she enjoys taking a spin class and reading a good book.