Pregnancy is a special time when we often begin to think about food choices more than ever before. While the “avoid list” for pregnancy shouldn’t be a mile long, a handful of foods and beverages are best to avoid for the time being. This is due to known adverse effects or increased likelihood of causing food-borne illness.
Pregnancy slightly suppresses the immune system. This makes pregnant people more susceptible to food-borne illnesses. This is why food safety is a key topic during pregnancy. Ensuring you stay food-safe and food aware means reducing your risk of food-borne illness and potentially adverse effects.
My goal is to help you make informed choices about the foods you choose to eat (or not eat) during pregnancy. Today, we’ll be discussing ceviche. Read on below to find out whether or not eating ceviche while pregnant is safe.
Can I Eat Ceviche While Pregnant?
You’re not alone if you’ve wondered about eating ceviche during pregnancy. Many pregnant people have asked this question before. There’s a lot of confusion and myths about eating ceviche during pregnancy. I’m often asked if the citrus marinade “cooks” ceviche.
In this blog, we’ll be looking at this oh-so-popular and delicious dish. Understanding what’s in it, how it’s made, and learning about the safe ways to eat ceviche during pregnancy can help you make the best choice for you.
What Is Ceviche?
Known for its fresh and tangy flavors, ceviche is a popular seafood dish often enjoyed as an appetizer. It’s typically made by marinating raw fish or shellfish in citrus juices. Lemon juice or lime juice is often used as the marinade. Common types of fish and seafood used include shrimp, tilapia, snapper, and halibut.
The raw seafood is cut into small pieces and mixed with the citrus juice. As it marinates, the acid from the juice helps “cure” the fish. Other ingredients like red onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and chili peppers are added for flavor. Ceviche is served chilled and often with tortilla chips.
This food has several iterations – like the popular Mexican ceviche and the Peruvian ceviche, which is less saucy but has intense flavors.
Is It Safe To Eat Ceviche When Pregnant?
Ceviche is traditionally made from raw fish or shellfish marinated in citrus juice and seasonings. While some ceviche is made with cooked fish or shellfish, it’s most commonly made from raw seafood. For this reason, expecting mothers are usually advised to avoid eating ceviche.
Raw shellfish can carry bacteria and parasites that are harmful to both mom and baby during pregnancy. And, to answer the most common question I receive: lime juice does not “cook” the seafood. If you want to eat ceviche during pregnancy, choose an option with cooked shrimp or seafood!
Potential Risks Of Eating Ceviche While Pregnant
Cooked seafood provides a lot of nutritional benefits for pregnant women. On the other hand, raw shellfish can potentially carry pathogens that can be dangerous to you and your growing baby.
Below are some of the potential risks associated with eating ceviche made with raw shellfish while pregnant:
Risk of vibrio bacteria
Vibrio bacteria in marine coastal waters can contaminate fish and shellfish. Most cases of vibriosis occur from eating raw or undercooked fish or shellfish. When someone consumes contaminated raw shellfish, they may experience diarrhea and upset stomach. Vibrio is killed by cooking shellfish to the proper minimum internal temperature.
Risk of salmonella contamination
Salmonella is another type of bacteria that can be present in raw or undercooked foods. It is more common in raw meats, like chicken than in raw seafood. If the seafood used in ceviche is contaminated with salmonella, it can cause food poisoning. Some symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and fever.
Risk of listeriosis
Listeriosis is a dangerous infection from consuming the Listeria bacteria, which can be found in raw seafood. Listeria can cross the placenta, affecting the developing fetus and potentially leading to severe complications like miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm labor.
How To Eat Ceviche When Pregnant
It is recommended to avoid uncooked types of ceviche while pregnant. However, some cooked recipes can be enjoyed if it’s a food you enjoy. You read that right. There’s good news – if you make some adjustments during preparation, you can eat a modified ceviche while pregnant. Below are some tips to make pregnancy-safe ceviche.
Buy fresh, low-mercury seafood.
Buying fresh seafood from a reputable source is crucial. Fresh seafood from a trusted source not only ensures optimal flavor but also helps reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses. Avoid high-mercury choices during pregnancy and stick with low-mercury seafood choices, like haddock, clams, and shrimp.
Check out our list of safe seafood for pregnancy for more low-mercury options.
Clean and sanitize surfaces and utensils.
Don’t overlook cleanliness when it comes to working in the kitchen. Ensure you thoroughly clean your knives, chopping boards, and other utensils that come in contact with your seafood. Wash utensils with hot, soapy water. Be sure to frequently wash your hands before and after handling raw seafood. This helps to prevent cross-contamination and lessen the risk of food-borne illnesses.
Cook your ceviche!
Cooked ceviche is a great and safe alternative for pregnant women to enjoy this tasty dish. Before cooking, marinate the seafood in citrus juices for at least 15 minutes. Add seasonings for extra flavor. Then, cook your seafood until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C). This is the recommended temperature that kills most bacteria and parasites that can be present in seafood. Cooking seafood with heat helps to make ceviche safe for mom and baby during pregnancy!
Healthy diet choices during your pregnancy are a must!
While ceviche is typically not recommended for pregnant women, it can still be consumed safely with a few simple adjustments. There are several pregnancy-friendly ceviche recipes online that are easy to prepare and safe for pregnancy. Following proper food safety guidelines, choosing low-mercury seafood, and cooking to the recommended minimum internal temperature are keys to enjoying ceviche during pregnancy.
I hope this article helped answer your question and ease your worries about consuming ceviche during pregnancy. For more evidence-based information on nutrition for preconception through pregnancy, join The Prenatal Nutrition Library.
The Prenatal Nutrition Library (TPNL) will increase confidence in your daily food choices and ensure you crush your nutrient needs for two. It is the first searchable app for food during pregnancy. Find all the details here!