Is Organ Meat Safe During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is an exciting time for expecting mothers. It can also be a trying time for your health. People start to be very cautious about the foods they eat during pregnancy. What you put in your body can have a significant impact on your health, as well as the health of your growing baby.
Ideally, you want to eat a wide variety of food. Variety helps make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you and your baby need. You might have heard that a healthy pregnancy diet should include plenty of whole-food choices. Including protein, healthy fats, fiber, and fluids. But what about a lesser-known food that is incredibly nutritious?
Organ meat is a fantastic source of nutrients. But the general population doesn’t know much about it. So for this post, I want to talk about organ meat and whether or not it’s safe to eat during pregnancy.
The most common types of organ meat are:
- Liver: Sometimes called “nature’s multivitamin,” liver is the most nutrient-dense organ of meat.
- Tongue: While technically a muscle, the tongue is one of the more popular organ meats worldwide. Its high-fat content makes it tender and flavorful.
- Heart: Heart is a very lean and tasty type of organ meat.
- Brain: Brain is a delicacy in many cultures. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to support the nervous system.
- Sweetbreads: Despite their name, sweetbreads aren’t sweet or a type of bread. These rich foods are made from the thymus gland and pancreas.
- Tripe: Tripe is the stomach lining of animals. The most commonly consumed type is from cattle. It’s known for having a very chewy texture.
Organ meat is extremely nutritious. There are often questions about how safe it is to eat and how much can be eaten, especially during pregnancy. Today we are reviewing things to consider, as an expecting mother, before eating organ meat.
Is Organ Meat Safe During Pregnancy?
There has been a lot of debate over the safety of consuming organ meat, especially liver, during pregnancy. Liver contains high levels of vitamin A. It is possible for a pregnant person to overconsume vitamin A. This is why liver is a controversial food for pregnancy.
But the key takeaway is; liver and other organ meat can be safely consumed during pregnancy as long as consumed in moderation.
While most doctors and healthcare professionals offer medical advice that aligns with the most up-to-date research and information, many remain hesitant to recommend anything that strays from “traditional” or old guidelines. This is important to keep in mind. It’s also a major reason why I recommend working with a dietitian. Registered dietitians are the experts when it comes to nutrition, not doctors. There are numerous medically reviewed studies on the consumption of organ meat that support safe consumption for pregnant women.
Vitamin A and Organ Meat
Some argue organ meat, like liver, isn’t safe for consumption during pregnancy due to the possibility of vitamin A toxicity. Vitamin A doesn’t always need to be feared, though. High doses of vitamin A have indeed been shown to have the potential to cause negative effects. However, this has been seen specifically with high doses of supplemental vitamin-A. Even more specifically, vitamin A in the form of retinol. This wasn’t a study done on foods.
Vitamin A does have an upper limit. However, consuming adequate amounts is still important. And it can be done safely! Especially when consumed with proper amounts of vitamin D and K2 also found in liver meat. Again, getting enough vitamin A is important for a healthy pregnancy. Some research has suggested a link between a lack of vitamin A and a higher risk for gestational diabetes.
Plus, because of its intense flavor, your body tends to limit the amount you eat naturally. It’s possible to overdo retinol. But this is only observed with taking retinol supplements, not from food, as mentioned above. Consuming liver in moderation will not cause toxicity but instead get you more of almost every nutrient needed in high amounts during pregnancy.
Organ Meat Benefits For Pregnancy
The majority of the population rarely eats organ meat, sometimes called offal. Interestingly, organ meat contains far more nutrients than other cuts of meat. There are many health benefits to eating organ meat, thanks to its abundance of essential vitamins and minerals.
Organ meat is nutrient dense – even more so than broccoli, spinach, and kale. If “superfoods” were real, I would consider them one. More pregnancy “superfoods” can be found here.
Beef liver is a pregnancy “superfood.”
First, I don’t believe in the term “superfood.” There is no such thing as one best food that has to be included to have a healthy pregnancy. That said, beef liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Liver offers a lot of benefits for pregnant women. It contains more B vitamins and folate than any other food on Earth. Liver also contains 50 times the amount of vitamin B12 as steak. As you may have heard or read already, folate is beneficial for preventing birth defects such as spina bifida.
Beef liver is also chock-full of copper, which has many benefits during pregnancy. These benefits include brain health, immune support, and anemia prevention. As well as overall growth and development support for your baby.
Organ meats, in general, are loaded with important minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium. And essential fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Organ meat may improve heart health.
It turns out that eating heart is good for your heart! Organ meat contains abundant B vitamins, which may protect against heart disease. B vitamins may also help maintain healthy blood pressure. This may help to reduce the risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy. This study shows women with preeclampsia had significantly lower B12 levels than women with normal blood pressure.
Heart meat, in particular, is a great source of CoQ10, or coenzyme Q10, a powerful antioxidant. There’s growing interest in the importance of CoQ10 for heart health and fertility!
Organ meat is a great source of iron.
Organ meat is also beneficial because it contains heme iron. This is a specific type of iron that is more easily absorbed by the body than iron derived from plant foods. Anemia is one of the most common preventable conditions of pregnancy.
How Much Organ Meat Is Safe During Pregnancy?
As mentioned earlier, organ meat is safe to consume during pregnancy as long as it is eaten in moderation, but what is moderation?
It is generally recommended that women keep organ meat intake to no more than once or twice per week in 3 oz—portion sizes during pregnancy. Be mindful to keep beef liver intake moderate as this is highest in vitamin A. Like all other types of meat, organ meat should be cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. If eating liver sounds gross, but you want the nutrients it offers, beef liver supplements are also available. You can learn more about these inside The Prenatal Nutrition Library.
Moderate amounts of organ meat like liver are not only safe for pregnant women but exceptionally nutritious.
Very few foods contain as many nutrients as organ meat. But many people are unaware of how beneficial these foods are for your health. Especially during pregnancy, it’s natural to feel uncertain about consuming foods that aren’t part of the “traditional” American diet. But there are a lot of benefits to stepping outside of your comfort zone with this one!
I am passionate about helping women navigate pregnancy nutrition and how you can nourish your body for a healthy, feel-good pregnancy. I hope you’ll join the thousands of others just like you, who are learning more about how you can feel your best during pregnancy inside The Prenatal Nutrition Library. With a membership to our comprehensive library, you will gain confidence in all aspects of your prenatal nutrition and have peace of mind everything you are eating is safe and nutritious! Click here to learn more!