The chemicals added to processed foods might make them look or taste better, but it’s understandable to be concerned about taking them in your body – especially during pregnancy. Let’s go through what the science says about some of the common food additives that could be a worry for expecting moms.
MSG during pregnancy
What it is
MSG (Monosodium glutamate) is a common flavor enhancer that gives foods a saltier, more intense taste. For a lot of people, the most common association would be Chinese restaurant food – but MSG is also used in processed foods and snacks like potato chips, bouillon cubes, and instant noodles.
Some people claim to have an adverse reaction to MSG, such as headaches or nausea. However, rigorous scientific studies have failed to show any link between these symptoms and MSG, or any negative health effects. A small percentage of people may have a sensitivity to MSG.
On the label
Monosodium glutamate, Ajinomoto, Hydrolyzed soy protein, Autolyzed yeast
Is it safe during pregnancy?
There’s no evidence that MSG during pregnancy has any effect on the developing baby. MSG does not cross the placenta if you eat it during pregnancy. When you’re nursing, it’s not associated with elevated levels in breastmilk. Moreover, it’s not associated with any risk of infertility.
If you like foods containing MSG, you can continue to enjoy them in moderation. However, if you do feel sensitive to MSG outside of pregnancy, it makes sense to continue to avoid the foods that trigger your symptoms.
Artificial sweeteners during pregnancy
What they are
Artificial sweeteners taste like sugar, but these chemical substances contain few or no calories. Artificial sweeteners are found in thousands of foods ranging from diet sodas to toothpaste.
Some researchers claim artificial sweeteners don’t have an effect on blood sugar, so they can be a useful alternative for diabetics or low-carb dieters who still want to enjoy sweets. However, other researchers have raised concerns about whether some sweeteners – particularly aspartame – could cause health problems like cancers and even premature birth.
On the label
Aspartame, Acesulfame K, Saccharin, Sucralose
Are they safe during pregnancy?
Artificial sweeteners approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) such as aspartame and sucralose are safe for the majority of pregnant mothers. But there is one exception. Pregnant women with a rare genetic disease called phenylketonuria (PKU) need to closely monitor aspartame intake. Otherwise, their babies are at risk of birth defects like congenital heart problems.
Also, foods which contain artificial sweeteners usually don’t provide any nutritional value, so there’s probably a healthier choice if you want to indulge your sweet tooth and don’t need to control your blood sugar.
MSG and artificial sweeteners during pregnancy won’t be helpful
While processed foods which contain MSG or artificial sweeteners aren’t always the healthiest option, there’s no evidence that they pose any health risks to healthy pregnant women. However, they won’t give you helpful nutrients. Trying to avoid food additives and have a balanced diet during pregnancy is one of the best steps you can take for your health and your developing baby.