As you have probably found out by now, pregnancy means change, especially with regards to what you should avoid eating in order to keep your baby safe.
Given more and more of us are turning to vegetarian or flexitarian diets, and that during pregnancy you may find yourself craving simple and plain foods, you might be wondering can you eat tofu when pregnant?
If you are a fan of this nutritious food then the good news is yes, tofu is indeed safe for pregnant women to consume, and it’s actually one of the most balanced and healthy foods out there.
But is there such a thing as eating too much tofu?
And is raw tofu safe for pregnant women to eat, or should you only stick to the cooked variety?
Let’s find out.
Can You Eat Tofu While Pregnant?
Yes, for most women tofu is a safe and nutritious food to eat during pregnancy, and this includes during your first, second and third trimesters.
However, it’s important not to overdo it because tofu (or soy to be more specific – more on this shortly) contains phytic acid and anti-nutrients, both of which are fine to eat in moderation, but should not be excessively consumed.
For most moms-to-be, 1-2 servings per day is fine, and could give you some fantastic health benefits, which we’ll cover later in this article.
Who Should Avoid Tofu?
Experts recommend the following groups of moms-to-be avoid tofu completely:
- If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, because studies show phytoestrogens in soy and soy products can stimulate breast cancer cell growth under certain circumstances.
- Women with hypothyroidism should also avoid tofu during pregnancy, because tofu contains isoflavones that mimic estrogen – too much estrogen can hinder thyroid hormone production and therefore aggravate hypothyroidism.
What Is Tofu Made Of?
Have you every wondered what exactly tofu is, and where it comes from?
Tofu, or bean curd, is a popular food derived from soya.
Tofu is made by curdling fresh soya milk, pressing it into a solid block and then cooling it, which is very similar to the way traditional dairy cheese is made by curdling and solidifying milk.
Is Tofu Pasteurized?
We mentioned soya milk above, and there’s a good chance this word caught your attention.
Because as you probably know, pregnant women should only eat dairy foods like yogurt, cream, milk and ice cream that have been pasteurized (this process kills off harmful bacteria).
Soy milk is plant-based, so it’s not a dairy food, but even so, most commercially-made soy milk is indeed pasteurized.
When it comes to tofu, pasteurization is something that is done mostly to extend the shelf life of the finished product.
This is why the shelf-life of tofu can vary a lot – from 1 to 5 days for fresh tofu, 3 weeks to 1 month for pasteurized tofu, and from 6 months to as long as 2 years for tofu processed and packed aseptically.
Can You Eat Raw Tofu While Pregnant?
Tofu can be eaten straight out of the packet, but is this something pregnant women should avoid doing?
The simple answer is yes, pregnant women are advised not to eat raw tofu, because there is a a risk of becoming ill from eating tofu in its raw form.
Raw tofu is not usually dangerous, but when you’re pregnant it’s best not to take any risks, so to be on the safe side, during your pregnancy it’s advisable to eat only cooked tofu that is served hot.
Can I Eat Tofu While In My First / Second / Third Trimester?
Many women often wonder if there are certain foods that should be avoided during specific times in their pregnancy, which leads them to ask is tofu safe while pregnant in the first trimester?
The good news for all you tofu lovers out there is that tofu is typically safe to eat throughout your pregnancy including during early pregnancy, provided it’s enjoyed in moderation and you are not in the high risk groups we mentioned above.
Benefits of Tofu During Pregnancy
Tofu is often referred to as a complete food, and has a reputation for being one of the most nutritious foods you can eat.
Some of the main benefits of eating tofu while pregnant include:
- High In Copper & Iron: Tofu is an excellent source of both copper and iron, which is important because these minerals help form your red blood cells and your baby’s heart, blood vessels, and skeletal and nervous systems.
- High In Calcium: Tofu is an excellent source of calcium. Pregnant women should aim to increase their calcium intake to up to 1,000mg per day, and because your body cannot produce calcium, it’s something you can only get from the foods you eat or the supplements you take.
- High In Protein: Tofu is also high in protein – half a cup contains a whopping 22g of protein. This is noteworthy because protein is important for pregnant women for several reasons, particularly as it helps promote the growth of new body tissue, produces antibodies that support your immune system, develops enzymes and hormones, provides you with vital energy and contributes to a healthy birth weight.
- Low In Fat: If you’re looking for a good pregnancy snack or want a meal that will fill you up without lots of empty or excessive calories, tofu is one of the best foods you can turn to, because it’s highly nutritious and low in fat.
Tips For Safely Eating Tofu When Pregnant
To conclude, we’ve seen that tofu is safe to eat for most pregnant women, so if you’re not in the high risk groups mention above then feel free to tuck in.
Here is some final advice on how to stay safe when eating tofu while expecting:
- Tofu is perishable, so make sure it’s stored correctly in the refrigerator.
- Avoid eating cold tofu straight from the refrigerator.
- Only eat cooked tofu which has been served hot, and eat it within 2 hours of being cooked.
- Stick to commercially-made tofu over home-made tofu, and only eat it from restaurants where you can trust the quality and storage.
- Finally, remember not to overdo things: 1 to 2 servings per day should be fine, but try not to go above this.
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