Eating Liver in Pregnancy: Food Sources, Health Benefits and Risks

Eating Liver During Pregnancy – Is It Safe?

Pregnancy requires you to change your diet to one that provides you with all the nutrition you need. Since the focus is on a balanced diet, including meat is a given for it provides a good dose of protein. But, meat preparations, because they come in different forms with different components, might raise questions on their safety, especially during pregnancy. Since pregnant women are at a high risk to suffer from anaemia, they might instantly think of adding liver to their diet plan. But, is it safe to eat liver during pregnancy? Let’s find out.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Liver?

On a general note, consumption of liver is not forbidden for pregnant women. The liver is known to contain a variety of substances that can be quite beneficial for the mother as well as the growing child. However, the liver also has a component called retinol which increases the risks of foetal malformations. Therefore, the portions need to be maintained as excessive consumption of liver can be harmful to foetal health. We shall talk about the harmful effects of consuming too much liver later in the article. Let’s first take a look at the health benefits and the right portions (or amount) of liver you can safely eat.

Different Types of Livers and Their Safety During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it’s crucial for expectant mothers to be mindful of their diet to ensure the safety and well-being of both themselves and their developing baby. The consumption of liver, a nutrient-rich food, can be a subject of concern due to the varying types of liver and their potential impact on pregnancy. In this article, we’ll explore different types of livers and their safety during pregnancy.

1. Chicken Liver

Chicken Liver

Chicken liver in pregnancy is a popular choice and is generally considered safe during pregnancy when cooked thoroughly. It is a good source of iron, which is essential for pregnant women, but it should be consumed in moderation to avoid excessive vitamin A intake.

2. Beef Liver

Beef Liver

Beef liver in pregnancy is another liver option that can be safe when cooked properly. It is also high in iron and other nutrients. However, like chicken liver, it’s important not to overconsume it due to its vitamin A content.

3. Pork Liver

Pork Liver

Pork liver can be consumed during pregnancy if it is cooked well and handled with care to prevent contamination. It is also a source of essential nutrients but should be part of a balanced diet to avoid excessive vitamin A intake.

4. Cod Liver

Cod Liver

Cod liver is known for its exceptionally high vitamin A content, and consuming it during pregnancy should be done with caution. Excessive vitamin A intake can be harmful to the developing fetus. It’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional before including cod liver in your diet while pregnant.

Benefits of Consuming Liver During Pregnancy

The liver contains some vital elements that are considered essential for a mother and her baby in pregnancy, which makes consumption of liver quite a beneficial choice. Here are some of them:

  • Folic acid – It plays a key role in the protection of the child in the womb. It also boosts the foetus’ neurological development.
  • Proteins – They are necessary for body building or strength and important for foetal development. And a woman can get enough protein by consuming liver in the moderate proportions.
  • Vitamin A – Liver is a good source of vitamin A, which not only provides all-around nutrition but also directly impacts the development of eyesight and immunity in the nascent child.
  • Iron – Presence of iron in the liver is one of the main reasons why pregnant women are recommended liver consumption since it reduces risks of anaemia and keeps the blood healthy.

What Is the Amount of Liver That Is Safe to Consume During Pregnancy?

It is safe to consume 65 to 75 grams of well-cooked liver per week to gain health benefits; however, the portion may vary because the liver coming from different sources have different levels of retinol. Some might be advised to reduce the quantity and frequency of eating liver while pregnant to avoid health complications. It is generally in your best interest to keep its consumption restricted to once a week or twice a month.

So, in what forms can you eat liver during pregnancy? Read below to know more.

Different Ways to Consume Liver in Pregnancy

In meat preparations, the liver is generally presented in more than one style, in order to suit different palates. As much as the source might govern its edibility, the style generally doesn’t. You can, therefore, go for the following forms of liver:

Woman ready to eat liver

  • Sausages – Preparation of sausages from livers is a rather popular way of eating liver-based food items in numerous parts of the world.
  • Chopped Liver – Another quick side-dish or a snack of sorts to go along with other preparations is a delicious portion of chopped liver.
  • Liver Pate – Liver pate is generally a small loaf-like portion of meat that contains liver along with many other meat items and foods mixed together. This is the best way to limit the quantity of liver during pregnancy and yet feel full.

Now, let’s come to the most important part of the article – the risks associated with eating liver during pregnancy. Every expectant mother must know about the risks to make an informed decision of either avoiding liver or seeking immediate medical attention when needed.

Risks of Eating Liver During Pregnancy

Meat is generally beneficial for a mother, but if consumed in large quantities, it might affect foetal health. Read on to know the risks associated with eating liver.

  • The nutrient proportions in chicken liver vary as compared to those in beef or mutton liver. That needs to be taken into account when planning the diet if you are keen on eating liver during pregnancy.
  • Vitamin A is present in large proportions in the liver. As beneficial as it might be, consuming a lot of it can be harmful to the baby as it is present in the liver in the form of retinol, which is a precursor to the actual vitamin. Retinol, when consumed in high quantities is risky. Overconsumption has been linked with developmental defects in the child, and cancer in the mother.
  • Along with retinol, a higher proportion of cholesterol makes liver a bad choice for a pregnant woman who has problems related to hypertension.
  • Liver, especially beef and mutton liver, is high in purines. Excessive purine intake can lead to elevated uric acid levels, increasing the risk of conditions like gout and kidney stones. These conditions can be particularly problematic during pregnancy.

You must also know that retinol is also present in some products we use in our daily lives. Therefore, you must avoid some liver products too that could harm your baby.

Liver Products to Avoid During Pregnancy

You might be abstaining from consuming any liver directly, but there are certain products that ought to be avoided as well, which contain liver constituents in their preparation, or derivatives of the same. These usually are:

  • Nutrition supplements that contain retinol as a way to deliver Vitamin A.
  • Cod liver oil or shark oil along with certain spreads or dips that can contain liver traces within them.
  • Foie gras, a delicacy made from the liver of fattened ducks or geese, should be avoided during pregnancy due to concerns about the quality of the liver and potential exposure to harmful substances.

Alternative Sources of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is absolutely essential for babies. You don’t need to depend purely on the liver for it since it can be easily obtained from numerous other sources. Vegetables are a much safer choice in this regard, since vitamin A is present in the form of beta-carotene, instead of retinol. Some of these are:

  • Turnip greens
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Butternut squash
  • Apricots
  • Mangoes
  • Red bell peppers
  • Cantaloupe
  • Papaya
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Fortified foods like cereals and dairy products

FAQs

1. Can Pregnant Women Eat Liver Sausage or Chopped Liver?

It’s best for pregnant women to avoid liver sausage or chopped liver during pregnancy due to potential bacterial contamination and concerns about the quality of the liver used in these products.

2. Is It Safe to Eat Liver in Every Trimester?

While liver can be a good source of nutrients, it’s not safe to eat in excessive amounts during pregnancy. It’s important to consume liver in moderation and consult with a healthcare provider for guidance on appropriate intake in each trimester to ensure the safety of both the mother and the developing baby.

Eating liver during pregnancy when you have cravings for it isn’t harmful to you. Preparing it the right way and restricting its consumption to the occasional luxury can help you enjoy the taste of it while keeping you safe from its possible harmful consequences.

References/Resources:

1. Johnson. L; Vitamin A Excess; MSD Manual; https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-in/home/disorders-of-nutrition/vitamins/vitamin-a-excess

2. Sharma. R; Desai. S; Vitamin A in pregnancy: a review; National Library of Medicine: Indian Journal of Maternal & Child Health; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12288485/

3. Prenatal vitamins: Why they matter, how to choose; Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-vitamins/art-20046945

4. Maia. S, Souza. A, Caminha. M, Silva. S, Cruz. R, et al.; Vitamin A and Pregnancy: A Narrative Review; National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6470929/; March 2019

5. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury; National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548165/

6. Vitamin A and Carotenoids; National Institutes of Health; https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/

7. Vitamins, Supplements and Nutrition in Pregnancy; NHS UK; https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vitamins-supplements-and-nutrition/

8. Healthy eating and vitamin supplements in pregnancy patient information leaflet; Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists; https://www.rcog.org.uk/for-the-public/browse-all-patient-information-leaflets/healthy-eating-and-vitamin-supplements-in-pregnancy-patient-information-leaflet/

Also Read:

Eating Fish when Pregnant
Eating Duck in Pregnancy
Eating Chicken during Pregnancy
Eating Burgers During Pregnancy – is it Safe?

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