If you are a pregnant and expecting mother; you have likely encountered the frustrations of being told the “safest” things to eat and do; while pregnant by friends and family. Although, this advice is offered in an innocent and harmless way. It can make it really difficult to figure out which advice you should listen to and which to ignore. One of the “hot topics” that surround pregnant women is whether can I eat ricotta cheese while pregnant?
Ricotta cheese is a type of cheese that is found in many types of cuisines. Ricotta is known for having its own unique taste, making it a popular addition to many Italian dishes. But the big question surrounding this yummy cheese is, “Can I eat ricotta cheese while pregnant?” Expecting mothers want to know the potential risks and/or benefits of eating this type of cheese. So that they can separate through the incoming advice and discern facts from fiction.
What is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta cheese is a type of cheese that originated in Italy. Moreover, Ricotta is usually made with sheep milk, goat milk, or cow milk. Ricotta cheese is typically produced by using the leftover whey created during the production of other cheeses. The leftover whey goes through a process known as the coagulation process; where the leftover whey is turned into what we know as ricotta cheese.
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Is it Safe to Eat Ricotta Cheese While Pregnant?
In order to be able to answer this question, we first need to take a look at a term called Listeria. Ricotta cheese is a type of soft cheese, meaning that it comes with the added risk of potentially containing a bacterium known as Listeria. Listeria is a type of bacteria that is found in cheeses that have not been pasteurized. Although Listeria does not usually pose a big risk to the normal population, it can have devastating side effects for pregnant women. Listeria can cause pregnant women to go into premature labor or could cause life-threatening injuries to an unborn baby.
However, soft cheeses such as ricotta can be safely consumed by pregnant women if it is made from pasteurized milk. During the pasteurization process, the liquids will go through a heating process that will kill off any harmful bacteria, such as Listeria. If you plan on purchasing ricotta cheese from a grocery store, make sure you check the label to verify that the cheese was made with pasteurized milk. If you are ordering food from a restaurant that contains ricotta cheese, you should ask the restaurant if the cheese was made with pasteurized milk. You can also choose to only eat dishes that are made with ricotta cheese that has been cooked, which should kill off any potential bacteria. If you are not able to verify how the cheese was made, the safest option is to avoid eating the dish.
What Are The Benefits Of Eating Ricotta Cheese While Pregnant?
Compared with other cheeses, ricotta cheese has a significantly lower salt and fat content. Additionally, ricotta cheese is filled with protein and calcium, both of which are essential in building strong muscles and bones. Ricotta cheese is also packed with healthy Omega fatty acids. These Omega fatty acids are extremely useful during the cognitive and visual development process for your baby.
Which Cheeses Should I Avoid Eating While Pregnant?
If you are pregnant, you should avoid eating certain soft cheeses that include white rinds. Specifically, you should not eat Brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola, or Danish blue cheeses. There are also certain types of goats’ cheese that should not be eaten while pregnant, such as a cheese that contains goats’ milk that has been mold-ripened. These types of cheeses are dangerous for pregnant women and should never be eaten. The simplest and easiest way to know whether a slice of cheese can be safely eaten while pregnant is to look at the packaging. If the label says that the cheese was made with pasteurized milk, you can eat it. However, if you plan on traveling abroad, some countries may not have the same restrictions on cheese. Make sure you are familiar with the country’s rules and regulations involving cheese before you travel.
The safest cheeses for pregnant women will always be any type of hard cheese. This includes cheeses such as cheddar, parmesan, and gouda. These cheeses usually do not pose a risk to your pregnancy and are generally a safer option than any type of soft cheese.
How Will I Know if I Eat Something that Contains Listeria?
Unfortunately, foods that contain Listeria will not have any distinguishable markings. Listeria is an odorless and colorless bacterium, so you will not be able to tell from looks or smell whether a food has been contaminated. Moreover, the symptoms of Listeria often mimic the common cold or allergies, so it may be hard to discern if you have contracted the bacteria. Common symptoms of Listeria include headaches, fatigue, fevers, and muscle aches. If you are experiencing these symptoms, try to recall which foods you have recently eaten. If any of those foods pose a risk of containing Listeria, you should always reach out to your doctor. As mentioned before, Listeria can be fatal for unborn infants if not treated immediately. The safest option is always choosing precaution.
Before making ricotta cheese a part of your diet during pregnancy, you should always check with your doctor first. The general rule of thumb is that ricotta cheese can safely be consumed by pregnant women, so long as the cheese is made with pasteurized milk. In the United States, most ricotta cheese that is found at a grocery store is made from pasteurized milk, so your chances of accidentally eating ricotta cheese made with unpasteurized milk are extremely slim.
Ricotta and other types of soft cheeses are not the only foods that could possibly contain Listeria. Other foods that pregnant women should avoid include deli meat, any type of unpasteurized dairy product, and certain seafood.
If you are pregnant and are receiving an overwhelming amount of advice on which foods to eat, the most important thing to do is to do your own research and talk to your doctor. Every woman will experience a different pregnancy, so information may be useful for one woman while being completely useless to another. Learn the facts and then make a confident decision for yourself. Pregnancy is a beautiful experience that should be stress and worry-free!