8 Probiotic Foods for Pregnant Women

Probiotic foods for pregnant women are key in the diet, both to treat and prevent disease. Keep reading to learn more.
8 Probiotic Foods for Pregnant Women

Last update: 26 March, 2024

Pregnancy is a time of intense changes, not only in your body but also in the way you eat. Therefore, it’s advisable to include probiotic foods for pregnant women that will help to bring this natural process to fruition. These are microorganisms that are beneficial to health that are used to elaborate some foods.

Science also reveals that they can prevent certain complications, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or premature birth, among others. However, according to the ingredients, not all probiotics can be consumed by pregnant women.

What are the safe probiotic foods for pregnant women?

The first thing to know is that probiotics are live microorganisms with which some foods and supplements are prepared. They live naturally in our gut, from where they strengthen the intestinal flora or microbiota and prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria.

Most probiotics are bacteria, but there are also some yeasts. The Canadian Family Physician magazine explains that among the probiotics most used to make food are those called Lactobacillus and Bifydobacterium. Saccharomyces yeast is also used as a probiotic.

What are the benefits of consuming probiotic foods during pregnancy?

The American Pregnancy Association highlights that probiotics reduce the presence of harmful bacteria. At the same time, they increase the intestinal microbiota that benefits health.

Yogurt is one of the most studied probiotics. This is revealed by a comprehensive review of clinical trials published in 2020 in the journal Cureus. In addition, this food was found to have an effect on the prevention of insulin resistance and a decrease in gestational diabetes, as revealed in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Some studies indicate that in pregnant women, this intestinal flora is modified during the first trimester of gestation. In this way, the immune system is strengthened, digestion is improved, and constipation is avoided. It also improves the symptoms of nausea and vomiting and increases the absorption of key nutrients such as calcium, which prevents pre-eclampsia and other complications.

Discover these probiotic foods for pregnant women

When strengthening the intestinal flora of the pregnant woman, you should think about renewing the diet with probiotics under the strict guidance of health professionals. Let’s see which foods are recommended.

Red Cabbage Sauerkraut is one of the probiotic foods that are suitable for pregnant women. In this case, it’s important to use a commercial version, as one prepared at home could contain some non-probiotic microorganisms.

1. Yogurt

Yogurt was one of the first foods that served as a vehicle to transport live microorganisms with health benefits. However, it’s best to check the label to make sure that it’s a probiotic product. In some cases, yogurt is made with bacteria that don’t have the desired effect. For this, you should consult a professional in the area, such as a nutritionist.

As shown in the magazine Cureus in 2020, probiotic yogurt provides extensive benefits for pregnant women. You can taste it alone or combined with fruits, whole grains, or nuts, either for breakfast or snacks.

2. Sauerkraut

Although the name may not be very familiar, sauerkraut is nothing more than finely shredded cabbage that’s been fermented by certain microorganisms with probiotic action. A study published in the journal PloS One, in 2018, isolated bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc in fermented cabbage.

It’s best to use it about 2 or 3 times a week as a dressing and not as a side dish or garnish. In addition, it should be stored in the refrigerator after uncovered and kept for no more than 2 weeks.

3. Tempeh

The International Probiotics Association (IPA) defines tempeh as a traditional Asian food obtained from fermented soybeans. It’s a staple of vegan and vegetarian diets. Soybeans are boiled before fermenting with the fungus Rhizopus oligoporus for several days. It may also contain other lactic acid bacteria (LAB).

Some evidence demonstrates that tempeh improves the intestinal microbiota in favor of the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifydobacterium. In addition, according to the IPA, they may produce bioactives that support heart, immune, and metabolic health.

It has a nutty or near-neutral flavor that can be enjoyed in many ways. For example, in a salad, as part of a sandwich, in pasta, or in any dish that the culinary world allows you to savor.

4. Water-based kefir

Traditional kefir is a dairy product fermented by grains of probiotic bacteria and yeast. The lactose in the milk is transformed into acid, carbon dioxide gas, and alcohol. This is one of the reasons why pregnant women shouldn’t include it in their diet.

Fortunately, there’s a water-based kefir that doesn’t contain alcohol. Leuconostoc bacteria and Saccharomyces yeast convert sugar, dried fruit, or agave honey into carbon dioxide gas. An article published in the journal Future Foods in 2022 promotes water kefir as a high-profile commercial probiotic beverage.

5. Natto

Natto is a fermented soybean product like tempeh that’s a staple of Japanese cuisine and is mixed with rice for breakfast. It’s also an important source of protein and vitamin K, as stated in an article published in the Journal of Clinical Densitometry.

This food has a strong taste, a distinctive odor, and a viscoelastic consistency that some don’t like. However, eggs, scallions, onions, cilantro, and other vegetables can be used to season it.

Cottage cheese is one of the ripened cheeses with probiotic action. In the case of other dairy products, it’s important to read labels to identify them as potential probiotics.

6. Matured cheeses

Not all matured cheeses are probiotic. The most common ones with this characteristic are Gouda, cheddar, cottage cheese, and mozzarella. As one review claims, these cheeses are a source of good quality protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and selenium.

7. Kombucha tea

Kombucha is a fermented tea similar to black tea. It contains probiotic bacteria and yeast. A review in the journal Comprehensive Reviews highlights it for its positive effect in reducing the risk of some diseases. However, more human studies are needed to confirm these results.

8. Acidophilus milk

Like yogurt, acidophilus milk is a fermented milk product with probiotic characteristics. This drink has a sweeter and milder taste than yogurt and is made with Lactobacillus acidophylus. This bacterium is recognized by Mayo Clinic experts as beneficial in the treatment of diarrhea, lung infections, atopic dermatitis, and bacterial vaginosis.

Now you know which probiotic foods to choose during pregnancy

For a healthier pregnancy, probiotic foods are the first choice in the diet. These not only serve to treat some particular diseases, but also to prevent them. There are many options with probiotics on the market, but not all of them can be chosen for pregnant women. Especially because you have to be careful with salt intake and avoid alcoholic beverages. Fortunately, there are always safe alternatives.

Probiotic foods for pregnant women include yogurt, cottage cheese, ripened Gouda, and acidophilus milk. In addition, those who love Asian food or follow a vegan diet can include tempeh, natto, and sauerkraut. As non-dairy probiotic beverages, kombucha tea and water-based kefir are recommended.

Remember to consult with your obstetrician and a nutrition professional, especially if you want to incorporate any other new probiotic foods on the market. Otherwise, bon appetit!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.