Pregnancy cravings can be weird, to say the least.
Anyone who is or has been pregnant knows that flavor cravings can hit in the middle of the night. Or sometimes you want a savory traditional dinner for breakfast. Other times you might want a decadent breakfast for dinner.
And sometimes, you just crave beef jerky like your life depends on it.
As much as we want to get beef jerky into every craving belly out there, we also want to be upfront with the facts. We know you have to question every cheese, fish, meat, and more. So if you’re wondering if pregnant women can eat beef jerky, we’ve got the answers.
The Risks of Eating Beef Jerky While Pregnant
Beef jerky seems like it should be fine. It’s just meat, right?
The preparation is the problem. During pregnancy, a mother’s immune system is compromised, leading to a higher risk of illnesses.
While beef jerky is cooked, it’s not done so in the traditional sense. In fact, the dehydration process is key to well-made beef jerky. But that doesn’t mean it's well done, like you’ve been told to order your burgers.
Pregnant women need to be very careful about what foods they consume due to a compromised immune system. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Otherwise, you could risk getting sick. Even worse, a foodborne illness could affect an unborn baby.
Undercooked animal products lead to foodborne illnesses. Jerky is dried at low temperatures for a very long time. While this does lead to the incredible taste and texture of beef jerky, it doesn’t necessarily mean it's safe for pregnant women.
Dried meats are more likely to contain bacteria, which puts you at greater risk of infection. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite found in undercooked meats that can result in toxoplasmosis.
Here’s the thing — most people who contract this parasite never feel any symptoms. However, due to the low immunity of pregnant women, this can cause food poisoning.
While food poisoning is no fun, for the most part, it will go away on its own after about a month. However, those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of developing concerning symptoms. These may include:
- Brain inflammation that causes headaches, seizures, confusion, and possibly even a coma
- Lung infection, which may result in a cough, fever, or shortness of breath
- Eye infection, which can cause eye pain and blurry vision
Spikes in Blood Pressure
Some beef jerky can have high salt content due to the spices and seasonings. You’re probably well aware that high sodium and pregnancy aren’t a match made in heaven. For instance, the swollen feet and hands that come along with pregnancy are enough to make you want to avoid excess salt.
However, there are other symptoms you should be aware of. These include:
- Constant headaches
- Difficulty breathing
- Potential organ damage
- Increased risk of heart disease
- And more
[Related: Is Beef Jerky Healthy?]
So, Can You Eat Beef Jerky While Pregnant?
We cook our beef jerky with love, but we don’t want to risk any pregnant customers coming down with minor or severe symptoms. It’s best to avoid beef jerky until your nine months of pregnancy pass.
While pregnant, it is always best to rely on your doctor’s recommendations of which foods are safe to eat. Not only are you protecting yourself from becoming ill, but you will also better protect your unborn baby.
Beef Jerky Alternatives for Pregnant Women
We know that going without beef jerky for nine months might be tough. But don’t worry! There are plenty of other tasty foods that are safe and will cater to your pregnancy cravings.
At first, coconut jerky might sound like a crazy suggestion — we get it!
Once you bite into it, you might think the texture is way too firm. But don’t give up too quickly.
Coconut jerky becomes more pliable as you chew it and can be surprisingly addictive. While coconut is pretty sweet on its own, coconut jerky comes in many savory flavors that might surprise you, like ginger-teriyaki and chili-lime.
Coconut is also safe and highly recommended to consume during pregnancy. It contains healthy fats and lauric acid, which promotes milk production and is super helpful during lactation.
While olives have a very different texture to jerky, they provide a similar savory, salty flavor.
Olives also have a proven track record of benefits for pregnant women. They are rich in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to aid in a baby’s brain and eye development.
Seaweed isn’t just for sushi! In fact, sushi snack packs have picked up in popularity in recent years. Thousands of elementary school children look forward to their seaweed snacks each day. And parents are ecstatic!
The salty, umami flavor is similar to jerky to hit that savory flavor you crave. Plus, seaweed is rich in iodine and tyrosine, which play a crucial role in thyroid function. Moreover, iodine helps pregnant women’s metabolism during pregnancy.
Furthermore, seaweed is packed full of vitamins and minerals. If you choose to stock your pantry with seaweed snacks, you can look forward to benefiting from:
- Vitamins A, C, E, and K
- And more!
However, you should be aware of all the nutritional facts. Some seaweed snacks may contain higher levels of sodium. For the sake of your swollen feet, make sure to moderate your salty snacks.
I Ate Beef Jerky While Pregnant — Now What?
If you consume beef jerky while pregnant, there is no cause to panic. Simply monitor yourself for any of the following symptoms:
- Swollen lymph nodes, often in the neck region
- Muscle aches and pains
- Sore throat
- Inflammation of the lungs, heart muscles, and eyes
Contact your doctor right away if you notice any negative side effects or signs of foodborne illness. However, it’s very unlikely that eating beef jerky will result in any of these side effects.
Bottom line — you’re more than likely fine. You know your body better than anyone, and you know what’s best for your baby. For the rest of your pregnancy, it’s a good idea to avoid foods that are labeled as smoked, nova style, kippered, jerky, or lox.
In the meantime, consider enjoying processed meats like hot dogs, lunch meat, cold cuts, and dry sausages. These meats are considered safe for pregnant women to consume. As long as the meat you consume reaches a safe internal temperature of 165 ℉, the risk of food-borne illness is very low.
When cooking meat at home, consider using a food thermometer to make sure your food reaches a safe temperature.
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Do you have any other questions about beef jerky and its benefits? Keep exploring the Jerky Universe, where we answer all your questions and provide valuable resources.
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