Almonds are known as one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Can pregnant women enjoy this healthy snack?
Almonds are safe for pregnant women if they are pasteurized or roasted. Years ago, almonds came under the spotlight for causing several outbreaks of food poisoning worldwide, but today’s pasteurization methods have made them safe for pregnancy.
Read on to learn how to enjoy almonds safely during pregnancy, what almond products are available for you to buy, what benefits health they have, and more!
If you want to know about almond milk when pregnant, then read our dedicated article. This article covers everything you need to know about the nuts themselves.
Are Almonds Safe to Eat When Pregnant?
Most almonds and almond products today (even raw ones) are safe to consume during pregnancy because they have been pasteurized.
While almonds are one of the most popular and beloved nuts on the planet, they were the center of attention in the early 2000s because of contamination from salmonella, which caused outbreaks of food poisoning.
A salmonellosis outbreak caused by raw, unpasteurized almonds took place in Canada and the United States in 2000–2001, as well as the U.S. in 2004, followed by Sweden in 2005–2006.
Salmonella enterica, the culprit, can survive even for long periods on dry kernels. This led authorities to carry out decontamination techniques to eliminate pathogens while maintaining flavor.
Some treatments include infrared radiation (IR), propylene oxide (U.S. market), and chlorine dioxide (Source: Journal of Food Protection).
Steam is also used to decontaminate raw almonds. The USDA uses infrared radiation (source: Food Safety News).
Today, all almonds grown in the U.S. (California) for commercial purposes are to be treated through steam treatment, blanching, roasting, or propylene oxide before being distributed (source: FDA).
Almonds are great snacks on their own or added to dishes and desserts. They are available raw (pasteurized), blanched, roasted (dry or using oil), whole, sliced, slivered, or chopped (source: Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health). Here’s a bit of information about the different types of almonds available:
Are Raw Almonds Safe When Pregnant?
Raw almonds sold in the market are pasteurized and are safe for consumption. They are not considered truly “raw” for this reason (source: NPR). Therefore raw almonds are safe when pregnant.
Roasted Almonds During Pregnancy
With that said, you might want to be careful with the sodium and sugar content of roasted almonds.
Blue Diamond, for example, has a plethora of delicious flavored and roasted almonds, including their popular Smokehouse line. Unfortunately, these are very high in sodium. High-sodium diets can exacerbate blood pressure in both mother and baby, as well as renal functions (source: NIH).
Almonds can also be used to make delicious products like almond butter, almond milk, almond paste, almond flour, and much more.
Almond Butter During Pregnancy
Almond butter is quite popular nowadays. It is not to be confused with almond paste or marzipan. Almond butter is made from almonds while almond paste is made from almonds plus sugar – so be sure to consume in moderation (source: FoodPrint).
Almond butter is safe when pregnant, in both roasted and raw forms. If you’re eating raw nut butter, make sure it’s stored properly and avoid cross-contamination.
Almond Flour When Pregnant
Almond flour, also called almond meal, is made from ground almonds. Compared to all-purpose flour made from wheat, it has more moisture content.
This means that when you use it in baking, the products can be prone to spoiling. If you have almond flour, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 6–9 months (source: Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health).
Other than it potentially spoiling or going rancid, almond flour is safe for pregnant women to eat.
Soaked or Sprouted Almonds When Pregnant
Some people soak their almonds before consuming them. This stems from the belief that soaking will improve tolerance in the gastrointestinal tract and help absorb nutrients better. However, studies suggest soaking has no effect (source: PubMed).
On the contrary, soaking almonds could allow the growth of salmonella, L. monocytogenes, and E. coli O157:H7, especially when proper handling and preparation methods are not observed. This is the same for sprouted almonds (source: Journal of Food Protection).
If you’ve soaked almond before, and know how to keep everything sterile, then you could continue this during pregnancy. However if the process is new to you, it might be better to avoid soaked almonds when pregnant.
And as you might already know, raw sprouts are not recommended for pregnant women. For more information about eating sprouts during pregnancy, read this article here. If your sprouted almonds are cooked, it will usually make them safe for pregnancy.
What Are the Benefits of Almonds for Pregnancy?
Almonds have a number of benefits for pregnant women. A study in India revealed that almonds help reduce LDL and maintain or increase HDL, which is beneficial in preventing cardiovascular diseases (source: NIH).
Almonds are a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids and also show antimicrobial abilities. Moreover, according to a randomized controlled study, roasted and unroasted almonds both increase the good gut bacteria (source: Nutrients).
A healthy gut is important for pregnant women because it allows the body to absorb the nutrients that are taken in through food – and the baby benefits as well!
Vitamin E is important in pregnancy as it protects the cells from damage caused by free radicals, specifically reactive oxygen species (ROS). Vitamin E also helps prevent preeclampsia (source: Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute).
Calcium is important for bone health. Having strong bones during pregnancy can help women move around better. Calcium has also been found to help prevent the risk of colon cancer and kidney stones (source: Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health).
Magnesium helps maintain and regulate functions concerning the heart, nerves, bones, muscles, and more (source: Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health). Like magnesium, phosphorus also helps keep the bones, muscles, and blood vessels healthy (source: MedlinePlus).
Biotin helps in glucose, amino acid, and fatty acid synthesis and breakdown (source: Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute).
Fiber helps regulate the body’s carbohydrate use, keeps hunger at bay, and prevents unpleasant pregnancy bloating (source: Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health).
Are There Any Side Effects of Almonds When Pregnant?
There is no scientific research about the side effects of almonds in pregnancy. However, eating too many could cause weight gain, since almonds are rich in protein and healthy fats.
One ounce of almonds (23 kernels) contains 6 g of protein and 14.1 g of fat (source: USDA).
Like most nuts, almonds should be eaten in moderation during pregnancy. Which brings us to the next topic:
How Many Almonds Can I Eat Per Day When Pregnant?
The RDA for pregnant women increases during pregnancy. For nuts, specifically almonds, ½ oz or 12 kernels per day is the recommended serving size (source: UC Davis Health System).
Is Almond Oil or Extract Safe for Pregnancy?
A study suggested that applying almond oil daily to reduce stretch marks significantly increased the incidence of preterm birth (source: Oxford Academic). For this reason, we don’t recommend using almond oil topically during pregnancy.
Almond flavorings, on the other hand, are safe when they have concentrations lower than the toxic concentration. The almond flavor you taste in sweets or drinks has low levels of benzaldehyde and cinnamaldehyde.
This means that they are low in toxicity and considered safe for consumption during pregnancy. However, inhalation and eye exposure to these can cause irritation (source: NIH).
Almonds are recommended during pregnancy as a healthy snacking option. We hope this article has helped you gain more information regarding almonds and almond products during pregnancy.