Beets (or beetroot) are a versatile, healthy veggie that can be an excellent addition to your pregnancy diet.
Since they can be eaten in so many ways (juiced, raw, pickled or cooked), I’ve written this in-depth guide to beets during pregnancy so you’ll know how to get the best out of beets, and what the benefits are for you and baby.
There are also some potential side-effects of eating beetroot and beets when you’re pregnant (and even if you’re not), so these are covered here too, plus other common questions about beetroot powder and juice.
Are Beets Good or Bad For Pregnant Women? What Are The Benefits?
Beets are a great option in pregnancy for most women (the exceptions, such as if you’re prone to kidney stones, are covered later in this article).
This article is relevant for all ‘beets’ and beetroots, even though they come in different colors. The red beet is the most common, but there are golden and white varieties, too. They can all be treated the same way when it comes to pregnancy safety.
Rather than just being told that beets are nutritious, it helps to know how they’re giving you essential vitamins and minerals that you’ll need during pregnancy. Here are some benefits of beets, and why they’re such a good choice:
- They’re naturally high in folate
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is the naturally-occurring form of folic acid. Folate is essential in pregnancy as it prevents neural tube defects (source: PubMed).
Beets are a good source of folate, with around 1 microgram of folate per gram of beets (source: USDA). That’s pretty high, but you shouldn’t rely on food alone to give you enough folate – it’s very hard to get enough through diet alone (source: NIH).
However, beets can be a healthy and nutritious way of getting some folate naturally.
- They’re packed with vitamins and minerals
One cup of raw beets clocks in at just under 60 calories, and gives you around 3.8g of fiber, 11% of the recommended intake of vitamin C, and many other vitamins and minerals such as Thiamin, vitamin B6, Iron, Magnesium and Potassium.
All these are needed in pregnancy. Vitamin C is key to your baby’s development. Iron increases hemoglobin production (red blood cells) for both you and your baby. Magnesium may reduce complications like fetal growth restriction (FGR) and preeclampsia, too (source: PubMed).
- Beets may treat fetal growth restriction
Studies are ongoing, but beets may help avoid fetal growth restriction (FGR), which is when a developing baby’s growth slows or stops.
A joint study by the British Heart Foundation and British charity Tommy’s found that beetroot juice might help prevent FGR, as beets are naturally high in nitric oxide. Nitric oxide can improve blood flow to the placenta by reducing blood pressure (source: Tommy’s).
The research is ongoing, and further studies are being planned.
Is It OK to Drink Beet (Beetroot) Juice During Pregnancy?
Juicing is a good way of getting many of the benefits of beets in one go – it takes around two average beets to make one glass of juice.
However, juicing often means that the pulp – which contains most of the fiber – is left behind.
Eating whole beets means you still have the benefits of beets, plus the fiber – but this is a personal preference and there’s nothing wrong with juicing beets instead of eating them if that’s what you prefer.
Homemade or Fresh Raw Beetroot Juice
If you’re making your own beetroot juice, make sure that the beets are thoroughly washed first, or ideally, are peeled and then washed. You might want to wear gloves when you do this as it tends to dye your hands a disturbing red color!
Beets must be thoroughly cleaned because they’re grown in soil, which is a source of Toxoplasma gondii.
Toxoplasma is the parasite that causes Toxoplasmosis. This may result in serious complications in pregnancy and is why all pregnant women should wash produce carefully before eating it, especially if you’re not going to cook it.
Since beetroot juice is almost always consumed raw, this is particularly important.
Store-Bought or Commercial Beet Juice
If buying beetroot juice rather than making it yourself, make sure it’s pasteurized.
The FDA recommends that pregnant women avoid unpasteurized juice as it may contain harmful bacteria (source: FDA).
This is the type of juice sold by the glass at farmer’s markets and in some stores. Unpasteurized juice in a store or supermarket is usually labeled as such, with a warning.
Shelf-stable, pasteurized beet juice is fine for pregnant women to drink. Check the label first – it almost always states if it’s pasteurized or not.
Are Pickled Beets Safe When Pregnant?
Most pickled foods like beets are safe during pregnancy. The curing process and the acidic nature of the pickle combat any bacterial growth.
Pickled veggies are also one of the most craved foods during pregnancy, so if you’re hankering after some pickled beets, here are some tips:
- Opt for commercially-produced pickled beets. These are the shelf-stables ones in stores or supermarkets, such as Jake & Amos or Baxter’s. “Shelf-stable” products are on the shelf, not in a refrigerated section and are pasteurized or sterilized.
- Homemade pickled beets are also OK, but pay attention to stringent sterilizing of jars and containers to avoid cross-contamination. Make sure you stick to a safe recipe with adequate amounts of acidity and salt, so bacteria can’t grow (source: NCHFP).
- Recipes or store-bought beets that are cooked and then pickled should all be safe in pregnancy, as bacteria will have been killed during the cooking process.
Cooked V Raw Beets During Pregnancy
Beets are safe both cooked and raw when you’re pregnant.
The only issue with raw beets (for example, in a beetroot salad), is that you should wash them thoroughly – click here for a complete guide to washing fruit & veggies when you’re pregnant.
Because raw veggies haven’t been subjected to any heat, bacteria has to be removed by washing alone, as it won’t be removed by cooking.
If you’re cooking beets, any bacteria – even on the surface of them – will be killed once the cooking temperature reaches over 165 F or 74c.
You should still wash them before cooking, though, as beets often have loose debris and soil on them.
Pro Tip: Roast beets in the oven in their skins (they take about an hour at 375F / 190C, depending how big they are). This makes them sweeter and tastier. When they’re done, the skins can be rubbed off easily. Add a bit of salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar and they’re ready to eat – and delicious!
Is Beetroot Powder Safe When Pregnant?
Beetroot powder is likely to be safe during pregnancy if you’re only consuming it in ‘food amounts’ rather than larger, medicinal amounts, such as those in supplements (source: WebMD).
Check the ingredients of the beetroot powder – it should be close to 100% dehydrated/dried beetroot, and possibly a small amount of anti-caking agent.
Beetroot powder should be used in the same quantities as fresh beetroot after water is added to it. For example, you could use it in place of fresh beetroot in:
- Soups and stews
- Dips and sauces
- As a drink (mixed with water)
Since it’s powdered/dried, beetroot powder is sterile and safe for pregnant women to eat, even if it’s made from raw beetroot.
Is There a Best Time to Eat Beets During Pregnancy? Can I Eat Them in the First Trimester?
You can safely eat beets during any trimester, including the first trimester.
There is no real ‘best’ time to eat beets. Try to include them in a variety of whole foods, lean protein, fruit, and veggies throughout your pregnancy.
There are some people who should avoid or cut back on beets, which is covered below.
Side Effects of Beets During Pregnancy – When to Avoid Beets
First thing’s first: eating beets can turn your pee an alarming red or pink color, so be aware of this before you tuck in! The first time it happened to me, I freaked out a little (as many people do, mistaking the pink/red color for blood).
This is a harmless side effect called beeturia. It’s nothing to worry about, and should disappear a day or so after eating beets.
If you’re prone to kidney stones, it may be better to avoid eating beets. This is because beetroot is high in oxalate, which can cause the formation of kidney stones.
There’s much more oxalate in beet leaves than the roots, but it’s still a consideration if you’re particularly prone to kidney stones (source: PubMed).
Finally, if you suffer from IBS, beets are often classed as high FODMAP food. If you are trying to manage IBS or other gut-related issues, check first with a medical practitioner or your dietician whether or not it’s suitable for you to eat beets. This applies to both pregnant and non-pregnant women.
Overall though, beets are a safe, healthy, tasty and nutritious part of any pregnancy diet, and can be eaten in a versatile number of ways.
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