Miso soup has long been thought of as a nourishing, healthy option compared to other soups that are creamy and calorie-laden. When you’re pregnant, there are other things to consider about miso soup, including how it’s made, what is served with it, and how often you should eat (or drink) it.
Can You Have Miso Soup When Pregnant? Miso soup is generally safe in pregnancy depending on the ingredients used in the soup blend. Those watching their soya or sodium levels should monitor their intake of miso soup.
There are as many types of miso soup as there are brands of it, so I’ve tried to list many popular ones here, along with common safety considerations in pregnancy. If you’re a Japanese food fan I also covered many more dishes on my guide to eating out when pregnant, which includes Japanese restaurants.
Is Miso Soup Safe In Pregnancy?
Miso soup has so many variants it’s hard to give a blanket answer that will cover all types of miso soup. On the whole, miso soup is pregnancy-safe. Ingredients and types that you may be wondering about are:
Annie Chun, Clearspring and other popular brands – these are safe in pregnancy as the ingredients are either freeze-dried, pasteurized or both. However, check the sodium content as it can be quite high, depending on serving size.
Instant miso soup – whether in powder or paste form, commercially-made instant miso soup is safe in pregnancy. Again, it depends on the serving, but it can pack a lot of sodium.
If you read some of the ingredient labels you’ll see that many commercial miso soup mixes can be very high in sodium (salt); up to 50% of the recommended daily intake, in some cases.
Researchers in 2011 in Japan found that pregnant women who were eating a diet of mainly fruit, veg, miso soup and fish were getting more nutrients than other control groups, but they also had the highest sodium intake (source: The Nutrition Society Journal).
Sodium should be limited to 2,400mg a day, and there is no need to change this during pregnancy. In other countries, ingredients may be listed as salt rather than sodium, which isn’t the same thing. In the UK, the daily limit is 6g salt. In the US, it’s 2,400mg (or 2.4g) of sodium. They’re actually the same thing – 6g of salt contains 2.4g of sodium.
If you go over the limit occasionally it’s not necessarily harmful, but high-sodium diets may cause or exacerbate fluid retention, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy (source: Parents.com).
For this reason, it’s useful to monitor the amount of sodium you’re eating throughout the day. You may easily go over recommended limits without realizing it, particularly if you eat or drink miso soup.
A good tip to remember is that the lighter the miso soup (e.g. white miso), the lower the sodium content is, compared to darker varieties (e.g. red or brown miso).
Ingredients in Miso Soup And Their Pregnancy Safety
Some miso soups contain vegetables, tofu, seafood, noodles or other additions in order to make them a more complete meal. Besides the sodium content, you should look for ingredients added to miso soup that may need further consideration if you’re pregnant. For example:
Seafood – some miso soups have added seafood such as clams, shrimp, prawns or other seafood. So long as this seafood is fully cooked, it’s safe to eat with miso soup. Check a small piece first and ensure it’s cooked all the way through.
Seaweed and sea vegetables – these are safe to eat in pregnancy if they’re cooked, and are very common in most miso soups.
Egg – some miso soups or ramen versions come with an egg (sometimes a ‘tea-stained egg’). Ensure it’s been hard-boiled or fried until the yolk is cooked through, with no soft yolk or center. Runny or raw eggs may be unsafe in pregnancy due to the risk of salmonella.
For more on this, you might be interested in another article I wrote covering egg safety in pregnancy.
Tofu or soy – these are often found in small amounts, added to various types of miso soup. Soy products like edamame and tofu are safe in pregnancy.
However, if you have been told to avoid soya (for example, if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or hypothyroidism), then you should restrict your intake of soy (source: NHS). Bear in mind that miso paste itself is also often made from soy which has been fermented. For more on tofu and pregnancy, see our dedicated article here.
Mirin and sake – these Japanese alcoholic drinks are sometimes added to the miso soup base as a flavoring. The alcohol is cooked out almost completely and is used in such small amounts it’s not significant enough to have an effect in pregnancy.
Vegetables – miso soup sometimes contains veg or is topped with sliced scallions/spring onions. These are safe to eat if you’re pregnant, if they’ve been fully washed beforehand.
Pay more attention to the topping of the miso soup (such as scallions) as these will not be cooked in the soup. If you have any doubts about the washing of the vegetables, then skip the topping.
Noodles (udon, ramen, etc.) – all noodles are OK to eat in pregnancy, in moderation, as many of them are classed as starchy carbs (like wheat noodles, for example).
Unpasteurized or homemade miso paste – this is one of the few items you should watch out for if you’re pregnant.
Many commercially made fermented miso pastes are OK in pregnancy, however, homemade fermented foods are more likely to have cross-contamination during or after the fermentation process, simply because home cooks are more prone to making errors than a sterile factory would.
If you’re going to have miso soup in pregnancy, it’s better to stick to commercially-made pastes, packets and powders.
The Benefits of Miso Soup in Pregnancy: Is It Good For You?
High sodium aside, miso soup is renowned for having many nutrients. It’s an excellent source of vitamin K, Manganese, Zinc, Copper and Riboflavin.
It’s also high in protein, making it a healthy yet filling soup option (source: Nutrition Data). Since miso is made from fermented ingredients, it’s a good natural source of probiotics, too (source: APA).
Adding extra veggies of your own, coupled with a handful of carbs like wholewheat noodles or potato cubes, it can be a complete, filling, healthy meal option, albeit one that is high in sodium. If you’re making your own miso soup from scratch, you can use less miso paste (or use white miso) to combat the salt intake.
Is Miso Soup Good For Morning Sickness?
At the moment, there are no definite medical trials that report miso soup being effective in combating morning sickness. However, there are lots of reports of women feeling better after eating miso soup to combat morning sickness (or nausea in general).
All the evidence is anecdotal, but it can’t hurt to try it. Start with a small amount and see if it improves your symptoms. At the very least, it will go some way to rehydrate you if you’ve been sick – though remember to drink lots of water, too. Some morning sickness remedies are covered in my pregnancy-safe food and treats section, too.
Can I have Miso Soup in All Trimesters?
Pregnant women can safely eat miso soup in the first, second or third trimesters if they keep an eye on sodium intake. In the third trimester in particular, eating a lot of high-sodium foods may cause fluid retention.
Miso soup is a good, nutritious option for pregnant women, but check labels first and ensure it’s not going to frequently send you over the recommended daily limit of salt (6g) or sodium (2,400mg), which is about a teaspoon of salt (source: NHS).