Cantaloupe is often cautioned against during pregnancy due to food safety concerns, yet this orange fruit is also a great source of essential nutrients that support a healthy pregnancy. So how exactly do the risks stack up against the benefits?
Cantaloupe is delicious, nutritious, and can be perfectly safe to enjoy during pregnancy so long as you keep food safety in mind. Opt to buy a whole melon instead of pre-cut, and slice yourself after thoroughly washing the outside of the fruit.
If you have read our watermelon article, you may be familiar with some general melon safety concerns. Cantaloupe is often queried on it’s own so I have put together this complete guide to cantaloupe safety and health benefits.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Cantaloupe (Rockmelon)?
Cantaloupe, also known as rock melon, sweet melon, or muskmelon (muskmelon is also the category of melon that cantaloupe belongs to) is a popular summertime fruit.
Cantaloupe gives many pregnant women pause due to its association with foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls- more on this below. But should the concerns about cantaloupe be enough to bar the melon from your pregnancy diet?
When it comes to cantaloupe flesh, the orange-hued part of the fruit we typically eat, there’s nothing inherently unsafe about it.The reason many women are cautioned against eating cantaloupe is a food safety concern, and not a nutrition or vitamin toxicity concern.
If washed and prepared properly, cantaloupe can be a perfectly safe and healthy addition to your diet, even while pregnant.
Melons, including cantaloupe, are prone to bacterial contamination, but washing and safe preparation methods can help mitigate this risk whilst still allowing you to safely enjoy cantaloupe throughout your pregnancy.
Does Cantaloupe Carry the Risk of Listeria? Is It Safe?
It is no surprise that many pregnant women are wary of enjoying cantaloupe due to the risk of bacterial contamination. After all, there have been a few recent recalls of cantaloupe related to food poisoning (source: CDC, FDA).
Quite recently, in October of 2020, a grocery and gas station chain recalled fresh-cut melon from 6 different states across the United States (source: FDA). These fruits were contaminated with Salmonella.
But cantaloupe is no different than most other fruits and veggies while pregnant. Thorough washing and safe food handling can keep your cantaloupe safe and limit your risk of foodborne illness.
Cantaloupe carries risk of foodborne poisoning due to bacterial contamination on the outer rind, or skin, of the fruit. These bacteria are most often Salmonella or Listeria, the latter of which poses a very serious health risk to both mom and baby.
While the outer rind, where the bacteria are found, is not typically eaten that doesn’t mean you’re safe by sticking to eating the orange flesh. If not washed properly, slicing the melon can cause the bacteria to be transported from the rind to the flesh (source: FDA).
Luckily, this type of contamination can be prevented by following a few simple guidelines.
For starters, avoid pre-cut melon. This includes fruit trays/platters, fresh-cut fruit in clamshells, fresh fruit cups when dining out, and pre-sliced melon halves or quarters from the grocery store.
In buying pre-cut produce, especially melon, you’re trusting that the person cutting the fruit was following all of the proper washing, sanitizing, and preparation methods.
The best easy to ensure safety is purchasing whole cantaloupes and slicing them at home. When you prepare the fruit at home be sure to thoroughly wash the outside of the melon before slicing on a clean cutting board with a clean knife. After cutting, the melon should also be kept in the refrigerator.
If you haven’t already read our guide to washing and preparing fresh fruits and veggies, check it out here and follow the steps to ensure your produce remains pregnancy safe.
While cantaloupe does carry risk for bacterial contamination, such as Salmonella and Listeria, sticking to buying whole melon and preparing the fruit at home using safe food handling steps is enough to keep you and baby safe.
Is Cantaloupe OK in Early Pregnancy/The 1st Trimester?
Food safety is a major concern for many women, particularly during the first trimester as it’s a sensitive time for baby’s growth and development.
Since cantaloupe is easily contaminated, it’s important to follow the safe preparation method outlined above. Similarly, pre-cut melon should be avoided in favor of cutting a slice of the fruit yourself. Just like any other trimester, if prepped properly, cantaloupe can be kept safe to enjoy during early pregnancy.
Health Benefits of Cantaloupe for Pregnant Women: Is It Good for Me?
Cantaloupe is an unsuspecting nutrition powerhouse, especially during pregnancy!
A single cup of the fruit contains 95% of your daily need for vitamin C, needed to support your immune system and important during pregnancy (source: Mayo Clinic).
A one-cup serving also provides over 100% of your vitamin A, mainly in the form of beta-carotene. Because the vitamin A in cantaloupe is in the form of beta-carotene, there is no need to limit your serving size as beta-carotene is not associated with the same vitamin A toxicity as the retinol form of vitamin A (source: Teratology, NIH). We have a separate article with more on Vitamin A during pregnancy.
Eating cantaloupe is even encouraged during pregnancy due to the potassium, necessary to prevent muscle cramps and keep your heart pumping in tip-top shape (source: Johns Hopkins Medicine).
Finally, cantaloupe contributes 21.7 micrograms of folate per cup of the fruit (source: USDA). While this may not seem like much compared to the recommended 600 micrograms daily during pregnancy, folate is incredibly important. It is needed for the development of the baby’s nervous system and the prevention of neural tube defects (source: March of Dimes).
Cantaloupe is a great source of many of the essential vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. Just be sure to wash the fruit thoroughly before digging in!
Why am I Craving Cantaloupe?
Just like other fruits, cantaloupe is commonly craved by pregnant women. Fruits are even one of the most commonly craved foods during pregnancy (source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Aside from shifting hormones, there’s no known culprit of food cravings.
Rest assured, however, that cravings are a perfectly normal and natural part of pregnancy for many women.
When it comes to cantaloupe cravings, you can safely satisfy your cravings for the fruit no matter what trimester you are in. Be sure to follow proper washing, slicing, and refrigeration and steer clear of pre-cut cantaloupe. If you want to know more about cravings, we have a citrus/fruit craving article right here.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Cantaloupe Seeds?
While it might be a lesser-known snack option, like many other melon seeds, cantaloupe seeds are edible. They’re most often eaten roasted, similar to other seeds, such as pumpkin (source: California Cantaloupes). Check out the California Cantaloupes website for a few easy ways to prepare them.
Muskmelon seeds also follow a similar nutrition profile to other nuts and seeds. They are good sources of many vitamins and minerals, B6, B12, rion, zinc, magnesium, and calcium which are particularly helpful during pregnancy. Further, 100 grams, or a little under ¼ of a pound, of melon seeds boast 21 grams of protein (source: Cook’n)!
Since you eat melon seeds whole, they’ll also provide a good amount of fiber, helping you to maintain regular digestion and beat pregnancy-related constipation, too.
Full of beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and folate, eating cantaloupe is a great way to get in some of the essential pregnancy nutrients. Even cantaloupe seeds are edible!
While the fruit is cautioned due to recent recalls and the risk of bacterial contamination, you can still make cantaloupe pregnancy-safe. The two keys to safety are avoiding pre-cut melon thoroughly washing before you slice. Enjoy!