Are Capers Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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The salty, tangy taste of capers adds a burst of flavor to any dish. But should pregnant women eat them?

Capers are safe to eat when pregnant but only when they are consumed in moderation. A serving of one tablespoon already contains 202 mg of sodium, and too much sodium or salt is not good for the mother or baby. 

How many capers are safe to eat, and do they offer any benefits during pregnancy? Find out more below!

Are Capers Safe to Eat When Pregnant?

Capers are safe to consume during pregnancy, as long as they are not eaten in larger amounts. 

Like olives, capers are not eaten raw or fresh because they are bitter in their natural state. In grocery stores or online, they are available as salted or pickled. They can be suspended in brine, pickled, or packed in salt granules (usually in sea salt). 

When harvested, caper buds are grouped by size: small, medium, and large. The smaller the buds of caper, the better the quality and the higher the price. Apart from salting or brining, the capers can also be pasteurized (source: Specialty and Minor Crops Handbook). 

Their classification by size includes:

  • Nonpareilles (less than 7 mm)
  • Surfines (7–8 mm)
  • Capucines (8–9 mm)
  • Capotes (9–11 mm)
  • Fines (11–13 mm)
  • Gruesas (more than 13 mm)
Pickled flower buds of caper or capers in the wooden dish.

Capers less than 7–8 mm contain more flavonols than their larger counterparts (source: Plants (Basel).

Capers are the flower buds of the plant Capparis spinosa, or caper bush. Caper berries, on the other hand, are the fruit of the plant.

While capers are often used in food dishes, caper berries are served with cocktails as a garnish or on antipasti platters. Both capers and caper berries are usually pickled.

Even the dried leaves of Capparis spinosa are useful as a rennet alternative when making top-quality cheeses (source: Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension). 

Capers add that extra touch of deliciousness to every dish, whether baked, grilled, steamed, or fresh, most commonly in salads and pasta!

Capers are also commonly used to flavor tartar sauce, toasted bagels, and salad dressings, or as a topping for baked fish and other Mediterranean dishes. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Capers During Pregnancy

Capers have been found to help improve biochemical markers in patients with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), according to a randomized double-blinded clinical study.

The study also reported that capers can help decrease triglycerides (source: Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin). 

The prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) during pregnancy has almost tripled in the last ten years and can affect maternal and perinatal events (source: Journal of Hepatology). 

Capparis spinosa fruit extract has also been found to decrease fasting blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. However, the effect on gestational diabetes is unknown (source: Complementary Therapies in Medicine). 

According to another study, capers are a significant source of polyphenols, particularly flavonoids (source: Plants (Basel).

Flavonoids help by fighting oxidative stress, which can occur during pregnancy. An increase in oxidative stress can lead to problems such as pre-eclampsia and even miscarriage.

Studies suggest that consuming foods rich in flavonoids like quercetin (present in capers) during the early stage of pregnancy can help against oxidative stress and improve placental health (source: Biochemical Pharmacology).

capers in tartar sauce

However, capers should be consumed in moderation because of their salt content. 

The dietary recommendation for adult Americans (pregnant or not) is 2,300 milligrams per day (source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans). 

A 100 g serving of capers contains 2,350 mg of sodium. This exceeds the daily limit. Even a tablespoon of capers has 202 mg of sodium (source: USDA Food Data Central).

Two tablespoons of capers will give you 1/6 of the recommended sodium allowance for the day.

Too much salt is not good for both the mother and the baby. A diet high in salt can result in problems with the baby’s renal and cardiovascular functions (source: Journal of Endocrinology).

On the contrary, a diet low in salt from conception and during the whole pregnancy may reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia and miscarriage (source: Medical Hypotheses). 

With this said, capers are still a delicious ingredient to add to recipes in moderation. We hope this article has answered all your questions about enjoying them during pregnancy.