Is Horseradish Safe During Pregnancy? Risks and Benefits

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Some pregnant women are advised to stay away from horseradish because it can cause uterine contractions. But is horseradish really unsafe during pregnancy?

If you are pregnant, do not consume horseradish in excess because large amounts of this root may act as a uterine stimulant and lead to miscarriage. It contains a compound called allyl isothiocyanate (AITC). AITC has been shown to stimulate uterine contractions, leading to miscarriage.

Aside from this, is there anything concerning? If eaten in small amounts, are there any benefits of eating horseradish while pregnant? Let’s take a closer look at this root vegetable.

Is Horseradish Safe for Pregnant Women?

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, consuming significant amounts of horseradish could be considered risky. Note that significant amounts are very often more than regular food amounts. If you stick to food amounts, then it’s likely safe when pregnant.

Horseradish contains mustard oil, which can irritate the mouth, throat, nose, digestive system, and urinary tract lining. Horseradish can also cause stomach distress, bloody vomiting, and diarrhea, among other negative effects. It also may also cause the thyroid gland to become less active (source: WebMD)

Based on one study, horseradish may cause miscarriage if taken in large amounts. Horseradish has an active compound called allyl isothiocyanate, short for AITC (source: J-stage Journal). AITC can stimulate uterine contractions that may result in miscarriage and congenital disabilities to the baby (source: New Jersey Department of Health).

Although this study was based on animals, there is still no evidence that it has the same effect on humans. But to be safe, pregnant women are advised not to consume large amounts of horseradish, and to stick to food amounts only.

homemade organic horseradish sauce in a bowl

Is Prepared Horseradish Sauce Safe for Pregnancy?

Most homemade or commercially made horseradish sauces are safe in pregnancy, in moderation.

Horseradish is commonly prepared as a sauce blended with other ingredients like cream cheese and mayo. When you need to incorporate dairy products such as cream cheese into your horseradish sauce, make sure it is pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to kill harmful bacteria (source: Food Processing Technology Journal).

When it comes to mayo, buy only those made from pasteurized eggs. Check the label to ensure the sauce doesn’t include any raw ingredients.

Aside from cream cheese and mayo, horseradish can be blended with a tomato-based sauce and served with seafood, often called “cocktail sauce”. Once again, ensure the tomato sauce is pasteurized, and the seafood is fully cooked to avoid any food-borne illness.

Also, remember that horseradish sauce is often paired with rare beef, which is not recommended for pregnant women. If you want to eat horseradish sauce, make sure it is served with fully cooked meat.

What About Horseradish Mustard or Wasabi?

Horseradish mustard is a mixture of horseradish and mustard. It’s safe to eat during pregnancy in moderate amounts. Like horseradish, it also contains allyl isothiocyanate.

On the other hand, wasabi is a type of horseradish. It’s commonly used as a condiment for sushi and sashimi. Wasabi is safe to eat during pregnancy, in moderate amounts.

Are There Benefits of Horseradish When Pregnant?

In general, horseradish is safe to eat when pregnant as long as it’s consumed in moderation. Horseradish contains essential nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

  • Vitamin C: It is beneficial for the development of the baby’s immune system (source: Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry). If you are pregnant it is best to consume 200-400 mg of vitamin C every day (source: Nutrition Reviews Journal). Horseradish has 24.9 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams (source: USDA).
  • Potassium: It aids the proper functioning of the muscles and nerves. The recommended daily potassium intake for pregnant women is  2,500-2,900 mg (source: Harvard). Horseradish has 246 mg of potassium per 100 grams (source: USDA).
  • Fiber: Fiber is essential for preventing constipation, especially during pregnancy (source: Food Science and Nutrition Journal). The recommended daily fiber intake for pregnant women is 17.3 grams (source: BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth). Horseradish has 3.3 grams of fiber per 100 grams (source: USDA).
grated horseradish, roots and leaves

I Accidentally Ate Horseradish: Can it Cause Miscarriage?

Right now, there is no specific amount or dosing of horseradish that is considered poisonous or toxic. Eating it in limited culinary amounts is considered safe for pregnant women.

Call your healthcare provider immediately if you ingested a large amount of horseradish and you’re concerned about possible adverse effects.

Horseradish is safe to eat during pregnancy as long it’s consumed in moderation. If you have concerns about horseradish, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider first.