Pho is a great source of protein and vegetables but with concerns about fish, raw foods and bean sprouts during pregnancy, it’s no surprise that many pregnant women will find themselves double checking if pho is safe during pregnancy.
Pho is generally safe during pregnancy. However, there is a concern with some ingredients such as undercooked meat, fish or toppings like beansprouts, which all have to be cooked thoroughly to make them pregnancy-safe.
I’ll walk you through what ingredients are safe, the benefits of pho and how you can enjoy it during pregnancy.
Is Pho Safe During Pregnancy?
Pho is safe during pregnancy. The worry during pregnancy is less about pho soup in general, and more about some of the common ingredients and toppings.
Pho is usually made with rice noodles which are perfectly safe during pregnancy. That said, if you come across wheat noodles and even egg noodles those are safe too as they have already been cooked.
The broth used in pho which can include bone broth and broth made from meat, is also safe while you’re expecting.
The toppings are really what determine if pho is safe. Here are some common pho soup ingredients:
- Ramen egg – a runny egg is more common in ramen, hence the nickname “Ramen egg” but it can be found in pho too. Raw and undercooked eggs are not safe during pregnancy. A Ramen egg needs to be modified by ensuring any eggs have been cooked all the way through, or keep them out of the dish entirely.
- Bean sprouts – bean sprouts and other kinds of sprouts such as alfalfa and clover, are a big concern during pregnancy because they are much more susceptible to bacterial contamination. Also, they are usually sprinkled on top of pho, so aren’t cooked enough to make them safe.
Sprouts are tricky because pathogens such as Listeria, E. coli and salmonella can enter the seeds, which makes it impossible to wash away and then can have very high levels of bacteria by the time they have sprouted (source: FDA).
Sprouts are safe if they have been cooked thoroughly to 165°F/75°C. If there are any doubts that they have not been cooked well enough then it’s best to skip them. Read more about sprouts during pregnancy here.
- Hoisin sauce – The main ingredient in hoisin sauce is fermented soybean paste. The remaining ingredients vary but often include peanut butter, sweet potato, wheat, rice, water, sugar, sesame seeds, white distilled vinegar, salt, garlic, red chili peppers, and preservatives or coloring agents in store-bought hoisin.
While there is some concern about fermented foods like kimchi (especially when it comes to making them at home) commercial sauces are made in sterile conditions. Hoisin sauce is therefore safe during pregnancy.
- Beef – All meat including beef, needs to be fully cooked during pregnancy. Chicken is sometimes used in pho as well as or instead of beef or pork, which also needs to be fully cooked with no pink meat left. Ordering roast beef slices with your pho? You’ll need our guide to roast beef when pregnant.
- Chili – it may come as a surprise, but chili and other hot spices are perfectly safe during pregnancy however it may cause some digestive discomfort. If you like spicy foods, check out our article all about them here.
Is Pho Healthy for Pregnancy? Are There Benefits?
The nutritional breakdown of Pho varies. One three-cup bowl (742grams) of tofu pho could be 352 calories (source: Nutritionix) while another same-sized bowl of a different kind of pho with beef could be 638 calories (source: Nutritionix).
However, it is a great source of protein, water, vitamins and minerals during pregnancy.
The soup is water-based rather than cream-based which is great for hydration. Pho is a handy way to consume more liquids if you don’t feel like drinking water, or struggle to drink enough.
The main concern with pho is the high sodium content. One serving of pho will often take you over the recommended daily amount of sodium, which is 2,300 mg per day – about one teaspoon (source: FDA).
While high levels of sodium have been linked to cardiovascular disease, studies have found that in some instances developing renal or cardiovascular diseases could be linked back to fetal origins (source: HHS Public Access).
While overconsuming sodium on an infrequent basis is considered safe, overconsuming on a regular basis is an issue. If you’re eating LOTS of pho during pregnancy, you might want to try lower sodium options, or to make your own broth.
That said, the remaining ingredients and nutritional breakdown of pho are quite healthy.
100 grams of pho can provide 6.6 grams of protein. A portion this size contains 4.9% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C, and 5.2% of your iron requirements.
It also contains small amounts of vitamin A (1.7%) and calcium (1.2%). What makes pho great is that it contains a wide range of spices and vegetables, each with their own benefits for pregnant women.
Joint pain is not uncommon during pregnancy, but the good news is that bone broth (which is a key part of pho) contains glucosamine, chondroitin, and collagen which have been associated with promoting joint health (source: BMJ). It’s also a great source of glycine.
Ginger is another common ingredient that is linked with alleviating joint pain and inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger helps reduce inflammation (source: International Journal of Preventative Medicine). It can also help with morning sickness and other pregnancy-related nausea.
If you want to lower your sodium in pho, the best thing to do is to make the broth from scratch. It’s also worth going easy on soya sauce and hoisin sauce which contain 37% of your daily salt allowance (879mg) and 11% (258mg) in a tablespoon respectively (source: Nutritionix, Nutritionix).
Overall, pho is generally safe and even healthy during pregnancy – but be careful about the toppings and ensure that they’re okay to eat first!