Tamarind may be an unusual food to women in the Western hemisphere, but many of our international readers question this fruit. As with other types of produce, many women also wonder if there are special safety considerations or even health benefits from eating tamarind.
According to the FDA, tamarind is “generally recognized as safe” and this extends to pregnancy as well. Not only safe, tamarind is also a good source of many important nutrients that help support a healthy pregnancy.
Whether or not you’re already familiar with tamarind, it’s natural to wonder how you can safely enjoy the fruit during pregnancy. I’ll break down any risks, the benefits of tamarind, and also the different varieties available.
Is It Safe to Eat Tamarind When Pregnant?
By botanical standards, tamarind is a fruit grown on trees, but it is also considered to be a legume. Tamarind trees produce pods that look almost like large, brown pea pods. The edible portion of the fruit is the pump surrounding the seeds inside of the pod.
Tamarind is eaten in a wide variety of ways. The pulp can be eaten raw, pressed into a block, drank as juice, made into extracts and other seasonings, and even turned into candy. The flavor of tamarind can also change.
The fruit starts out sour, but sweetens as it ripens. This is where the terms “sweet tamarind” and “sour tamarind” come from. Not surprisingly, sweet tamarind is more often eaten raw or used for candies.
Luckily, despite the variation in preparation and even flavor, the safety of tamarind is consistent. While no formal studies have verified the safety of eating tamarind while pregnant, the tropical fruit and its extracts are considered to be “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA (source: FDA, Sci Pharm).
For those women who have a medical need to control blood sugar levels, such as if you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, keep in mind that tamarind is over 60% carbohydrate. 1 cup of the raw fruit has 75 grams of carbohydrate (source: USDA).
Can I Eat Tamarind in Every Trimester?
Cravings often accompany pregnancy, especially during early pregnancy/the first trimester. Interestingly, a study from India found that sour tamarind was one of two most commonly craved foods by the pregnant women in the region (source: The Royal Society Publishing).
Knowing how often tamarind is craved during early pregnancy, it’s natural to wonder whether or not it’s safe to eat even during this more sensitive time.
When eaten in typical food amounts, the FDA recommendation that tamarind is “generally recognized as safe” still applies during all stages of pregnancy: no matter if you are in your first, second, or third trimester. There are also no particular nutrients in tamarind that are of concern during this special time.
Benefits of Tamarind in Pregnancy: Is It Good for Me?
Possibly best known for the antioxidant properties in tamarind seed, tamarind pulp also offers an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals (source: Food Science and Nutrition).
A single cup of raw tamarind pulp contains over 20% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B1. Both magnesium and potassium are electrolytes, and not getting enough of these nutrients can lead to muscle cramps.
The high amount of magnesium is also helpful for supporting a healthy pregnancy, as low maternal magnesium is associated with preeclampsia and restricted fetal growth (source: Advanced Biomedical Research). For more foods high in magnesium, check out our guide here.
The same amount of tamarind is also a good source of iron, which helps support the increase in maternal-fetal blood volume during pregnancy (source: UT Southwestern Medical Center). If you’re low on iron, you should also read our list of iron-rich foods for pregnancy.
Beyond vitamins and minerals, tamarind can help alleviate pregnancy-related constipation, as 1 cup of the fruit has a whopping 6 grams of fiber (source: USDA). If constipation is bothering you throughout your pregnancy, our guide to high-fiber (and safe!) foods can help.
How Much Tamarind Can I Eat Daily During Pregnancy?
Knowing that tamarind is safe during pregnancy, and even has some health benefits, can you get too much of a good thing?
The short answer is no, there is no hard and fast limit on how much tamarind is “safe” to eat. Do bear in mind, the FDA’s position that tamarind is safe as a food and food additive (think tamarind flavor extract) applies when tamarind is enjoyed in typical food amounts.
Tamarind is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, but none of these nutrients put you at particular risk for overdoing it. While there is an established upper limit for how much magnesium is safe, rest assured that this limit is just for supplemental magnesium, such as magnesium pills or tablets, and not magnesium from foods (source: NIH).
Because the fruit is quite high in carbohydrates, if you have a condition such as diabetes or gestational diabetes, be mindful of your portion size and count these carbohydrates towards your daily total if you have a limit set by your medical care provider.
Does Tamarind Affect Fertility?
Lastly, but certainly not the least, we have received several queries regarding tamarind’s ability to help conceive.
While there’s no clear link between the two, any possible connection wouldn’t be completely unfounded. Tamarind seeds are known for their antioxidant capabilities, and other antioxidant-containing foods have been associated with fertility in the past (source: Journal of Food Science and Technology).
Oxidation of the ovum (or egg) is associated with negative impacts on fertility (source: Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology). For tamarind, or any other antioxidant, to assist in conception, the underlying cause of your fertility struggles would need to be related to oxidation.
Currently there is no existing research on eating tamarind seed as a way to decrease oxidation and boost fertility.
Overall, whether you enjoy tamarind on a regular basis or are just being introduced to this tropical fruit for the first time, tamarind is safe to eat during all stages of pregnancy. Its fibrous pulp is a great source of fiber while also contributing generously to your daily magnesium, potassium, iron, and vitamin B1 needs.
While the fruit seeds are known for their antioxidants, it’s not yet clear if eating tamarind or its seeds will boost fertility – though there is no harm in eating the fruit when trying to conceive.