Food Additives During Pregnancy

Most of the processed foods that we eat are filled with additives and preservatives. These are intended to improve the look, flavor, and longevity (shelf life) of these foods. While most of them are not dangerous during pregnancy, there are some additives that should be avoided.

The most important tool you have for protecting yourself and your baby from potentially harmful food additives is carefully reading product labels, and knowing what to look for.


Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a common additive in many processed foods including canned vegetables and frozen foods. Research shows a potential link between MSG and neurological disorders, and it can also affect your blood pressure, especially if it is already high.

Artificial Colors

Some are safe, but some are decidedly not. To make it easier on yourself, avoid artificial colors altogether; but just in case, it’s good to know which ones have been linked to serious conditions such as cancer. Completely avoid: Blue #1, Blue #2, Citrus Red #1. Citrus Red #2, Green #3, Red #3, Red #40 and Yellow #6. These are all potentially harmful to both you and your growing baby.

Nitrates and Nitrites

Found in processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon and sausages, these can cause a dangerous blood disease in your unborn child.

Artificial Sweeteners

There are a number of artificial sweeteners on the market today designed to lower the calorie content of foods. They are normally found in diet foods, however, watch for them in foods labeled “No Sugar Added”, as often artificial sweeteners have been added instead. The most common types of artificial sweeteners are aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin.

Of these three, saccharin is the one you most need to avoid. The FDA requires that foods contain it carry a warning on the label – not a good sign for consuming it during pregnancy.

Aspartame is a controversial sweetener; some say it is ok in moderation, but there have been studies linking it to various diseases, so it’s best to avoid it altogether. Sucralose is generally considered to be safe; however it has not been around long enough or tested well enough in pregnant women to be certain.

Other Additives to Avoid

Watch out for any food that contains BHA or BHT, Heptylparaben, Mannitol and Disodium Guanylate, Propyl Gallate, and Sodium Aluminum Silicate. All of these additives have been linked with fetal harm and should be avoided completely during pregnancy.

Safe Additives

There are some food additives that might sound dangerous but actually aren’t. Many of these are vitamins being added to fortify food. Folic acid, an important B vitamin during pregnancy, is a healthy additive in your food. Ascorbic acid is also ok, although it sounds a bit scary! It’s actually vitamin C. Natural additives such as pectin or citric acid are also safe during pregnancy.

The best way to avoid getting any of the dangerous additives is to eat fresh, home made foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible. When you do pick up a can or jar off the shelf, read the label carefully. If you aren’t sure what something is, look it up before consuming it. Look for foods labeled “all-natural” “no preservatives” and “no additives”. These foods may be more expensive and less convenient, but when your baby’s health is on the line, it is worth the extra time and expense.

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