bowl of miso soup

Miso Soup in Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

When you’re pregnant, we know that moms will do just about anything to ensure the health of their baby, even if it means temporarily giving up foods that they love.

And there can be some anxiety about whether certain foods are safe during pregnancy. Often they will cut out these foods entirely, “just to be on the safe side.”

We totally get that. 

Truthfully, there are very few foods that have to be cut out entirely, including miso soup.

In this article, we will discuss safety considerations when eating miso soup in pregnancy.

Let’s dive in!

What is Miso Soup? 

Miso soup is a salty, savory soup common in Japan. It can be found at Japanese restaurants, ready-made at the grocery store, or homemade.

Miso soup recipes can vary significantly, but often contain the following: 

  • Dashi – a broth commonly made with kombu (seaweed)
  • Miso – a fermented paste usually made from soybeans
  • Dried bonito (fish) flakes
  • Tofu
  • Vegetables
  • Fish
  • Meat

Is Miso Soup Healthy?

Some health benefits of miso soup include protein, vitamins, and minerals. The specific types of nutrients vary depending on how it is prepared, but miso soup is usually very nutritious.

Ingredients like meat serve as a good source of protein, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. Adding tofu to miso soup would also provide a good source of protein and calcium. Leafy green vegetables, such as bok choy and swiss chard, would add vitamins A, C, and K to your soup.

Miso Paste in Pregnancy: Safe or Unsafe?

It depends. 

Miso paste is a fermented product. This means that it has gone through a process to intentionally grow bacteria that contribute to the unique flavor of the paste and good bacteria for your gut health. Unfortunately, fermentation can also provide harmful bacteria an opportunity to grow. 

It is not recommended to eat any unpasteurized products during pregnancy, whether homemade, store-bought, or restaurant-made. 

Seaweed During Pregnancy: Safe or Unsafe?

Moderate amounts of seaweed are generally considered safe during pregnancy.

The debate around seaweed in pregnancy is around this iodine content. Adequate iodine intake is necessary for thyroid function, and too much iodine can negatively impact thyroid function.

We also know that iodine needs increase during pregnancy.

The FDA has not released specific guidance as to the amount of seaweed that is safe during pregnancy. However, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (one of Australia’s government health agencies), recommends no more than one serving of brown seaweed per week.

With that being said, seaweed is a nutritious food when eaten in moderation. Seaweed contains folate, calcium, potassium, and vitamin K, all of which are beneficial in pregnancy. 

Fish in Pregnancy: Safe or Unsafe?

Moderate amounts of fish in pregnancy are considered to be safe, but there are a few things you need to know.

Fish need to be fully cooked to kill any potentially harmful bacteria.

“Moderate” amounts of fish is considered about 2 servings per week (8-12 oz/week). Don’t let this scare you away from fish altogether though. Fish during pregnancy has been associated with brain development in babies.

Avoid fish that is high in mercury. High mercury fish include shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. 

Risks of Miso Soup in Pregnancy

Other than the food safety considerations we’ve discussed, miso soup is high in sodium. 

Eating large amounts of sodium can sometimes increase fluid retention, which you may already be dealing with during your pregnancy.

If you have been told by a doctor or dietitian to limit your sodium intake, you may want to eat miso soup sparingly. 

Otherwise, pasteurized or pre-packaged miso soup varieties are safe in all three trimesters of pregnancy. Pasteurized miso soup is also safe while breastfeeding.

Can miso soup help relieve nausea?

Miso soup may be particularly nourishing for women who have struggled with nausea. 

Drinking the soup’s broth can help replace the fluid and sodium losses from vomiting. Plus it contains other nourishing vitamins and minerals.

For these reasons, broth soups can be helpful for women with morning sickness.

So, can pregnant women eat miso soup?

Generally speaking, miso soup is safe during pregnancy. Just ensure that all ingredients are pasteurized and thoroughly cooked before eating. 

If in doubt, opt for a instant miso soup. This will allow you to enjoy miso soup in pregnancy without worrying about pasteurization or cooking methods.

Alternative Options for Soup in Pregnancy

If you would rather go a different route, below are some other ideas for healthy soup for pregnancy.

Chicken soup in pregnancy 

Mmm. Who doesn’t like a warm bowl of chicken soup?

Chicken soup is considered safe during pregnancy. In fact, it can be great option to get some nutrition while dealing with nausea. 

The noodles are typically made from simple carbohydrates, making it quick to digest. Easy-to-digest foods are ideal when you don’t feel well. When foods digest quickly, they spend less time in your stomach.

The chicken provides some protein to help with muscle building and repair. 

And like miso soup, the broth is both hydrating and a good source of salt. So if you’ve been getting sick, this can be a way to help replenish the fluid and sodium losses.

This chicken soup from Ambitious Kitchen contains all the warm, comforting qualities of chicken soup as well as ginger, which can help relieve nausea in pregnancy. If you don’t feel up to cooking, don’t be afraid to keep a couple cans of chicken soup on hand, such as this one from Annie’s.

Vegetable soup for pregnancy

Vegetable soup in pregnancy is considered safe. 

Like with chicken soup, vegetable soup during pregnancy can help provide some extra sodium, fluids, and nutrients in an easy-to-digest meal.

Cooked vegetables are often easier to digest than their raw counterparts, so this can be a great way to sneak in some extra vitamins and minerals without as much stomach upset.

Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have at home. This vegetable soup recipe from Cooking Classy uses several canned and frozen ingredients, making a good options when you’re tired and don’t want to spend your day chopping a bunch of vegetables.

For an even easier option, buy a jar of canned vegetable soup for a quick and easy meal, such as this one from Rao’s.

When having vegetable soup as a meal, it is important to include a source of protein. Many vegetables soups contain only vegetables. While these are rich in vitamins and minerals, they often lack enough protein to meet your needs. Consider adding cooked meat or beans to your soup to boost the protein content of your vegetable soup.

Bone broth, pregnancy, and safety considerations 

Bone broth has been gaining increased popularity for its high collagen content. 

It is important to note that some studies have shown elevated lead content in bone broths compared with water, including in broths made from organic chickens. 

In this study, the lead concentration from the bone broth was 7.01-9.50 ug/L. For reference, the EPA has established a maximum allowable concentration of lead in tap water at 15ug/L. 

With that being said, consider limiting your intake of bone broth during pregnancy to reduce lead exposure.

Final thoughts: Is Miso Soup Safe in Pregnancy?

Generally speaking, miso soup in pregnancy is considered to be safe. 

However, it is safer to buy instant or pre-packaged versions of the soup, which have been pasteurized or freeze-dried, than it is to make the soup yourself. 

Luckily, there are some pasteurized miso pastes available on the market. Pasteurization kills off the harmful bacteria that may be lingering in your miso paste.

We hope you can enjoy your miso soup in pregnancy knowing that there was ways to minimize any potential risks for you or baby. 

If you found this article helpful, check out our other articles on fennel seeds in pregnancy and pregnancy breakfast ideas.

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