Can I Eat Kimchi During Pregnancy?

When pregnant ladies begin looting the fridge late at night to satisfy their vampire-like cravings, they typically scan every shelf for the pickle jar. However, there is a new, even smellier, jar in town! Thanks to its potent, sour flavor, generously fermented kimchi during pregnancy can be a tempting indulgence. There is no evidence suggesting that eating kimchi during pregnancy can cause harm to you or your infant. Pregnancy aside – research indicates that regular kimchi consumption or the intake of probiotic bacteria also found in kimchi may be beneficial.

Food cravings for fermented foods during pregnancy

Pregnancy is an exciting yet sometimes confusing time, especially when it comes to food choices. Food cravings turn into aversions and vice versa in a matter of days. This makes shopping and meal prepping extremely difficult. On top of that, many comfort foods are considered a no-go for pregnant women. However, even with these limitations, you or the soon-to-be father can craft nutritious, satisfying dishes that both you and your baby will enjoy. Kimchi is a great way to turn an otherwise bland meal into a new exciting food experience. However, some pregnant women are concerned that kimchi could be harmful to their children.

Common concerns about kimchi consumption and pregnancy

If you are pregnant and are skeptical about eating fermented foods during pregnancy may fear that kimchi…:

  • …has too much salt.
  • …has probiotic bacteria, which could be bad for the child.
  • …is too spicy for a pregnant woman.

The good reason is, even if you believe all of the above statements to be true, you could still enjoy kimchi. You can make salt-free kimchi and even kimchi without chilis or other spicy ingredients. You can kill the probiotic bacteria by heating up your kimchi to more than 100C. (For example, when making kimchi chips!). It is generally considered that the benefits of adequately made kimchi likely outweigh the risk. However, if you’re new to kimchi, there may be a few words of caution

The don’ts of eating kimchi during pregnancy

  • If you are in late-stage pregnancy and not used to fermented foods, you may want to consider taking a probiotic supplement instead of getting used to a new food that may upset your stomach.
  • If you are not experienced at making kimchi, you should consider only eating store-bought kimchi. 
  • Don’t overindulge and exceed the WHO’s recommended salt intake of 5g per day.

Potential benefits of eating kimchi while pregnant

There is plenty of peer-reviewed research documenting the potential health benefits of kimchi. It is likely that these alleged benefits may also apply to pregnant women. Here is a list of the most prominent studies suggesting that kimchi does benefit human health in a variety of ways:

Risks of kimchi during pregnancy

The few risks associated with Kimchi consumption during pregnancy likely do not justify the skepticism people have. However, kimchi consumption can have a few nasty side effects, such as triggering migraines, bloating, increased flatulence, and short-term headaches.

Botulism is a severe food-borne disease. However, it is scarce when fermenting food because botulism thrives in anaerobic environments, which is entirely different from the environment we create during the fermentation of kimchi. Most cases of botulism can be attributed to bad canning or storing techniques. However, this is why we would advise against it if you’re a newbie to food fermentation and well into your pregnancy.

How do South Koreans see it?

Kimchi is a national food and is a staple ingredient in many South Korean signature dishes. Needless to say, Koreans are generally not worried about Kimchi consumption during pregnancy and likely do not limit their intake. Nutritional research has observed that hat the average South Korean consumes around one can of kimchi (over 125g) per day! Of course, this does not prove anything; it is an interesting fact nonetheless. Ultimately it’s up to you to make an informed decision about whether or not to indulge in fermented foods.

Can i eat kimchi while breastfeeding?

If you are currently breastfeeding, kimchi should be fine in moderation. Spicy foods should not cause lactation problems. If kimchi gives your infant diarrhea, then avoid kimchi while breastfeeding. Kimchi contains ingredients like vitamins A and C as well as calcium, folate, fiber, and iron. So it’s likely beneficial for breastfeeding moms to eat kimchi! Healthy bacteria in kimchi help fight against harmful bacteria that sometimes live in a baby’s intestines and can make a baby sick. If the mother has diarrhea from eating too much spicy food, however, she should stop eating it during the breastfeeding period. The mother’s stomach will become aggravated due to the hotness of the food which might cause her stomach discomfort. This, in turn, may affect her lactation ability

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