Eating garlic during pregnancy is generally considered safe and healthy in moderation. Garlic contains vital nutrients and has some potential benefits for pregnant women. However, consuming large amounts of raw garlic or taking garlic supplements is not recommended. Here is an in-depth look at the safety, benefits, and risks of eating garlic during pregnancy.
Is it safe to eat garlic while pregnant?
Yes, eating garlic in the amounts typically used for flavoring foods is considered safe during pregnancy. Garlic is a common cooking ingredient in many cuisines around the world. There is no evidence that the amounts of garlic used for seasoning foods have any detrimental effects in pregnancy.
However, consuming large amounts of raw garlic or taking high doses of garlic supplements is not recommended. Eating raw garlic on an empty stomach may cause heartburn or digestive upset. High doses of garlic supplements may act as a blood thinner, which can be dangerous during pregnancy.
The typical recommendation is to limit garlic intake to normal food amounts, rather than taking large doses as a supplement. Regular culinary use of garlic appears to pose no risks in pregnancy.
What are the benefits of eating garlic during pregnancy?
Garlic offers several potential health benefits when consumed in moderation during pregnancy. Some of the main benefits include:
- May help fight infections. Garlic has antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties that may help the immune system combat illnesses.
- May boost immunity. Garlic contains compounds like allicin that have immunostimulant effects.
- May promote heart health. Garlic acts as a blood thinner and may mildly lower blood pressure.
- May alleviate digestive issues. Garlic has prebiotic effects that promote good gut bacteria.
- Contains beneficial nutrients. Garlic provides manganese, vitamins B6 and C, selenium, fiber, and antioxidants.
Studies show garlic supplementation in pregnant women may lead to lower rates of some complications like preeclampsia, bacterial and fungal infections, and high blood pressure. More research is still needed though.
Are there any risks or side effects of eating garlic during pregnancy?
Eating garlic in normal food amounts is likely safe, but there are some potential side effects to be aware of:
- May cause heartburn. Garlic can relax the lower esophageal sphincter and worsen acid reflux.
- May irritate the digestive tract. Large amounts of raw garlic could cause nausea, bloating, gas pain, or diarrhea.
- May act as a blood thinner. High doses could increase bleeding risk, so care should be taken before surgery.
- May interfere with medication. Garlic can interact with blood thinners, HIV treatment, and cyclosporine.
- May contain toxins. Raw or improperly stored garlic may harbor bacteria like E. coli or Botulism.
Cooking garlic reduces these risks. Let your doctor know if you experience any worrisome side effects after eating garlic.
How much garlic can you eat while pregnant?
There is no established safe upper limit for garlic consumption during pregnancy. Up to 2-3 cloves (approximately 6-9 grams) of fresh garlic per day is generally considered moderate and safe.
Consuming garlic in whole food form with meals is preferable to taking concentrated garlic supplements. High doses of garlic supplements above 10 grams per day could have blood thinning effects, so they are not recommended.
As a guide, the German Commission E approved the internal use of garlic preparations corresponding to 4-12 grams of fresh garlic. So eating 1-3 average cloves per day falls within established safety thresholds.
Are there benefits to eating raw garlic when pregnant?
Raw garlic contains higher concentrations of beneficial compounds like allicin compared to cooked garlic. However, raw garlic is also more likely to cause digestive issues and heartburn.
Lightly cooking garlic retains some of the nutritional benefits while making it gentler on your stomach. Some tips for getting the benefits of raw garlic include:
- Crush or slice garlic and let it sit for 10 minutes before cooking to allow allicin formation.
- Add raw minced garlic at the end of cooking instead of at the start.
- Make garlic-infused oil by sautéing garlic in olive oil, then straining out the garlic.
If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid large amounts of raw garlic, especially on an empty stomach. Focus on cooked garlic to minimize side effects.
What types of garlic can you eat during pregnancy?
Common types of garlic that are safe to eat in pregnancy include:
- Fresh garlic – Fresh, raw garlic cloves are the most pungent form.
- Jarred, minced garlic – A convenient alternative with a milder flavor.
- Garlic powder – Made from dehydrated, ground garlic cloves.
- Garlic salt – Garlic powder with added salt.
- Garlic extract oil – Oil infused with the flavor of garlic.
- Roasted garlic – Whole garlic bulbs roasted to caramelize and mellow the flavor.
Avoid garlic in oil mixtures that are homemade or have been stored improperly, as these could harbor botulism bacteria. Commercially prepared, stabilized garlic in oil products are safe.
Can you take garlic supplements when pregnant?
Garlic supplements are not recommended during pregnancy. While food forms of garlic appear safe up to about 2-3 cloves per day, garlic supplements have more potent effects and lack long-term safety research.
Garlic supplements have been linked to an increased risk of bleeding. The anticoagulant effects get stronger as the dosage increases. Supplement doses are much more concentrated than the amounts typically used in cooking.
Also be cautious about garlic’s medication interactions. Garlic can potentially interfere with blood thinners, HIV medications, cyclosporine, and more. High-dose garlic supplements could make these interactions more likely.
Unless recommended by your doctor, it’s wise to avoid garlic supplements and stick to garlic in food. Target garlic intake of no more than 2-3 cloves per day.
What foods contain garlic that are safe to eat during pregnancy?
Here are some examples of healthy foods containing garlic that pregnant women can safely eat in moderation:
|Food||Serving Size||Approx. Garlic Content|
|Garlic bread||1 slice (28g)||1-2 cloves garlic|
|Hummus||0.5 cup (130g)||1-2 cloves garlic|
|Garlic shrimp||3 oz (85g)||2-3 cloves garlic|
|Garlic potatoes||1 cup (156g)||2-4 cloves garlic|
|Garlic noodles||1 cup (140g)||1-2 cloves garlic|
Sautéed vegetables, pasta sauces, pizza, soups, stir fries, and dressing/dips with garlic are also fine in moderation. Just avoid eating more than 2-3 cloves per day.
What types of garlic-based medicines and herbal remedies exist?
Some traditional herbal medicine systems use garlic for therapeutic purposes. Examples of garlic-based remedies include:
- Garlic oil – Oil infused with garlic, traditionally used for antifungal and ear infections
- Aged garlic extract – Aged, concentrated garlic liquid with proposed immunity benefits
- Garlic honey – Raw honey with garlic, used as an antioxidant and antimicrobial remedy
- Garlic poultice – Crushed garlic applied topically for skin infections or splinters
- Garlic juice – Fresh garlic juice, used historically for hypertensive disorders
However, the safety and efficacy of these garlic remedies during pregnancy is uncertain. Herbal products are not regulated by the FDA. Consult your doctor before using any garlic herbs or supplements while pregnant.
Are garlic pills safe during pregnancy?
No, garlic supplements and garlic pills are not considered safe during pregnancy and are not recommended. Garlic pills contain concentrated, powdered garlic at doses much higher than typical dietary intake.
Some risks and side effects associated with garlic supplements are:
- May increase bleeding risk due to antiplatelet effects
- Lack safety data in human pregnancies
- Unknown effects on labor and delivery
- Potential medication interactions
- Higher likelihood of digestive irritation
While garlic appears safe in the small quantities used in foods, the concentrated form in supplements lacks research on its safety profile for pregnant women and fetuses. For this reason, garlic supplement intake should be avoided unless approved by your healthcare provider.
Can you consume pickled garlic when you are pregnant?
Yes, small amounts of pickled garlic are likely safe to consume during pregnancy. Pickled garlic refers to garlic cloves that have been brined or preserved in vinegar.
Benefits of pickled garlic include:
- May promote probiotic gut bacteria
- Contains antioxidants that help support immunity
- Provides valuable nutrients like vitamin C, manganese, and B vitamins
- Brining may enhance bioavailability of certain compounds
Potential side effects of pickled garlic are similar to those of raw garlic, but likely lower due to the brining process. Consuming normal food amounts of pickled garlic is unlikely to pose risks. But as a precaution, limit intake to 2-3 cloves per day and avoid eating it on an empty stomach.
Does garlic cross the placenta barrier?
Yes, components of garlic can cross the placenta barrier. When garlic is consumed by the mother, its bioactive compounds enter the bloodstream and circulation system and can reach the developing fetus via the placenta.
Studies found allicin, one of garlic’s main active compounds, was able to transfer rapidly through the placenta when given to pregnant rats. Other rodent studies observed radioactively labeled garlic components distributing to fetal tissue after maternal intake.
However, the amount of placental transfer may depend on the form and dosage of garlic. More research is needed on garlic’s placental transfer and effects in human pregnancies.
Can eating garlic induce labor?
There is no scientific evidence that eating garlic induces labor in pregnant women. Garlic is not considered an effective method of naturally inducing labor.
Some key points about garlic and inducing labor:
- No evidence from studies that garlic stimulates uterine contractions
- Used traditionally but lacks safety data on its effects
- May cause side effects like heartburn before labor if over-consumed
- Insufficient dosage and potency when consumed in normal food amounts
While garlic in food is likely safe, taking concentrated garlic supplements could be risky due to potential blood thinning effects. Always consult your doctor before using any herbs for labor induction.
Can pregnant women eat black garlic?
Yes, eating black garlic during pregnancy is likely safe in moderation. Black garlic refers to fresh garlic that has been aged and fermented whole under controlled heat and humidity.
Potential benefits of black garlic include:
- Higher concentration of sulfur compounds compared to raw garlic
- Less harsh, more tender texture and sweeter flavor
- Higher antioxidant levels which may boost immunity
Risks of black garlic are lower than raw garlic, since the aging process mellows its effects. But caution is still warranted, and intake should be limited to about 2-3 cloves per day. Excessive intake on an empty stomach may cause digestive upset.
Can pregnant women drink garlic water?
Drinking small amounts of garlic water is generally safe during pregnancy. Garlic water is made by infusing crushed garlic in hot water, which extracts some of its bioactive compounds.
Potential benefits of garlic water include:
- May stimulate immunity and circulatory health
- Alternative way to obtain garlic’s nutrients and antioxidants
- Imparts milder garlic flavor compared to eating raw cloves
However, excessive garlic water intake could have blood thinning effects in pregnancy. Limit use to 1-2 crushed garlic cloves in 8 oz water per day. Avoid drinking garlic water on an empty stomach as it may cause digestive discomfort.
Eating garlic in moderation during pregnancy is considered safe and offers health benefits. Consuming garlic in amounts found in normal foods poses little risk. However, excessive intake of raw garlic, concentrated supplements, or garlic herbs is not recommended.
When preparing garlic, opt for cooked forms as these are gentler on your stomach. Consume no more than 2-3 cloves per day to stay within safe limits. Let your doctor know if you experience concerning side effects after eating garlic.