Is fermented food safe during pregnancy?

Eating fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut during pregnancy is generally considered safe and healthy. Fermented foods provide probiotics, which support gut and immune health. However, there are a few precautions pregnant women should take when consuming fermented foods.

Are fermented foods safe to eat when pregnant?

Yes, fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh are usually safe to eat during pregnancy when prepared properly. The fermentation process encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics support digestive and immune system health, which is especially important during pregnancy.

The probiotics in fermented foods can help prevent issues like constipation and yeast infections, which are common during pregnancy. Studies show probiotics may also reduce the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and other pregnancy complications.

Unless you have an allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity, fermented foods are perfectly safe in moderation as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet during pregnancy.

Are there any risks or precautions with eating fermented foods while pregnant?

There are a few precautions to keep in mind when eating fermented foods during pregnancy:

  • Avoid raw, unpasteurized fermented foods – The fermentation process encourages bacterial growth, and pathogenic bacteria like Listeria or E. coli could potentially grow. Pregnant women have an increased risk of foodborne illness, so only choose pasteurized dairy products and cooked, shelf-stable fermented foods.
  • Watch your sodium intake – Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and miso are high in sodium. Eating too much sodium can increase blood pressure and swelling, which are already common during pregnancy.
  • Introduce new fermented foods slowly – Start with small servings of new fermented foods in case they upset your stomach. The high probiotic content can cause gas, bloating, or diarrhea.
  • Avoid homemade fermented foods – Making fermented foods at home raises the risk of contamination and foodborne pathogens. Unless you are highly experienced, purchase fermented foods from a grocery store.

As long as you take precautions, the benefits of probiotics from fermented foods generally outweigh any potential risks during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

What are the health benefits of eating fermented foods during pregnancy?

Here are some of the top evidence-based health benefits of eating fermented foods while pregnant:

  • Probiotics – Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, live microorganisms that support gut and immune health. Probiotics help reduce inflammation, digestion issues, yeast infections, and other common pregnancy complaints.
  • Nutrient absorption – Probiotics may improve the absorption of nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, which are important during pregnancy.
  • Heartburn relief – The probiotics in some fermented dairy foods can help improve digestion and provide relief from pregnancy-related heartburn.
  • Blood sugar control – Eating yogurt and other fermented dairy has been associated with lower risk of developing gestational diabetes. Probiotics may support healthy blood sugar levels.
  • Mental health benefits – Fermented foods provide probiotics that interact with gut bacteria linked to mental health. They may help reduce anxiety and depression during pregnancy.
  • Immune support – Probiotics stimulate immune cells and support the health of the mucous membranes, providing immune protection for both mother and baby.

In addition to probiotics, fermented foods provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Always choose pasteurized dairy products and fully cooked fermented foods to maximize safety.

What are the best fermented foods to eat during pregnancy?

Some of the top fermented foods that are safe and recommended for pregnant women include:


Yogurt is a delicious source of probiotics, calcium, and protein. Just confirm the yogurt contains live active cultures and has been pasteurized. Opt for plain Greek yogurt to avoid excess added sugars.


This fermented milk beverage has a smooth, drinkable yogurt-like texture. It provides a diverse array of probiotic strains. Choose pasteurized kefir to avoid foodborne illness.


Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans with a firm, chewy texture. It’s an excellent source of plant-based protein, probiotics, and nutrients. Purchase cooked, shelf-stable tempeh and avoid raw tempeh.


Spicy, pickled kimchi provides probiotics benefits alongside the vegetable nutrition. Look for pasteurized kimchi in the refrigerated section and avoid raw homemade kimchi.


Rich in probiotics, sauerkraut offers a tangy kick to meals. Refrigerated sauerkraut is the safest option, rather than unpasteurized canned or jarred varieties.


This traditional Japanese seasoning is made from fermented soybeans. Miso adds savory umami flavor to soups, sauces, and more. Purchase pasteurized miso rather than raw miso paste.

Some other safe fermented foods to consider include kombucha, sourdough bread, pickles, cultured cottage cheese, kimchi, and natto. Always check the label and avoid high sodium varieties.

Are there any fermented foods to avoid during pregnancy?

There are some fermented foods that should be avoided or limited during pregnancy due to higher risk of contamination:

  • Unpasteurized dairy – This includes raw milk, some yogurts, soft cheeses, and kefir. The bacteria Listeria monocytogenes is a concern. Stick to pasteurized dairy products.
  • Unpasteurized juices -Unpasteurized juice or cider can harbor pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Only consume pasteurized juices.
  • Raw honey – Honey can contain bacterial spores that cause botulism poisoning. Children under 1 year should avoid honey, though pasteurized honey is likely safe during pregnancy.
  • Home fermented foods – The fermentation process is prone to contamination when not commercially controlled. Avoid homemade kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, pickles, or kombucha.
  • High sodium foods – Limit intake of very high sodium fermented foods like soy sauce, fish sauce, and salty pickled items to avoid increased blood pressure.
  • Alcoholic kombucha – While non-alcoholic kombucha is fine, avoid kombucha with alcohol content higher than 0.5% ABV while pregnant.

When in doubt, pasteurized and commercial fermented options are safest. Talk to your doctor about any questionable homemade, raw, or unpasteurized fermented foods.

What are the best ways to incorporate fermented foods into your diet during pregnancy?

Here are some simple ways to enjoy fermented foods and get their probiotic benefits during pregnancy:

  • Eat plain Greek yogurt topped with fruit and granola for breakfast
  • Blend kefir with fruit for a smoothie
  • Drink a small glass of kombucha as an afternoon snack
  • Add sauerkraut or kimchi to grain bowls or sandwiches
  • Mix miso paste into soups, broths, marinades, or dressings
  • Make a salad dressing with oil, vinegar, yogurt or kefir
  • Add tempeh crumbles to a stir-fry or veggie chili
  • Use yogurt instead of mayo or sour cream as a sandwich spread or dip
  • Top baked potatoes with yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi

Aim for at least one serving of a probiotic-rich fermented food per day. Always start with a small portion to assess your tolerance. Pay attention to sodium content, especially later in pregnancy.

How much fermented food is safe to eat during pregnancy?

Current guidelines do not define a specific recommended amount of fermented foods to consume during pregnancy. As a probiotic source, most health organizations recommend ingesting between 1 billion to 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs) of probiotics daily while pregnant.

This recommendation can generally be met by eating about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of a fermented food like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, etc per day. However, the number of probiotics can vary widely based on the specific food and preparation method.

To get the most probiotics, look for labels that state “live and active cultures” or list the number of CFUs per serving. Slowly work fermented foods into your diet and pay attention to your body’s response. Avoid eating excessive amounts.

Serving size examples of common fermented foods:

Food Serving Size
Plain yogurt 6 ounces
Kefir 1 cup
Kimchi 1/2 cup
Sauerkraut 1/2 cup
Tempeh 1/2 cup chopped
Miso 1 tablespoon

Listen to your body and discontinue eating fermented foods if they cause diarrhea, cramping, or other digestion issues.

Are probiotic supplements safe and effective for pregnancy?

In some cases, taking a daily probiotic supplement can help pregnant women meet the recommended intake of 1-10 billion CFUs per day. However, dietary sources are preferable when possible.

Probiotic supplements may be beneficial for women who experience severe heartburn, constipation, yeast infections, or other gastrointestinal issues during pregnancy. Research on specific strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus help prevent preterm labor and eczema in infants.

If taking a probiotic supplement, select one specially formulated for pregnancy and start with the lowest dosage. Probiotic supplements are considered generally safe during pregnancy, but be sure to discuss taking any supplement with your obstetrician first.

Are there any side effects or risks from eating fermented foods during pregnancy?

Eating fermented foods is typically very safe during pregnancy when basic precautions are taken. However, some potential side effects include:

  • Gas or bloating – It’s common to experience increased gas, bloating, or even constipation when first introducing fermented foods. Start with small servings and gradually increase intake.
  • Foodborne illness – There is a small risk of illness if consuming contaminated unpasteurized foods. Stick to cooked, shelf-stable varieties.
  • Allergic reaction – Those with milk, soy, wheat, or other food allergies/sensitivities should avoid problematic fermented foods.
  • High blood pressure – Limit higher sodium fermented foods to avoid exacerbating pregnancy-related blood pressure concerns.
  • Listeriosis – This infection is rare but serious. Avoid unpasteurized dairy, soft cheeses, deli meats, raw sprouts, and smoked seafood.

When in doubt, talk to your obstetrician about any cramps, illness, allergic response, or other concerns after eating fermented foods.

Can you eat too much fermented food while pregnant?

It is possible to overdo it on fermented foods during pregnancy. Consuming too much can lead to unpleasant digestion side effects. Here are some tips for preventing overconsumption:

  • Stick within the recommended daily serving sizes of about 1/4 to 1/2 cup per day
  • Aim for just 1-2 servings of fermented foods daily, and vary the sources
  • Divide intake into smaller portions throughout the day rather than one large serving
  • Listen to your body’s signals – reduce intake if you experience gas, bloating, or loose stools
  • Avoid excessive sodium intake from high salt fermented foods later in pregnancy
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help digestion and prevent dehydration

It’s perfectly safe to eat fermented foods daily during pregnancy, but moderation is key. Focus on getting probiotics from a varied, well-rounded diet rather than overloading on fermented foods.

The bottom line

During pregnancy, the probiotics and nutrients in fermented foods can support digestion, immunity, and overall health for mom and baby. Enjoy yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and other fermented options within moderation as part of an overall healthy diet.

Take basic precautions like choosing cooked, pasteurized varieties over raw, homemade ferments. Introduce new fermented foods slowly and stop eating them if you experience adverse side effects. Discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

Aim for 1-2 servings of probiotic-rich fermented foods per day during pregnancy alongside plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. Eating a diverse, balanced diet with fermented options can help optimize your health during this important time.

Leave a Comment