Grappling with the question of having soy sauce during pregnancy? Well, if you love Chinese cuisine or even our desi Indo-Chinese cuisine, you are bound to think about this.
Pregnant or not, a lot of controversies are there regarding the health benefits of soy sauce. This essential ingredient is a must in different cuisines, especially the Chinese, South-east Asian cuisines, and some Western cuisine dishes. Just like any other ingredient, soy sauce also has a set of both positive and negative points, which should be considered. The importance of learning about this ingredient’s safety heightens when we are talking about a pregnant woman.
The tangy taste of the sauce mostly feels amazing for the palette when women are pregnant. It provides a change of palette for good and allows pregnant women to satiate their cravings for the time being. However, before having a dish made from soy sauce as one of the ingredients, it is imperative to learn whether soy sauce during pregnancy is safe or not.
Is Soy Sauce During Pregnancy Safe?
Before we answer whether say sauce during pregnancy is safe or not, let’s know what it essentially is and how is it made.
Soy sauce is mainly produced by the soybean’s fermentation, which releases sugar and several umami elements. It is these umami elements that result in the brown colouration of this salty condiment. In some cases, organic acids are used as a catalyst to fasten the fermentation process of soybeans.
Another major ingredient needed for the preparation of the soy sauce is wheat flour. Most times, the soy sauce varieties are high in gluten content which is a major health concern for any person, pregnant or not.
Soy sauce is also prepared in another way where the soy proteins are hydrolyzed using the acid hydrolysis method. Here, the proteins present in the soy are converted into amino acids, after which sugars are added along with flavouring agents to bring out the real taste of soy sauce.
The Nutritional Composition Of Soy Sauce
Most pregnant women have cravings for eating Chinese food during pregnancy or similar oriental and western cuisine. In these foods, soy sauce is one of the major ingredients. And since, in pregnancy, you always have to be extra careful of the foods you are eating, understanding the nutritional content of this salty condiment is important.
One tablespoon of fermented soy sauce contains:
- One gram of carbohydrates, the source of which is the added sugars released into the sauce during fermentation
- No fat is present because both wheat flour and soybeans are free of this particular nutrient
- One gram of protein mainly comes from soybeans
- Approximately 900 grams of sodium, which is why soy sauce tastes salty and is considered one of the major sources of this mineral
Besides these nutrients, soy sauce also contains many amino acids like glutamic acid, several organic acid chains, and other compounds. These are generated due to the prolonged formation of fermentation of the soy proteins. Gluten is present in a high amount, courtesy to the wheat flour present in soy sauce.
What Does Craving Soy Sauce During Pregnancy Imply?
It is not uncommon to crave soya sauce during pregnancy. However, there is a reason behind this particular food craving. And since soy sauce is one of the most controversial eatables, especially for pregnant women, one needs to learn about the reason for soy sauce cravings.
- Sometimes, due to the loss of excess water from the body, the sodium content can decrease. Under such events, you will automatically crave sodium-rich foods to fulfil the deficiency. And since soy sauce is rich in sodium content, craving soy sauce during pregnancy is common
- One of the major reasons for craving this dark, salty condiment is a change of palette. Food cravings manly occur due to sudden changes in taste buds, and hence, if you are craving soy sauce, do not take it as an abnormal act
Can I Eat Soy Sauce During Pregnancy?
As we have already said, the subject concerning soy sauce safety during pregnancy is quite tumultuous. On the one hand, the nutritional content of this food ingredient is beneficial for a pregnant woman. On the other hand, several compounds are there, like glutamic acid, gluten, isoflavones, and others that are not quite good for pregnant women.
This is why no particular or definitive study can claim the safety of soy sauce during pregnancy. Similarly, apparent studies are indeed there claiming that having this salty Chinese ingredient is not safe. But, no factual claim is available.
For this reason, doctors usually suggest either to control the intake of soy sauce during pregnancy or find some other alternatives in case you really like it.
Potential Risks Of Consuming Soy Sauce During Pregnancy
Several studies have discovered that most components present in the soy sauce are not safe for pregnant mothers in one way or the other. As the nutrients taken by the mother’s body directly or indirectly affect the growth of the fetus, the placental cells, and the secretion of the mother’s pregnancy hormones, taking soy sauce during pregnancy regularly or in high amounts is not suggested.
Here are some of the potential risks that this Chinese condiment poses for a pregnant woman.
1. Phytic acid blocks mineral absorption
Studies have shown that some soy sauce varieties are there, which contains a high amount of phytic acid. This particular organic compound blocks the capability of your gut to absorb the minerals in the blood. This mainly includes calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, and zinc. All these minerals are essential for the proper growth of both the mother’s and the fetus’s body.
The deficiency of iron will cause anemia in the mother, which will inversely affect the baby. Calcium and zinc are essential for maintaining the musculoskeletal system’s health, the deficiency of which will cause weak bone formation in the fetus. This is one of the potential dangers of having soy sauce varieties containing phytic acid.
2. High sodium content increases BP
Sodium is essential in maintaining proper mineral and water balance in the mother’s blood and important for fetal growth. This is why the moment your body will lose sodium rapidly. You will start having cravings for salty foods like soy sauce. However, even though this particular food ingredient is high in sodium content, doctors usually suggest having no soy sauce during pregnancy.
This is because prolonged intake of the condiment will increase your blood’s sodium content, thereby causing potential damage to your body. First of all, several studies have revealed that with increased sodium levels, the mother’s BP can increase, which will harm the pregnancy. Also, excess sodium will increase water retention, which will further cause several problems during the entire pregnancy.
3. Isoflavones might trigger anti-estrogenic actions.
Isoflavones are chemical compounds that behave like human estrogen hormone and binds with the concerned receptors after entering the bloodstream. This will cause adverse effects in the body, like retarding placental cells’ growth, reduced growth of mammary glands, and others.
This is one of the main reasons which doctors usually suggest not to consume soy sauce during pregnancy.
4. Rich in gluten content
Due to wheat flour’s addition to soybeans during the fermentation process, the soy sauce is very rich in gluten. For women with celiac disease, gluten consumption is extremely harmful, no matter in which quantity they are taking this compound.
According to the studies, in women with celiac disease, gluten can trigger abnormal abortions or miscarriages during the first trimester. Apart from that, chances of premature deliveries also increase in such cases, which further put both the mother and fetus at life risk.
What To Do If You Crave Soy Sauce During Pregnancy?
Suppose you want to enjoy the benefits of soy sauce during pregnancy without worrying about the potential risks. In that case, you need exercise moderation on the consumption of the ingredient or look for alternatives.
Based on your health conditions and the fetus’s growth rate, your doctor will suggest the standard intake of soy sauce, which wouldn’t be harmful to you or the baby.
But, if you are restricted to take soy sauce during pregnancy, you can try out the alternatives.
Healthier Alternates For Soy Sauce During Pregnancy
While looking for the alternatives for the traditional soy choice, your main concern should be low sodium content, gluten-free, and less phytic acid content. You can try dark soy sauce during pregnancy which usually has lower sodium content, and the total gluten percentage is almost minimal.
Another soy sauce substitution you can try is the tamari. This product usually has a different taste as compared to soy sauce. But, it is perhaps the closest ingredient with normal sodium levels and no gluten.
Some doctors suggest having soy sauce because of the low content of monosaturated fatty acids and the high glutamic acid content. However, this particular ingredient has more potential risks as compared to the plus points. This is why searching for other alternatives is a feasible idea. This way, you will be able to enjoy your Chinese dishes and keep yourself and the baby safe.