Foie Gras is a healthy delicacy in French cuisine, rich in both flavor and history. It is also a very controversial food and has been banned in some countries.
Read on to learn if it’s safe to eat foie gras while pregnant.
What is Foie Gras?
How it’s made
Foie gras is fatty duck or goose liver. The geese/ducks are fed a high fat, corn-based diet which causes them to gain weight quickly, and fat builds up in their liver.
A fat liver is more flavourful, with a smooth and velvety texture. Birds that are fed this diet have livers that are 7-10 times larger than those eating a normal diet.
The feeding process makes foie gras controversial. Force-feeding is required for the birds to eat the amount needed to make them gain weight. Some countries do not agree with this practice.
According to the New York Times, New York City, California, and “other countries, including India, Israel, and Britain have banned the sale or production of foie gras.”
A restaurant isn’t the only place to get fresh foie gras. It’s easy to make a homemade version.
It should be stored in the fridge, unless it’s cooked foie gras, in which case it might not require refrigeration until opened, but check the label.
Foie gras is available whole, or in sections, and raw, completely cooked, or semi-cooked foie gras. Considered a luxury and is expensive.
There are a few common methods of preparation. One method is pan-fried, where the whole thing is seared on a hot pan.
Another is a terrine, where slices of foie gras are layered in a loaf pan, weighed down, baked, chilled, and sliced.
Thirdly is pâté. Cooked foie gras is pureed with other ingredients into a mousse-like texture, typically served with bread.
Health Benefits of Foie Gras
Vitamins and Minerals
One of the liver’s functions is storage, thus foie gras is naturally packed with many micronutrients. High in iron, copper, vitamins A and B12.
Iron and B12 play a role in the development of healthy red blood cells and making sure you have sufficient energy and oxygen.
Vitamin A is key in eye health, healthy growth, and immunity, all of which are important for pregnant women.
These vitamins and minerals are important during pregnancy for the birth of a healthy baby. However, as you’ll read in the section below, too much of these nutrients can be a risk to your baby.
Foie gras is naturally high in fat, therefore high in calories, and should be eaten in moderation. Foie gras contains both saturated and unsaturated fat.
Unsaturated fat is heart healthy, therefore foie gras can be part of a healthy diet.
Risks of Eating Foie Gras While Pregnant
One of the biggest reasons to avoid foie gras when pregnant is the high levels of vitamin A. During this time it’s best to eliminate all liver and other foods that contain liver, including pâté.
Excess vitamin A can build up in your body which may be harmful to your baby. Mentioned above, vitamin A is important during pregnancy. You can get enough by eating a varied and balanced diet.
Another reason pregnant women shouldn’t eat foie gras, specifically pate, is the risk of food poisoning from listeria bacteria.
Soft cheeses, such as blue cheese or raw milk cheeses also run the risk of making pregnant women sick with listeriosis.
Pate may include raw eggs and is only semi-cooked, therefore harmful bacteria aren’t killed. Listeria bacteria can cause Listeriosis, a form of food poisoning, and causes flu-like symptoms.
Pregnant women have a weakened immune system and are at a higher risk of getting sick if they consume pate that is contaminated with listeria.
All types of pate should be avoided during pregnancy, including meat, seafood, fish, or vegetables.
Homemade and raw foie gras pose the biggest risks. due to higher chances of listeria. Canned foie gras is safer since it has been cooked through heat-sterilization, and listeria has likely been killed.
However, as mentioned above, due to the high vitamin A content, it’s safest to hold off on all foie gras, regardless of if it’s canned or cooked.
Safe Alternatives to Foie Gras
If you’re looking for food with a similar nutrient profile to foie gras, eggs are a great option. Packed with protein, iron, choline, and vitamin D, and B12, they are a healthy choice for you and your growing baby.
As long as they are completely cooked, eggs are safe for the pregnant woman. Avoid: soft boiled, sunny side up, poached, and over easy. Hard-boiled, egg dishes cooked to 160 F (71C), and scrambled eggs that are not slimy, and safe to enjoy!
While nothing will have the same texture or flavour as foie gras, there are safer things to eat while you’re carrying your baby. Try vegan cheeses and spreads, which are commonly made with cashews and coconut cream. They spread well onto crackers and bread, similar to foie gras, but are safe to enjoy during pregnancy.
If you’re looking for a safe replacement for foie gras, something spreadable to eat on bread or crackers, some cheeses will fit the bill. Most hard cheeses are considered safe, and as long as it’s not mould-ripened, soft cheeses are ok too. This would include cream cheese, paneer, cottage cheese, goat’s cheese, and processed cheeses like cream cheese.
Eating foie gras while pregnant is generally not recommended. Whether it is cooked foie gras, semi-cooked foie gras, or pâté, the amount of vitamin A is potentially harmful to your unborn baby.
Additionally, the cooking method of the foie gras makes it a risky product to eat due to possible listeria bacteria. It is safest to avoid enjoying all types of foie gras until after you deliver.
Find answers to all your pregnancy questions with the Pregnancy Diet: Food & Recipes app. Packed with pregnancy-safe and easy-to-make recipes, as well as an index of foods that you should and should not eat while pregnant, all written and reviewed by certified nutritionists.
- Is foie gras safe to eat when pregnant?
Foie gras is high in vitamin A, which is a vitamin that can build up in your body. Too much of it may be toxic and lead to birth defects.
- Is foie gras fully cooked?
Some versions are, but not all of them. There is raw and semi-cooked foie gras. If you’re unsure of the cooking method of the dish, ask or read the label.
- What are the risks of eating foie gras while pregnant?
Too much vitamin A from foie gras may be harmful during pregnancy. Also, it’s advised to avoid eating raw meats due to the risk of getting sick.
- What are some safe alternatives to duck foie gras?
A safe food to eat instead of foie gras would be cooked fish, meats, some cheeses, and other pasteurized dairy products.
- Can I eat liver pâté during pregnancy?
Pâté may contain raw or partially cooked eggs, which are not safe for pregnant women. Liver is also not recommended during pregnancy.