Women are advised to avoid many types of cheese during pregnancy because of the risk of a bacterial illness that could harm both mother and baby. However, other types of cheese are a healthy addition to a pregnancy diet, and including mozzarella in moderation offers several health benefits. Mozzarella is available shredded, sliced and whole, making it easy to add to many different recipes.
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Cheese is a dairy food, which means it is a healthy source of calcium. Calcium is necessary for your baby's developing bones and teeth. Mozzarella cheese is also a good way to increase your protein intake, important for your baby's muscles, cells and overall growth and development. Opt for low-fat or part-skim mozzarella, which will help you keep your saturated fat and calorie intake moderate.
Mozzarella cheese is typically pasteurized, but if it isn't, your risk of listeria increases. Listeria is a food-borne illness that can cause complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage, premature delivery and stillbirth. Pasteurized mozzarella doesn't pose this risk because the pasteurization process kills the bacteria that causes listeria. Read packages carefully to be sure the product you are buying is pasteurized and safe to eat. Some types of fresh mozzarella packed in liquid may not be safe, so be sure to read the label before purchasing. When eating in a restaurant ask the server or cook if they use unpasteurized cheeses and avoid them if you are ever in doubt about their safety. Symptoms of listeria include, headaches, muscle aches, fever, nausea and vomiting. If left untreated you may experience a stiff neck and convulsions. If any of these symptoms appear during your pregnancy, contact your doctor right away for treatment because early intervention with antibiotics reduces the chances of health concerns.
If you enjoy making your own cheese, mozzarella can be a safe choice during your pregnancy. Be sure you use pasteurized milk to prepare it and avoid using any type of raw milk, even if it comes from your own cattle. Prepare the mozzarella in a clean kitchen to prevent cross-contamination of listeria and other potentially harmful food-borne pathogens that could come into contact with your cheese.
Mozzarella cheese is a healthy addition to a well-balanced pregnancy diet and is versatile enough to be used in many recipes. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella on pasta dishes or stir into pasta sauce. Sliced mozzarella can be used in both hot and cold sandwiches and in Italian-inspired salads or vegetable side dishes. Cubed mozzarella is a good addition to pasta salad or tossed salads. Use mozzarella on pizza, eggplant or chicken Parmesan, or baked ziti.