Can I eat mopane worms when pregnant?

Craving your pap and masonja? Dig in says registered dietician Thembekile Dhlamini.

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Moms, did you know, gram for gram, mopane worms contain more protein than other animal foods? Experts recommend that pregnant women eat between 75-100g of protein per day. So, if you’ve been wondering if you can eat mopane worms during pregnancy – the answer is absolutely! The American Pregnancy Association says protein is important for your unborn baby’s healthy development. Not only does protein build up your baby’s soft tissue, the placenta and your red blood cells, it also helps form your baby’s hair, nails, bones and organs.

ALSO SEE: 25 foods you should include in your pregnancy diet

What are the benefits of eating mopane worms during pregnancy?

“Mopane worms are a good source of protein with high levels of iron, calcium and phosphorus, all of which are essential nutrients required during pregnancy,” says registered dietician and spokesperson for the Association of Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), Thembekile Dhlamini.

She says mopane worms contain 64g more protein than found in meat and fish, offering more than 55g per 100g of protein per serving.

“Anaemia has been shown to be a problem in pregnancy, so eating mopane worms can help prevent the development of this condition because of its high iron content,” says Thembekile.

According to WebMD, pregnant moms need twice the amount of iron they did before they were expecting because the body uses iron to make extra blood for your baby. “Getting enough iron can prevent a condition of too few red blood cells that can make you feel tired, called iron deficiency anaemia. Having anaemia can cause your baby to be born too small or too early,” they explain.

Pregnant moms should be taking in 27mg of iron per day. You should get most, if not all, of your iron needs from your prenatal vitamin. But it’s a good idea to eat more iron-rich foods such as mopane worms or red meat.

“Mopane worms are also a great source of fibre, which is known to aid in the proper functioning of the gastro-intestinal tract while avoiding constipation-related problems,” says Thembekile.

ALSO SEE: Dealing with constipation and 4 other pregnancy niggles sorted

She adds that research has shown that mopane worms are high in protective nutrients (the nutrients that help protect the body from diseases) and can be an especially valuable source of nutrition for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children in rural communities.

As mopane worms are harvested between August and November, most are sundried for preservation so they can be available throughout the year. Thembekile says some preservation methods may contain sodium (salt), so pregnant moms should soak their mopane worms before cooking them to lower the sodium levels. While there’s no need to restrict your salt intake during pregnancy, too much of it can cause excess fluid retention – especially later during your third trimester.

ALSO SEE: 6 common pregnancy aches and pains and how to deal with them

More about the expert:

Thembekile Dhlamini is a registered dietician and spokesperson for the Association of Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA). She’s also a researcher and lecturer at the Stellenbosch University in the Global Health/Division of Human Nutrition. Her research interests include maternal and child health, food security and food environments. Learn more about Thembekile Dhlamini here.

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