Pregnant women should avoid eating medium-well steak and only indulge in well-cooked steak. Medium-well steak poses a risk of contamination from Salmonella bacteria, Listeria, and Toxoplasma parasites, which are dangerous to the pregnant mother and her unborn child’s health. These infections can cross the placenta and have devastating effects on the fetus, including premature birth, low birth weight, and brain problems. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, pregnant women should only consume meat cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
During pregnancy, your body is pretty good at telling you what it needs, and you may find yourself craving various unexpected foods. So if your stomach is craving steak, who are you to argue?
Steak is rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals and is part of a healthy pregnancy diet.
Also a great source of L-carnitine, an amino acid essential for pregnant women as they are necessary for the baby’s growth.
The most important thing is to refresh your knowledge on the safest way to cook and eat steak to reduce your risk of foodborne infections. The key thing is to ensure that it is properly cooked with no traces of blood.
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Health risk of undercooked steak during pregnancy
When pregnant women consume steak cooked under 145 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the medium-well level of doneness, they expose themselves to dangerous bacteria and parasites that can harm them and their unborn little ones.
These risks include:
1. Listeriosis infection
Formally known as Listeria monocytogenes, this harmful bacteria can cause severe illness and, in the worst-case scenario, death in mothers and the unborn child.
Pregnant women are warned when they get positive pregnancy results about listeriosis and its risks.
It is a bacterial infection that, although rare, pregnant women are ten times more likely to get Listeria, and if they get it, they can pass it onto their unborn babies.
The infection can trigger preterm labor and cause miscarriages and stillbirths.
If you avoid medium-well and all other undercooked steaks, you’ll be fine but keep an eye out for the following symptoms of Listeriosis infection:
- Mild flu-like symptoms
- Muscle ache
2. Toxoplasmosis infection
You may become infected with the Toxoplasma parasite if you eat meat that is pink, raw, and not well done in the middle while pregnant.
This can lead to toxoplasmosis, which causes a flu-like illness that develops several weeks after being infected.
It’s a relatively mild illness for pregnant women, but it can harm the unborn baby and cause serious health problems like hearing loss, intellectual disability, and blindness.
In a few cases, it can lead to a miscarriage or the loss of a baby at birth even though toxoplasmosis in pregnant women is still very rare, and you don’t have to worry if you’ve already had undercooked meat.
Just be careful to eat it well cooked in the course of the pregnancy to reduce the risk to you and your unborn baby.
3. Food poisoning
Undercooked steak in pregnancy can also carry a risk of food poisoning caused by salmonella bacteria.
Because your immune system changes such that its primary purpose is to protect your developing baby, this makes you more susceptible to food poisoning than you were before your pregnancy.
Although Salmonella poisoning is unlikely to harm your unborn child, it can cause you to have:
- Severe vomiting and diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- High temperature
4. The risk of E-Coli
The outbreaks of foodborne illnesses caused by E-coli, popularly known as Escherichia Coli, have been attributed to the consumption of undercooked steak dishes.
Steak dishes are categorized as medium-rare, medium, medium-well, and well done based on the internal temperature reached after cooking.
According to research, the rate of foodborne illnesses from steaks contaminated with E-coli decreases from medium-well to well done.
Tips on how to cook a steak well during pregnancy
Cooking your steak until it’s at least medium-well is a good idea, but well-cooked is the safer bet. Ensure that there’s absolutely no pinkness left in the steak and that the juices don’t contain any blood.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a food thermometer if you don’t have one already so you can be sure that you’re getting your steak hot enough to be safe.
Ensure to insert it into the thickest part of the steak a few minutes before you think your steak will be done cooking to avoid overcooking it.
The Center for Disease Control also recommends that the minimum safe temperature for cooking your steak while pregnant should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit and that you should let it rest for another 3 minutes after cooking.
This waiting period helps ensure that any harmful microorganisms have been killed because the steak holds the heat in for some time after you stop cooking.
What is well done for steak?
A well-done steak is defined as steak that’s been cooked to an interior temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. And this includes burger meat.
What does medium-well steak look like?
Medium-well steak has a brown-grey color, but it still has a pale pink hint inside.
This is the preferred level of doneness for those who want their steak tender without red juices on their plate when they cut into it.
Why is my steak still pink?
One reason is the effects of nitrates that bind to proteins in meat, preventing them from releasing oxygen molecules as they normally would during the cooking process.
As a result, the proteins remain oxygenized and maintain a pink-reddish color even when the meat is fully cooked.
During pregnancy, it is best not to eat undercooked steak dishes, including medium-well steaks, because the risk of acquiring foodborne illnesses is high during this time and can lead to severe health consequences for the unborn baby.
Any type of steak can be consumed during pregnancy because of their nutritional value as long as they are adequately cooked.
Ordering well-done steak is a better option during this time, as well as cooking steak to achieve the recommended minimum safe internal temperatures.