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Bresaola During Pregnancy



Bresaola is a typical cold cut from northern Italy. The most renowned one originates from Valtellina (province of Sondrio, Lombardy) and enjoys the recognition of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

Bresaola is obtained from the processing of some muscles located in the hind limbs of the beef or horse (topside, underside, topside and underside). The meat, after being trimmed, salted and left to rest (about 15 days), is bagged and matured (at least 30 days). It is therefore a preserved meat that falls into the fundamental group of foods.

In the kitchen it is mainly used raw for recipes for appetizers and dishes, however there is no shortage of recipes that require it to be cooked quickly in a pan (especially in sauces for first courses).


Pregnancy or gestation is the special physiological process during which the fruit of conception develops in preparation for birth.

Also called the interesting state, it represents a period of approximately 9 months long and very delicate, during which the mother is required to satisfy all the needs of the unborn child. Among these, nutritional intake is of great importance because, without the elements necessary for development, the embryo/fetus risks suffering serious deficiencies which increase the risk of pathologies, malformations or abortion. There are also quite a few risks linked to overnutrition and consequent obesity and/or metabolic pathologies. As if that were not enough, the child may be particularly subject to complications due to: intoxications (bacterial, fungal toxins, pollutants), infections (viruses, bacteria) and infestations (parasites).

To evaluate whether bresaola can be a suitable food for pregnancy or not, it is necessary to carefully evaluate its usefulness in the pregnant woman's diet and any related risks.

Nutritional Utility

Function of bresaola during pregnancy

As we anticipated, bresaola is a product that belongs to the fundamental group of foods. It is an abundant nutritional source of:

Bresaola has a low intake of fat and calories, and does not contain lactose and gluten; these characteristics make it suitable for most diets.

For a NORMAL subject (excluding gestation for a moment), the average portion of bresaola would be equal to 50 g (about 150 kcal) and the maximum frequency of consumption would be 1-2 times a week.
All nutritional needs increase during pregnancy; for reasons strictly linked to the composition of foods and their frequency of consumption, those most often lacking are: folic acid, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and omega 3 essential fatty acids.

Bresaola helps to provide interesting quantities of both highly bioavailable iron (emic) and cobalamin (vit B12), and all in all it does not provide excessive levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and total calories. It would therefore seem like a perfect food for pregnancy but, as we will see, unfortunately this is not the case.

Risks and Dangers

Bresaola and pregnancy hypertension

Due to the salting, as happens with other cured meats, bresaola is very rich in sodium. This mineral, if present in excess in the diet, can harm the health of sodium-sensitive subjects, encouraging the onset or worsening of primary arterial hypertension.

The so-called gestational hypertension, which arises more easily from the third trimester, can worsen the well-being of both the fetus and the mother. It therefore becomes necessary to keep it monitored, making sure that it does not exceed the threshold of 90 mmHg and 140 mmHg (minimum and maximum); in case of increase (or previous hypertension), the intake of any salty food such as bresaola should be completely suspended (or avoided from the beginning).

Bresaola, nitrites/nitrates and pregnancy diabetes

Commercial bresaola is added with sodium/potassium nitrites or nitrates and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), useful for increasing its conservation; on the other hand, the effect of these preservatives is limited to hindering oxidation and bacterial proliferation, while they are ineffective against parasites. Furthermore, remember that nitrates and nitrites (identifiable with the acronyms E249-E250 and E251-E252 mentioned on the label) increase the risk of the formation of nitrosamines. In turn, these unwanted compounds are certainly implicated in the formation of various forms of cancer, such as stomach cancer, but they take on a different negative role during pregnancy. Some experimental insights have in fact correlated the abundance of nitrosamines in the diet to the increased risk of pregnancy diabetes, a metabolic pathology of the mother which can induce fetal malformations and therefore should be absolutely avoided. The cause may be autoimmune stimulation by nitrosamines of immune units against pancreatic beta cells in the pancreas.

Bresaola and parasites

The parasitic pathology that generally scares future mothers the most is toxoplasmosis (from Toxoplasma godii). This is an infestation that is quite dangerous for the fetus, but harmless for the pregnant woman. Once contracted, it can cause neonatal malformations or fetal death.

Let us remember that, even if contracted, toxoplasmosis does not necessarily have these frightening effects. Furthermore, in the first phase of gestation there is less chance that it passes from the mother to the child by crossing the placenta, but the damage can be serious. On the contrary, in the last period there is a greater chance of it happening, but the damage should be less. However, beef and horse are not animals that typically contain Toxoplasma within their muscle fibers, so bresaola should not be an effective vehicle for this parasite.
Bresaola is also free from the risk of contracting tapeworm (from Hold the throne), which affects almost exclusively pork; hence the name swine tapeworm. The same goes for trichinellosis (Trichinella).

Cattle can instead be carriers of Cryptosporidium parvum (pathogenic agent of cryptosporidiosis), which however is limited to colonizing their intestine. This pathology, even if it spreads through the fecal-oral route, rarely affects humans through food.
Bresaola is therefore not a particularly dangerous food from the point of view of parasites, but the general recommendation to avoid raw meat remains. However, if you still want to eat a few slices of bresaola at “zero risk”, there is still the possibility of quickly sautéing them in a pan.

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