Surprisingly, grapes are the center of much controversy and confusion when it comes to their safety during pregnancy- with many rumors that eating them is harmful.
Despite the controversy, you can safely enjoy grapes while pregnant so long as you thoroughly wash them before eating. Concentrated supplements, like resveratrol supplements and grape seed extract, however, can cause side effects and should be avoided.
Navigating conflicting information can be exhausting! I’ve dug into all of the science behind the grape rumors and will break down each one for you, including where the rumors likely came from, plus how (and why) to safely incorporate grapes into your pregnancy diet.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Grapes? Are They Safe?
Many women are confused about the safety of eating grapes while pregnant, and the search results on Google are nothing short of confusing! Much of this confusion comes from ayurvedic medicine, which categorizes foods as either ‘hot’ or ‘cold.’
According to Ayurveda, pregnancy is a ‘hot’ state for the body, so it is healthy to eat ‘cooling’ foods. Since grapes are considered to be ‘hot’ food, this is where the recommendation to avoid them stems from.
Though ayurvedic medicine is a form of traditional medicine having been practiced for thousands of years, there is no scientific evidence that shows eating ‘hot’ foods, like grapes, during pregnancy is harmful in any way. In fact, grapes can actually help you stay hydrated when it’s warm outside.
Another consideration for many women is pesticide use. Grapes are often found on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list, which reports foods with the highest level of pesticides when farmed conventionally (not organic).
However, this list doesn’t account for the fact that organic produce can still be farmed with certain pesticides or the concentration of the pesticides on the fruit.
An independent study actually found that both grape skins and grape flesh had pesticide residue well below the limit allowed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The study also showed that washing grapes was an effective way to remove some of this residue. (source: Analytica Chimica Acta).
Just like all produce, grapes should be washed before eating in order to remove any bacteria living on the skins. For complete instructions on how to thoroughly wash your produce, including grapes, head over to our step-by-step guide.
Grapes and Resveratol During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know
Women are often warned against eating grapes during pregnancy as the fruit contains resveratrol, an antioxidant. Though resveratrol is usually associated with wine, the antioxidant has no connection to alcohol. Rather, wine gets its high resveratrol content from grapes, more specifically grape skins.
Many websites make the alarming claim that resveratrol is a toxic chemical, when actually it is naturally found in small, harmless amounts.
Though taking resveratrol supplements while pregnant can lead the baby’s pancreas to overdevelop and become too large, the same hasn’t been seen in women who simply eat grapes (source: The FASEB Journal).
Eating a standard ½ cup serving of red grapes contains a maximum of 0.63 mg of resveratrol (source: Linus Pauling Institute). The potential for side effects was seen at amounts of 0.80 mg and higher given directly into the woman’s bloodstream via IV- definitely not how most of us eat grapes! (source: The FASEB Journal).
Therefore if you’re only eating grapes in food amounts, there is no need for concern during pregnancy.
Can Grapes Cause Miscarriage or other Side Effects?
Similar to the misguided warning that the resveratrol found in grapes is toxic, is the myth that eating grapes will cause miscarriage.
The fear came about from research that showed high levels of resveratrol given daily during IVF embryo transfer cycles resulted in a lower chance of successful conception and greater risk of miscarriage.
The difference? The women in this study were being given 200 mg of resveratrol supplements daily (source: Reproductive Biomedicine Online). You would need to eat nearly 160 cups of grapes every day to match this amount of resveratrol!
Enjoying a serving of grapes every now and then as part of your balanced pregnancy diet is unlikely to cause any such effects.
Green vs Black vs Red Grapes When Pregnant: Does the Color Matter?
Possibly the most notable difference between grape varieties is flavor. Black grapes are also more likely to have seeds. Neither of these differences impacts their safety, and the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Aside from taste and seediness, the different colors of grapes actually do have different resveratrol content. The darker the grape skin, the more resveratrol.
Though eating a serving of grapes isn’t enough to overdo it on the antioxidant, you can further lower the amount you’re getting by choosing white/green grapes which contain slightly less resveratrol (source: Advances in Nutrition).
Benefits of Grapes for Pregnancy: Are they Healthy?
Grapes can be a wonderful and nutritious addition to your pregnancy diet. They are also fairly budget-friendly, quick to grab if you’re busy, and keep well in the fridge- all benefits if you’re struggling to get enough fruit in your diet.
Grape skins do contain a few grams of naturally occurring fiber, though grapes aren’t considered to be high fiber. A ½ cup serving of grapes provides 4 mg of vitamin C, helpful to keep your immune system healthy for you and your baby.
With their sweet taste, grapes are higher in carbohydrates than some other fruits, like berries. Carbohydrates are essential for optimal brain function and are your body’s preferred source of quick energy, but if you have a condition like gestational diabetes your medical provider may ask you to track or limit your carbohydrate intake.
A ½ cup serving of grapes is 27 grams of carbohydrate and is considered to be two carbohydrates ‘choices’ for those with diabetes (source: USDA).
When the weather is warm, grapes are a great way to cool down. Over 80% water, the fruit helps you meet your higher fluid needs during pregnancy (source: BBC). If you’re feeling overheated, a very common pregnancy feeling, pop a bunch of grapes in the freezer and enjoy them as a frozen snack.
Are Grapes Safe in Early Pregnancy and All Trimesters?
Knowing that it’s resveratrol supplements you need to avoid- not grapes- there is little special consideration that needs to be taken to ensure the fruit is safe during early pregnancy.
As long as you’ve ensured that the grapes you’re about to eat have been freshly washed, it is safe to enjoy the fruit during all trimesters!
Can Pregnant Women Drink Grape Juice (Including Sparkling)?
Grape juice is wine’s non-alcoholic cousin with all of the same antioxidant benefits. There is some evidence that grape juice consumption during pregnancy can decrease inflammatory and potential cancer biomarkers in offspring (source: Nutrients, Journal of Nutrition and Intermediary Metabolism).
But what about resveratrol? Grape juice does still contain resveratrol, as it is made from grapes, after all. However, the studies I mentioned above were done with resveratrol supplements in either very large doses or via IV, not with regular consumption of grape and grape juice.
So while resveratrol supplements should be avoided while pregnant, drinking grape juice is likely safe.
Sparkling grape juice is often substituted for sparkling wines when alcohol is being avoided. This is where cheaper is likely better, as low-budget sparkling grape juices use added CO2 carbonation as opposed to natural fermentation like the more expensive varieties.
Sticking with artificial carbonation will ensure there is absolutely no trace of alcohol.
As with all juices, be sure to drink only pasteurized grape juice and pasteurized sparkling grape juice.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Grape Seeds or Extract?
Many US stores sell exclusively ‘seedless’ grape varieties, but grape seeds are actually edible and have even been made into a concentrated extract. If you choose to eat grapes with seeds, or accidentally buy a pack of seeded grapes like I did, you might be wondering if the seeds are safe during pregnancy.
Grape seeds are incredibly tiny and it’s typically easier to simply chew and swallow them as you enjoy the rest of the grape. And because of their size, even if you ate more than a single serving of grapes, the volume of grape seeds eaten would still be fairly small and harmless.
Grape seed extract, on the other hand, is best avoided while pregnant. In non-pregnant adults, taking grape seed extract can cause a blood-thinning effect (source: Nutrients).
Because of its ability to thin the blood, it’s reasonable to believe that grape seed extract might be risky during pregnancy, especially close to delivery in case a C-section is needed (source: NIH).
Are Dried Grapes (Raisins) OK When Pregnant?
Either love them or hate them, dried grapes, or raisins, are the classic dried fruit included in everything from cookies to trail mix.
Though not hydrating like fresh grapes, raisins give you all the fiber, antioxidant, and mineral benefits of grapes in a smaller package.
Raisins are unique from grapes in that they contain antimicrobial compounds to help fight bacterial infections. Eating dried fruit like raisins has even been shown to reduce the risk of preterm delivery (source: Journal of Nutrition)!
For more details on how to safely include raisins in your pregnancy diet, check our article on raisins.
While there is an abundance of rumors online suggesting grapes are harmful during pregnancy, hopefully the science in this article has calmed any fruit fears. Grapes can be a nutritious, hydrating, and safe fruit to enjoy while pregnant.