Pregnancy is one of the best times for every woman. While it is definitely an enjoyable experience, it is overwhelming for most first time mothers. With anyone walking on the street coming up to you with a bunch of ‘advice’, it is hard to maintain sanity with all those million pee breaks!

The favorite pass time for many is to give free food advice to an already confused soon-to-be mom. While coming up with a retort and walking away is what we try to do, the ‘free advice’ does get lodged at the back of our heads and comes back to haunt us. So let us try and see what the underlying truth is behind these ‘food-rules’.

Papaya

This is the most popular myth floating around for ages.

Myth : Papaya is a strict ‘no’ for a pregnant mother. Papaya can even lead to miscarriage.

Cut papaya
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Reality : Ripe papayas are good for health and can be eaten when trying to conceive or when pregnant. It is safe to be eaten during the first trimester as well contrary to popular belief. Papayas are rich in vitamins A,C,E and potassium and can actually be beneficial for the foetus if consumed in moderation.

Unripe or partially ripe papayas however contain papain in larger amounts and this is not safe to be consumed. This component has the tendency to activate oxytocin hormones and may lead to contractions or pre-term labour. While this is not proven, it is safer to avoid.

I just think that although ripe papayas can be consumed, they came up with this rule just so that no one consumes a raw papaya by mistake or due to ignorance. I tend to give our ancestors the benefit of the doubt. All said and done, they had lot of knowledge about medicine and I for one believe a lot in Ayurveda and its teachings.

Sesame seeds (Especially black sesame seeds)

Myth : Sesame seeds induce body heat and should not be consumed during pregnancy.

sesame black

Reality : In India, traditionally it has been advised to not consume sesame (til) seeds during pregnancy. In fact, it is even said that sesame seeds candy if consumed immediately after unprotected sex can prevent pregnancy. I am not sure how far this remedy works though.

The fact here is that sesame seeds can be safely consumed in small quantities occasionally during pregnancy. They have lot of calcium, iron, vitamins B and E and all these are beeficial for the mother and the developing foetus. But excessive heat producing foods are not good during pregnancy and it is best to consume anything in moderation – and this is not only for sesame seeds but for all foods.

Eating

Myth : Eat for ‘two’. You should hog everything like a dinosaur – afterall, you are eating for two!

Reality : All you need is an additional 300 calories for the little one. You don’t have to overeat since you are eating for two. You baby will take all the nutrients it needs via your umbilical cord and will grow happily. Instead of stuffing yourself, eat healthy and more nutritious food. But – you should never have hunger pangs. So eat nutritious meals and you can snack on salads, fruits, sprouts, dry fruits and nuts between meals. Do not forget to drink lots of water although you may end up peeing a lot!

Salt

Myth : You should cut down your salt intake as much as possible since salt is harmful for the baby.

saltpreg
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Reality : You can consume the regular amount of salt that you’ve always been eating. Salt is required to maintain your fluid levels and to keep you active. But excess salt through fried foods, junk foods, etc is not advisable. In other words, do not eat anything that you would not have your baby eat.

Seafood

Myth : No seafood, they are bad for the baby!

seafood

Reality : You can eat various sea foods such as fish, oysters and mussels. But always eat seafood that are well cooked. Raw shellfish is toxic and is not advisable. Try and source seafood only from good markets and ensure they are fresh.

Sweets

Myth : Sweets are no problem! Satisfy your sugar cravings with homemade sweets. They are good for you.

cake

Reality :  Sugar cravings are normal. While sugar is a strict ‘No’ for those who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, others can have an occasional sweet or two without affecting the baby. It is always healthier to satisfy your sugar cravings by eating berries and other tasty fruits. Palm sugar, jaggery and honey are healthy alternatives to sugar which you can safely consume during pregnancy. Jaggery contains lot of iron and other minerals which can prove to be beneficial. You can also include raisins and dates in your diet.

Mushrooms

Myth: You should not consume mushrooms during pregnancy. It is toxic and hence harmful to the baby.

Mushrooms mixed
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Reality : You can safely consume button mushrooms and other edible mushrooms regularly used in cooking. There is a variety of mushroom called ‘magic’ mushrooms which contain traces of toxic chemicals. Stay away from these. Always stick to the varieties you’ve consumed before and that which agrees with you. Mushrooms are excellent sources of vitamin D. Many pregnant mothers get tired when they go out in the sun during pregnancy and may hence have lesser amounts of vitamin D. While your doctor may prescribe supplements, mushrooms are a more delicious option.

Have fun!

Ramya Srinivasan, PDGBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. As a result of her passion in native medicine, she got her Diploma in Traditional Siddha Medicine from Bharat Sevak Samaj registered under the Indian Planning Commission. She is certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.