What to eat during pregnancy according to Chinese medicine
Choosing what to eat while you’re pregnant can be a challenge. Your tastes and cravings are changing, you may be battling nausea, your digestion is more sensitive, and, of course, you want to make sure you’re nourishing yourself and your baby as best you can.
I’m here to make your eating choices a lot easier! As a licensed acupuncturist specializing in women’s health and pregnancy, I will share with you my top ten pregnancy supporting foods, specific pregnancy related conditions you can treat by what you eat, the most important nutrient to have in your diet during pregnancy, and how to make sure you’re getting enough of it.
Chinese medicine views our digestion as a fire. It’s important to keep the fire steadily burning while not letting it rage out of control or burn out. Eating warm, well-cooked, easy-to-digest food keeps the spleen, stomach and uterus warm, which is especially important during pregnancy. In addition, it’s important to eat foods that support the kidneys and liver, as well as the body’s Yin, Yang, Qi (aka energy) and blood.
Top 10 Foods to Eat While Pregnant
- Sweet potato strengthens the spleen and stomach, tonifies Qi, detoxifies the body, treats constipation and edema, is low glycemic, rich in vitamin A, and increases milk production.
- Walnuts nourish kidney Yang (which includes the warming hormone, progesterone), provides good fat and protein, can treat low back pain and constipation. Keep them refrigerated to prevent rancidity.
- Chicken tonifies Qi, warms the body, treats fatigue, postpartum weakness, leg and low back pain.
- Lamb is very warming, strengthens and nourishes Qi and Blood, aids lactation, postpartum blood loss, and can alleviate back pain. Lamb is not recommended during summer months, as it’s too warming.
- Goji berries are known to boost Kidney Yang, and provide high amounts of antioxidants.
- Carrots tonifiy blood, detoxify the body, moisten dryness, promote digestion, benefit the eyes (especially dry eyes), and are rich in vitamin A. Always eat carrots and sweet potatoes with a good fat like olive oil or coconut oil to help your body absorb the vitamin A.
- Salmon strengthens the Spleen, tonifies Qi, removes Dampness, treats low energy, hemorrhoids, and postpartum excessive bleeding. Do not eat raw salmon during pregnancy, and always choose wild caught instead of farmed.
- Garlic soothes Liver Qi, is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and detoxifies meat and seafood.
- Spinach nourishes the Blood, strengthens all organs, treats constipation, is high in folate, and easy to add into dishes and smoothies.
- Eggs nourish the Yin and Blood, calm the mind, harmonize digestion, and are a wonderful source of protein and iron.
Of the top 10 pregnancy supporting foods mentioned above, you’ll notice that half of them are high in protein. That’s because protein is the single most important macronutrient to include in your pregnancy diet.
Protein is the second most abundant substance in the body (number one is water). Every single one of your baby’s tissues depends on protein for healthy growth: bones, muscles, skin, blood, hair, nails, organs, and connective tissue. Your baby’s hormones, growth, metabolism, and sexual development need protein, as well as basic chemical reactions, fluid and pH balance, and the ability to make antibodies to fight infections. Not to mention childbearing, labor, birth, postpartum healing, and lactation that all require protein.
In my experience treating women in my clinic as well as coaching women from all over the world through my online nutrition programs, I have found that most women are not getting enough protein in their diets. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting between 60-75 grams of protein per day during your pregnancy. A symptom of too much protein can be difficult digestion, so adjust the amount according to your body’s needs. Good protein sources include: animal protein (buffalo, chicken, clean seafood, sardines, lamb), yogurt, eggs, cheese, beans (black, kidney, garbanzo, white), lentils, soy, and quinoa.
To my vegetarian readers, if you are open to the idea, I recommend gently introducing some animal protein into your diet in the form of broths or fish oil. No need to jump right into a burger or steak. If you are eating a strictly vegetarian diet during your pregnancy, do educate yourself on the art of protein combining to make sure you are getting all of the 22 amino acids (aka protein building blocks) in your diet every day.
Never has there been a more important time to make sure you’re eating the right food as when you are pregnant. Your food is not only nourishing you, it is creating a brand new, precious human body. How miraculous. Bon appetite, Mama!