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Chinese food taboos during pregnancy

  1. #1
    peainpod is offline Registered User
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    Chinese food taboos during pregnancy

    What foods are considered taboo in Chinese custom during pregnancy? I've heard about avoiding watermelon and bananas b/c they're considered "cold/cool" and mangos b/c it's "wet heat" but then the other day, one of my co-workers said I shouldn't drink soy milk either! There seems to be so many random taboo foods! Can those "in the know" share their lists of taboo foods?

  2. #2
    louisouis is offline Registered User
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    Yes, I heard about that too, they say that it is because it is too 'cool'. Apparently it is not good to over indulge in tofu too for the same resons, But I was reading a Japanese pregnancy book which was translated into Chinese and the book was waxing lyrical about all the great benefits of tofu!

    It is actually quite hysterical and most are NOT based on any medical evidence, even though most of the chinese aunties that tell me such taboos always claim that they have case studies to back their stories. Ha!ha!

    My theory is that the baby culture here is based primarily on paranoia , if the baby has any symptoms, it must be because the mummy was sneaky and ate something! Which we all know is ridiculous, but the sort of dirty looks that you get from relatives are real and can be hurtful. So try and avoid those foods in front of them and save them a heart attack and save yourself some grief.

    Prawns and Crabs will cause bad skin
    Durians are suppose to be really toxic and heaty thus very bad but from where I come from having durians during pregnancy can be considered a 'tonic' and provides great vitamins for the baby.
    Pineapples are also 'wet heat'
    Sesame paste dessert not a good idea too...
    Anything with suction cups like octopus and cuttlefish is not good either (apparently makes your womb contract)
    Cold drinks or food as it will cause the baby to have asthma (But the pollution is so bad in HK it is more likely that pollution is the cause)
    Spicy food will cause the baby to be bad tempered

    If I can think of anything else I will post another reply. FYI, I (15 weeks) have been eating lots of spicy food, pineapples and dreaming about durians.

  3. #3
    peainpod is offline Registered User
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    Thanks Louisouis! You're so right about the paranoia thing! Myself, I've been kind of picking and choosing what to eat/not eat too -so I'm avoiding watermelons but will indulge in the odd mango when the craving hits.

    Some of the taboos you listed sound familiar - but I heard the opposite for sesame paste dessert. My MIL (and she is super traditional Chinese) told me this weekend that this was good for me - apparently it will give the baby nice skin.

  4. #4
    loupou is offline Baby Guru
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    Quote Originally Posted by louisouis View Post
    Prawns and Crabs will cause bad skin
    Durians are suppose to be really toxic and heaty thus very bad but from where I come from having durians during pregnancy can be considered a 'tonic' and provides great vitamins for the baby.
    Pineapples are also 'wet heat'
    Sesame paste dessert not a good idea too...
    Anything with suction cups like octopus and cuttlefish is not good either (apparently makes your womb contract)
    Cold drinks or food as it will cause the baby to have asthma (But the pollution is so bad in HK it is more likely that pollution is the cause)
    Spicy food will cause the baby to be bad tempered
    This was the topic of one of the chapters in my MPhil thesis at HKU.

    I argued that these taboos served a number of purposes:

    1) A way that a woman "performs" pregnancy - shows that she is a good wife, daughter, and mother to be (she will do everything to protect her baby)

    2) A way that the people around the mother show their consideration and concern for her and her baby

    3) The way that people around her start to mold a woman into a proper mother (this is just the beginning, wait 'til the "Granny Police" tell you your baby is wearing too much or too little)

    4) A way of marking the pregnancy period as sacred/special as opposed to "normal life" - part of the rite of passage for women as they turn into mothers

    5) Discussing, passing on, or disputing different taboos and "supposed to" behaviors are part of women's expressive culture in Hong Kong.

    Other tabooed foods (information that I got from informants) :
    * Bananas - miscarriage, asthma, speech defect
    * Papaya - jaundice and difficult birth
    * Lichee - too heaty
    * Lamb or mutton - Epilepsy
    * Rabbit - hare lip
    * Dark liquids (soy sauce, chocolate, cola, coffee, tea) - will make baby dark
    * Curry or anything spicey - too yeet hey
    *Snake - also will cause bad skin
    *Watermelon - too cold

    Tabooed behaviors include:
    * Sewing on the bed - hare lip
    * Moving house - miscarriage
    * Hammering - pockmarks or spots (I think)
    *Going to a funeral - bad luck or miscarriage
    * Holding someone else's baby - the baby in your womb will grow up jealous & angry
    * Going out after dark (bad spirits)
    * Visiting temples - bad luck (also not supposed to visit temples when menstruating)
    * Seeing ugly or frightening things - may "mark" the baby

    Things one should do:
    * Eat "proper" foods:
    - Birds' nest - make the baby's complexion beautiful
    - Tofu skin - will also make baby beautiful

    * Fetal Education
    - listening to "good" music or lessons
    - talking to the baby

  5. #5
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    wasabibunny is offline Registered User
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    peainpod,
    it's probably best just to ask you OB for their medical opinion about what to avoid. I just went for my 24 weeks checkup and asked my doc (Chinese but educated abroad) about what to avoid. Basically he said don't drink alchohol or caffeine and don't smoke. Food wise he didn't say anything except avoid too much liver since it's high in vitamin A. When I specifially asked about raw fish and seafood (since I've eaten both) he said raw fish is not a concern if you are going to a good quality restaurant. As for seafood, you shouldn't eat TOO much because it's high in protein and cholesterol. Other than that, you should just make sure you are getting enough iron, calcium, frolic acide and other vitamins/minerals.

    I've always though the Chinese "nono" foods during pregnancy was quite rediculous and unscientific and agree with loupou that it's more of a cultural phenomenon. Sometime it helps a new mommy feel better because she is actively "doing" something about her pregnancy by avoiding foods or certain activities. But in reality pregnancy is such a normal part of life. In pre-modern times fertile women of child bearing age were probably pregnant for as much time as they were not (although newborns and infants often don't survive).

  6. #6
    ELT
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    I am Chinese. I ate what I want to eat throughout the entire pregnancy, except during the first trimester when I avoided the exteremly 'cold' food that are believed to cause miscarriage such as watermelon and certain Chinese herbs (It just gave me the peace of mind to eat 'right'). For foods that are considered bad, I took them in moderation. But my apetite changed and I couldn't eat pork and food with strong taste (except spicy food) so I often had sushi, salads, seafood and beef... all considered 'bad', 'cold', 'toxic'. My baby was 8 pounds at birth, very healthy and active. He is not talking yet but already walking at 11 months. My dad always joke about how I had started training his arms and legs in the womb by eating crabs and octopus. My son does have a mild case of eczema but I blame it on the weather.

  7. #7
    peainpod is offline Registered User
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    It's always reassuring to hear from others who have strayed from the straight and narrow, nutritionally speaking. (I just finished a tray of watermelon - but it's my first since becoming pregnant.) Overall I'm trying for moderation - so I'll eat it only if there's a real craving but I'll avoid it otherwise. I tend to take the western guidelines more seriously (e.g. American College of OB/GYN supports eating watermelon) but will still keep the Chinese prohibitions in mind.

    I also ate some sashimi (but only a little) - even during my first trimester - so it's good to hear that a doctor said it's okay.

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