Malaysia has an abundance of tropical fruits and vegetables. Most if not all are nutritious and delicious. If you are expecting a baby, it’s all the more reason why you should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables everyday as they form a necessary part of a balanced diet for baby and you. Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and fibre that support both your baby’s development and your overall wellbeing.
However, if you are pregnant and particularly if you are in your first trimester, some precaution should be taken with regard to the consumption of certain fruits and vegetables as they may induce side effects on you and baby, if eaten regularly and in large quantities.
Despite what the doctors say, it seems there may be some truth to what the old folk and the old wives tales say.
In every contra-indication below, we give you the science and the reasoning as to why you need to take precaution when eating these fruits and vegetables.
Pineapples are a refreshing fruit that contain high amounts of Vitamin C, manganese, water content and dietary fibre great for moving the bowels. However pineapples also contain bromelain ─ an enzyme that helps the body digest proteins. The acidic effect is so strong, pineapple juice is also often used as a meat tenderizer.
Because it contains bromelain, you shouldn’t eat too much of the fruit or drink too much of the fresh juice during the first three months of pregnancy. Bromelain could lead to the softening of the cervix and uterus and could cause spasms which could lead to miscarriage. In fact, pineapples are the no: 1 fruit recommended for inducing natural abortions.
Even if nothing happens, eating too many pineapples could bring on a stomachache and diarrhea which you wouldn’t want happen to you.
However, pineapples can be useful if you are past your due date and you want to get that cervix going and stimulate contractions. As each pineapple only contains a small amount of bromelain, you will need to eat seven pineapples a day to begin getting spasms in the uterus.
Generally speaking, pineapples are okay to eat during pregnancy if taken in small amounts now and then.
Papayas grow easily on our soil and in our climate. In fact, every backyard can grow a papaya tree or two and indeed that is what we see frequently here in Malaysia. Papayas are sweet and cool and loaded with enzymes good for digestion. Papaya is rich in fibre, Vitamin C, beta carotene and many more antioxidants which is why it is a great fruit for everybody including pregnant mums. However, for those expecting, eat only the ripened papaya and not the green, unripe ones.
Unripe or semi ripe papayas contain a lot of sap called latex which act like prostaglandin and oxytocin, the hormones needed to start labour. There is also papain and pepsin in these papayas which restrict fetal growth.
Research published in NCBI has shown that unripe or semi ripe papayas cause abortion in laboratory mice. Therefore it should be strictly avoided during pregnancy.
Green papayas are used to make the highly popular Thai Papaya Salad Or Som Tam available in many if not all Thai restaurants here. They are also sold as pickles in its many variations across Malaysia. Do check before eating.
With import and export being a daily occurrence, imported fruits are often displayed on the same supermarket shelves as our local harvests. And so it is the case with grapes. There are so many varieties nowadays ─ red, green, with seed, seedless, mini, XXL, globe, moon drop, tear drop, elongated finger and so on and so forth. Grapes are packed with nutrients especially Vitamins C and K and some are simply irresistible.
However, grapes also contain a compound called Resveratrol that can imbalance the hormones of a pregnant mum and hinder the normal pancreatic development in the fetus, according to researchers.
The jury is still out on whether it is alright to eat grapes or not but just to heed what is generally advised by the elders, take precaution and limit your intake of this delicious fruit.
We can usually buy fresh longan from many of our fruit stalls or even supermarkets while we can get the dried ones from Chinese medicine halls. Dried longan is usually boiled for dessert or herbal soup or drink. These drinks are also often sold at roadside stalls. Longan or “dragon’s eye” is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants and is a juicy sweet fruit with a black seed.
It is contraindicated during pregnancy because it is a heaty fruit. Pregnant women already have hot flashes starting from week 20 when the body has increased blood pressure due to the heart pumping for two.
As the fruit increases the heat in the body, pregnant women can easily constipate, get dry mouth and tongue and overheat inside. The increased heat clashes with the body’s system and may bring on complications to the development of the baby not to mention cause bleeding, and premature birth.
It is best to abstain from this fruit or eat a few of the fresh form if you have a craving.
Cucumber is good for pregnant women. The natural water and cooling effect of cucumbers will prevent the overheated mother from the risk of dehydration during pregnancy. Besides, cucumber has plenty of potassium which is important to the electrolytic process as mums sweat a lot from the fourth month onwards. Cucumber’s cooling effect helps maintain a stable blood pressure. These vegetables are also high in pantothenic acid or Vitamin B-5 which is good for the skin. Moreover, the vitamin K in cucumbers helps strengthen pregnant women’s bones. In particular, the peel of cucumbers is a wonderful source of fiber which helps pregnant women prevent constipation and hemorrhoids.
All in all, these are wonderful vegetables but those who are pregnant should not eat unpeeled cucumbers because it is the kind of vegetable that is often sprayed before appearing on supermarket shelves. (That goes for apples too. Peel them before eating).
Pregnant women who eat a lot of cucumber can have flatulence, indigestion, belching, and incontinence of the bladder. In some cases, it can cause symptoms like itch and mouth swelling.
Do not eat too many cucumbers when pregnant. Anything overdone will always be bad. Some of the older folk say its cooling properties may be too cooling for the pregnancy and warn against over consumption. There must be a balance ─ while pregnant, one should never be too hot or too cool. Other than that, it is a great vegetable.
6. Brinjal or Egg Plant
Brinjal is one of the vegetables grown widely here. Some even grow it in their own gardens as it thrives well in our soils and weather. Brinjal is delicious in stirfries, or cooked in curry and casseroles. Brinjals contain Vitamin A, dietary fiber and iron ─ essential nutrients for a healthy pregnancy.
However, brinjals contain large amounts of phytohormones known for treating premenstrual syndrome and amenorrhea (loss of menstrual periods). The brinjal works as a diuretic and can stimulate menstruation which, for a pregnant woman, may lead to a miscarriage if consumed daily. Moreover, brinjals may cause acidity problems in the stomach adding to acid reflux issues on top of the usual gas and wind problems.
Having said the above, however, avoiding brinjals during pregnancy stems from Ayurvedic medicines which is more of an Indian community belief and tradition. However, the rest of the communities in multi-cultural Malaysia should heed it too because it is better to err on the side of caution. There is no need to abstain completely. Eating brinjals sparingly or every now and then should not be a problem.
7. Bamboo Shoots
Bamboo shoots contain cyanogenic glycosides named taxiphyllin. In simpler terms, it’s cyanide. The amount of cyanide in fresh bamboo sprout is very high, about 230mg/kg. Because of the effect of digestive enzymes in the body, cyanide is converted to Acid Cyanhydric (HNC) which is poisonous.
But bamboo shoots are often used as food and is cooked in a variety of styles in Malaysian cuisine, but as Fox News reported: “But before they can be consumed, the shoots need their fibrous exteriors cut away, and then the shoots need to be boiled. When eaten raw, bamboo contains a toxin that produces cyanide in the gut. Many Asian grocery stores will sell freshly prepared bamboo shoots that have already been detoxified.”
To be absolutely safe, pregnant woman should not consume bamboo shoots during all nine months.
8. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are heaty, which is why the heavy but aromatic oil from the seeds called sesame oil (ma yau in Cantonese) is used liberally in confinement food. One popular Chinese confinement dish is Ginger Chicken cooked in Oyster Sauce with Sesame Oil. The purpose is to heat up the body after delivery. The ability of sesame oil on raising heat in the body is very effective and proven through the ages.
Sesame seeds are a superfood actually as it is an excellent source of copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fiber.
Due to its heat-inducing properties, however, which will upset your natural balance during pregnancy, you may get an increased risk of bleeding during pregnancy. This is on top of the fact that sesame seeds were used traditionally as an abortifacient (cause miscarriage). Sesame seeds are said to be able to stimulate the uterine muscles thus it can cause an expulsion of the fertilized ovum.
It is best to avoid sesame seeds in the early months of pregnancy although no evidence supports its claim as an abortifacient. Because it is super nutritious, it should be eaten perhaps later in the pregnancy but in small amounts such as sprinkles in soup or in dishes to add flavor. Eating the small amounts sprinkled on a baked bun now and then should be alright.
9. Fennel and Fenugreek Seeds
These spices have traces of phytoestrogens that perform the function of female estrogen and stimulate uterine contractions leading to pre-term delivery or miscarriage
The seeds are often prescribed after delivery to stimulate and regulate menstruation and cleanse the uterus of afterbirth. They have also been proven effective for treating hormonal disorders and boosting breast milk production.
More of use for after delivery, it is best to consume only small quantities during pregnancy.At the end of the day and after all is said and done, the old adage holds true. Moderation in Everything and all should be well. The other adage Variety is the Spice of Life is also true. So take what you will of this story and come to your own conclusion about what fruits and vegetables in Malaysia to eat or avoid during pregnancy.