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March 29, 2011

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Best foods for new mothers

PREGNANCY is a time of growth and change for a woman; she needs to take special care of the baby and herself during this time.

The Chinese believe that every person is endowed with a congenital essence that lasts throughout a person's life and provides the body with energy. This essence is given by the expectant mom during her pregnancy to the baby in her body. Healthy lifestyle and good nutrition increase the amount and quality of the essence for the newborn.

To build up this congenital essence and to guarantee the best health of the newborn, the soon-to-be mom is advised to select a balanced diet that is high in nutrients and fiber, and low in bad fats and cholesterol. Traditional Chinese medicine recommendations for diet differ for the three stages or trimesters during the pregnancy, according to the changes for the mother and the child.

In the first three months, the mother gets used to the hormonal and physical changes. Nausea and vomiting are common. Now is the time to eat neutral and warming food (such as soups and stews with pumpkin, cabbage, potatoes, carrots; chicken, salmon). Ginger is an excellent complementary food that warms the spleen and stomach and helps with morning sickness.

In TCM, pregnancy is considered a "hot" (yang energy) condition. In the second trimester the blood circulation in the "Penetrating Channel" increases as the baby grows fast. The pregnant woman experiences a yin ("cold" energy or qi) blood deficiency and a heat condition (which leads to excessive thirst, flushing, insomnia, night sweats, heartburn and constipation).

The recommended food is reinforcement food for the baby and cooling food for the mom to counterbalance the heat in the body. Cooling food includes vegetables (such as broccoli, artichoke, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes), salads or fresh fruits (apples, banana, pear, strawberry, pineapple, melon, cherries, mango). It is recommended to limit the consumption of red meat, soy-based food, fried food, sugar and to avoid both caffeine and alcohol throughout the pregnancy.

In the last three-month period, the reinforcement food can be discontinued since the baby is already big enough, but cooling food is still recommended.

Besides eating right, moms-to-be are encouraged to keep their bodies fit by doing light outdoor exercise (walking, yoga, swimming). Also, herbal medicine and acupuncture can help with discomfort during pregnancy.

(Doris Rathgeber is founder of Body & Soul Medical Clinics.)

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