One of the first changes a woman makes when she learns about her pregnancy is almost always diet related. Expecting mothers are surrounded by many relatives and friends who all offer so many different perspectives on what a pregnant woman should and should not eat that it can be very confusing for the mother-to-be. While our loved ones mean well, mothers-to-be should not follow any advice blindly when it comes to their diet.
There are several myths and misconceptions about the kind of food expecting moms should consume and avoid. Here are five common pregnancy diet related myths that are usually spread through word of mouth and often have no scientific rationale:
Myth #1: A Pregnant Mother Should be Eating for Two
It is very common for family members, friends and colleagues to tell a new mother-to-be that she now needs to eat for two because of which pregnant women tend to vastly increase their appetites. This misconception is one of the leading causes of excess weight gain during pregnancy, combined with an inactive or sedentary lifestyle.
As per the recommended requirements, pregnant women only need 300 extra calories a day, which is equivalent to a banana milkshake, a dry fruit milkshake or a two-slice multigrain vegetable paneer sandwich a day. This is definitely not the same as eating for two. The quality of food choices is more important than the quantity of food consumed during pregnancy.
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Myth #2: Pregnant Women Should Avoid Fish
Most mothers-to-be avoid consumption of fish due to concerns about toxin build-up, excess heat, skin reactions, etc. However, fish is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 and other important nutrients, which are vital for brain and eye development of the foetus. Pregnant women should avoid fish with a high mercury content such as shark, tuna and mackerel. However, sardines [mathi], anchovies [nethili/natholi], salmon and river fish like rohu and catla can be consumed in moderate amounts to meet dietary needs. If you are a fish lover, consult your nutritionist to see how the right amount of fish can be incorporated into your diet.
Myth #3: Saffron Will Make the Baby's Complexion Fairer
This is one of the most common beliefs and quite an expensive one at that! There are a lot of families that believe that if a pregnant woman has saffron with milk, her baby will have a fair complexion. The truth is that no food can influence the baby's complexion, as the skin colour is entirely determined by the genes of the parents.
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Myth #4: Papaya and Pineapple Can Cause Abortions or Miscarriages
These two fruits are completely forbidden in a pregnant woman's diet due to the belief that they can cause abortions and miscarriages. The assumed scientific basis of this myth is that both these fruits in their raw form contain certain enzymes, which if consumed in large quantities, can cause uterine contractions.
However, consumption of well-ripened papaya or pineapple does not cause any adverse reaction, if taken in moderate amounts in a well-balanced diet. However, many gynaecologists refrain from freely recommending it for two reasons - first, moderation is a widely misunderstood term and second, most fruits nowadays are artificially ripened, which can alter the amount of enzymes in the fruits and what is left behind is often unclear.
When pregnant, always check with your nutritionist before consuming papaya or pineapples.
Myth #5: Pregnant Women Can Catch a Flu with Cold and Sour Food Items
Mothers-to-be are often told to avoid citrus fruits, juices, limes, lemons, curd, buttermilk, etc. due to an age-old belief that these foods will cause them to develop cold and cough that will affect the baby too.
But the fact is these foods are loaded with nutritional benefits for the mother and the growing baby. For instance, the entire range of citrus fruits provides Vitamin-C, a very important vitamin for iron-absorption in the mother and skin development of the growing baby.
Curd and buttermilk provide probiotics, which keep the mother's gut healthy and also helps in digestion along with providing gut immunity. Both Vitamin-C and probiotics are two core immunity-boosting nutrients which are required in a pregnant mother's diet, so inclusion of these foods is important.
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