Pregnant woman should eat a well-balanced diet to foster normal growth and development of the unborn baby. In India, nutrition of pregnant women is influenced by food fads, taboos, customs, cultural and religious beliefs, food habits and attitudes of family members. There also are the concepts of "hot foods," "cold foods" and "sour foods" that are to be avoided, which include papaya, pineapple, banana, mango, fish, egg, groundnut, gram, millet, brinjal, ladyfinger, sesame seeds, flax seeds, saffron, fenugreek and jaggery.
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Indian women are forbidden to eat papaya during pregnancy for fear of losing the baby. As stated in the "Handbook of Fruits and Fruit Processing," normal consumption of ripe papaya during pregnancy might not pose any significant risk, but unripe or semi-ripe papaya might be unsafe in pregnancy. Green papaya contains high concentrations of latex, milky liquid that produces marked uterine contractions. This latex is not found in fully ripened papaya. According to "Novel Compounds from Natural Products in the New Millennium," intra-vaginal application of crude papaya latex, or CPL, is reported to induce labor and abortion. Oral exposure to high levels of unripe papaya fruits also might lead to adverse effects in pregnancy.
Eggplant, or baingan, is a commonly used vegetable in Indian homes. In the book "The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs," eggplant is described as a diuretic containing phytohormones, found helpful in treatment of premenstrual syndrome and amenorrhea. When a half an eggplant was consumed daily, it naturally stimulated onset of menses that had ceased for more than two years. Based on such properties, it is contraindicated during pregnancy, but small and less frequent consumption of eggplant during pregnancy is not harmful.
Dry Fruits and Seeds
Sesame seeds, or til, was traditionally used as a medicine for causing abortion, in a dose of 1 tbsp. of grounded seeds mixed with jaggery twice a day. Sesame seeds excite the uterine muscles, causing contractions and eventually expulsion of the fertilized ovum. The effects are primarily visible in early stages of pregnancy. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid sesame seeds, especially in the first trimester. Other nuts and dry fruits such as dates, raisins, almonds soaked in water, groundnuts, walnuts and pistachios are all safe to consume in a amount of five to 10 pieces daily.
Spices and Herbs
Fennel, or saunf, and fenugreek seeds, or methi dana, are both contraindicated in high doses during pregnancy. These seeds contain phytoestrogens that act like female hormone estrogen and induce uterine contractions. In traditional medicine, fennel and fenugreek seeds are given after delivery to stimulate menstruation, cleanse the uterus, treat hormonal disorders and aid in milk production. Small amounts of these seeds used for food preparation or as a spice, in quantities of 1 to 2 tsp., are considered safe but medicinal doses should be avoided during pregnancy. Also, avoid flavor enhancer such as ajinomoto, as it destroys brain cells and might prove harmful for the developing fetus brain.
Recent studies indicate that large doses of these foods have to be consumed to cause any uterine contractions. Still, given the possible complications, it is safer to avoid such foods, especially during the first three to four months of pregnancy.