A lot is written about what you can and can’t eat when you’re pregnant, which might make you insecure about what you should eat (and what to avoid).
Ayurveda sees food as medicine and describes how diet can contribute to fertility, the development of the pregnancy, postnatal recovery of the body, and the promotion of good lactation.
In this article, I’ll elaborate on the Ayurvedic approach on diet during pregnancy, and will provide an overview of foods that might be beneficial during this special time.
Properties of food during pregnancy
For the pregnant woman, food has three roles: nourishment of the body, promoting the development of the foetus and contributing to good lactation.
During the pregnancy, Kapha Dosha will increase. The Kapha Dosha is dominated by the elements Earth and Water and its qualities are soft, sweet, cold, heavy, and stable. These are favourable qualities for a healthy and balanced pregnancy, as they promote growth and development (of the baby and the mother). In the following paragraphs, I will describe these qualities in further detail and will provide some examples on how this relates to food.
These are mainly fatty and oily substances. The internal and external application of oil is called “Snehana” in Sanskrit, which can be translated as “love”. The use of oily or fatty substances in Ayurveda, in both food and lifestyle, for example in a massage, is a form of love therapy. One of the best fats, according to Ayurveda, is Ghee. Ghee has many health benefits, and is also recommended when you’re not pregnant. Read more about the benefits of Ghee in this article.
Furthermore, both cold pressed organic sesame oil and almond oil are recommended. Other soft food products are avocado and all sorts of nuts and seeds, especially almonds and sesame seeds. Nut butters are good but in moderation.
Cooking or baking your food also make it soft. Raw food is generally rough and hard and will increase the Vata Dosha.
Sweet (food) is grounding. We crave sweet food to calm and comfort ourselves. Seems familiar? Most food products are sweet, even though they don’t always taste sweet.
According to Ayurveda, sweet foods are grains, in particular rice and oats, dairy, very fresh (white) cheeses, cooked food, fresh and ripe fruits. Cooking or baking your fruit in a teaspoon of Ghee with a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger powder will make the fruit soft and sweet. This goes very well with apples, pears, banana, and plums.
Cool and comfortable
Eat your food while feeling comfortable and relaxed. Take food in moderation, especially avoid too hot, too cold, like ice cream, spicy food, and drinks. Use cooling spices in your food like cardamom, mint, fennel, and anise. Moderation is key!
Eat food that has been produced and prepared with care, preferably organic. Chemicals used in pesticides can affect your hormonal balance. Eat fresh food and avoid canned of packed food that has been processed.
All foods can be your medicine, but it’s important to pay attention on how you combine your food to really enjoy the beneficial values of it. See my article on food combinations to avoid. Incompatible food combinations can disturb your digestive system and therefore your health.
The Ayurvedic herb Shatavari is also known as the “woman’s herb” and has many benefits for the female reproductive system. Shatavari can contribute to the development of the pregnancy and lactation, has a calming effect, and is a powerful antioxidant. Shatavari is an adaptogenic herb, which means that it adapts to your metabolism.
The best way to take Shatavari is with fresh cow milk and Ghee. Milk and Ghee promote the effectivity of the herb. You can make your Shatavari drink by heating 1 tablespoon of Ghee in a small sauce pan and mixing this with 1 teaspoon of Shatavari and 1 teaspoon of cardamom powder until you get a paste (be careful to not burn the powder). Add one cup of fresh, organic, full fat cow milk and bring to a boil. Add maple or agave syrup to taste. Take this on a daily basis starting from the fourth month of the pregnancy. According to Ayurveda, this drink will promote the development of the foetus.
Always give in to your cravings, because they could be the babies cravings! It could be a craving for something you normally don’t eat or drink. Remember that also in the case of cravings, moderation is key.
What to avoid when pregnant
There are also food that are best avoided when you’re pregnant (but also when you’re not pregnant). You might know them already.
- Heavy food like (red) meat, fast food, leftovers, pre-cooked meals, old cheeses, foods containing palm oil. These foods are heavy to digest and thus might affect your immune system.
- Sharp and spicy food. Food that contains spices like red or black peppers and mustard seed.
- Irritating foods like caffeine nicotine and alcohol.
Finally: an overview of food that you CAN eat when you’re pregnant
The food products that are listed in the table below are recommended during your pregnancy as they contain the qualities that are discussed earlier in this article. I probably didn’t list every product that you can eat, and as we are all unique and every pregnancy is unique, you might find that you favour some products more than others.
|Dairy||Organic full fat cow’s milk, pasturized. Cook the milk before drinking. |
Fresh, white cheeses like panir or cottage cheese.
Favour sourdough bread in stead of yeast bread.
|Pulses & Beans||Adukibeans|
|(Seasonal) Vegetables||Vegetables that grow very close to the earth:|
|Nuts (soak overnight or 10 minutes |
in boiled water to make them better digestible)
Nutbutter in moderation
|(Seasonal) Fruit||Sweet, ripe fruits are good.|
Cook or bake in Ghee with cardamom, cinnamon and ginger.
|Dried fruits (soak in water, like with the nuts)||Abricots (unsulphured)|
Himalaya salt (in moderation)
Coriander (fresh and seeds)
Improve your fertility through Ayurveda
Do you have the wish for having a baby? Ayurveda recommends to prepare the body for fertility and pregnancy by doing an Ayurvedic detox. This applies for both partners. Through cleansing, detoxing, strengthening and nourishing the body, it will be brought in optimal state of health, which can contribute in fertility.