Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ayurvedic Nutrition Recommendations for Pregnancy and Lactation

In Ayurveda, the reproductive system is considered to be the most potent product of the human body. Its condition is determined by the overall wellbeing of the individual to which it belongs. When healthy, its products, a man’s sperm and a woman’s ovum, are able to merge naturally and create life with ease. Through this union, new life forms and then grows gradually and deliberately for the next nine months inside its mother’s womb where its continued health will be dependent on mother’s sustenance. It is therefore important for a pregnant mother to nourish herself, and her growing baby, very well.

A pregnant woman’s happiness first and foremost takes precedence over all else: a happy mother makes a happy baby. Ayurvedic nutrition is then the next crucial aspect of pregnancy. A Vata diet modified to the mother’s constitution is recommended. A Vata diet is consistent, regular and moderate in quantity. This means the mother can eat three regular meals a day, plus snacks in between. A variety of organic, local and fresh foods are excellent. In general, a Vata diet consists of 50% whole grains, 20% proteins and 20 to 30 % vegetables with a 10% fruit option. Neutral, sour and salty flavors can be increased and bitter, pungent and astringent ones decreased. Warm and hot foods are favored over cold and raw ones. Moreover, nutritious, heavy and moist foods are emphasized as these foods aid in strengthening the body and building of tissues. Recommended foods are avocado, dairy, flaxseed oil, ghee (clarified butter), nuts, seeds, vegetables and whole grains. Alcohol, coffee, fish, meat, tobacco, refined and processed foods are avoided as they are full of harmful chemicals that are passed from mother to baby.

When baby is born, the happiness of the breastfeeding mother also takes precedence over all else. She can also continue eating her constitutionally modified Vata diet. Dairy products can continue to be beneficial if they are digested well. Lettuce, potatoes, peanuts, soy and fennel promote lactation, while parsley and sage hinder lactation. After baby’s first year, dairy and grains can be introduced to his/her diet. Ayurvedically speaking, it is not recommended that babies are fed dairy and most grains (except rice) before their first year. It is believed that at this tender age, they yet do not have the necessary enzymes to properly digest them, causing dairy and wheat allergies later in life. During baby’s first year, mother’s milk, fruit and vegetables are more than sufficient to sustain his/her health.

The creation of life is indeed a phenomenon that is both ordinary and extraordinary: ordinary in its normal occurrence and extraordinary in its miraculous process. It is amazing how reliant new life is on the health of the parent’s reproductive system, and then completely dependent on mother’s happiness, nutrition and care. Our humble beginnings have always been thus and future life will continue on this way!

Simple Cold Carrot-Avocado Soup: Avocado is especially beneficial during pregnancy.

Place some carrots and a piece of ginger root in a juice extractor. Place the gingered carrot juice into a blender with some avocado flesh and puree with your choice of herbs, spices and seasonings.

Almond Milk: Almonds are excellent for both pregnant and nursing mothers.

Soak 10 almonds overnight and peel them in the morning. Place them in a blender with 1 cup of hot water, milk or soy milk and blend very carefully. Add your choice of sweetener and spices.

Potatoes with Fennel: Potatoes help with breast milk production in mother and fennel with digestion of the milk in baby.

Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a pan. When hot, add 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ¾ teaspoon fenugreek seeds and 1 diced and deseeded small green chilli pepper. When fragrant, add in 3 peeled and diced medium potatoes and ½ to 1 teaspoon salt. Stir well and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until soft and tender, adding water as necessary so that the potatoes do not stick to the pan.

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