About heaty foods and cooling foods during pregnancy

When you’re pregnant, one of the most important aspects you need to watch is your diet. What you eat will affect your developing baby, and so it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need for your developing baby’s development. Avoiding food that may cause problems for you and your child throughout the pregnancy is crucial during this time. Today we’ll be looking specifically at how heaty foods, cooling foods, and they’re options impact your pregnancy

What are Heaty Foods and Cooling Foods?

A common piece of advice for pregnant women is to avoid certain heaty foods and cooling foods. The categorisation of food as either heaty or cooling comes from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).1 In general, TCM seeks to balance your diet to achieve a similar balance in your energy and improve your bodily functions. The food you eat could have different effects when you’re pregnant, however some of them can be beneficial and others can be harmful to you - and that can change the way you satisfy pregnancy cravings too.

  • Warming or heaty foods, as the name suggests, increase your body heat. They can also help with increasing your blood pressure and improving your blood circulation when taken in moderation.
  • Cooling foods, on the other hand, lower your body temperature and cool you down.

Given these effects, food falling under each category can help to make you more comfortable during your pregnancy. But there are heaty foods and cooling foods that you should reduce your intake of or avoid altogether. Let’s have a look at these food items.

Types of Heaty Foods and Cooling Foods

Heaty foods

According to TCM, heaty foods, when consumed in excess, can lead to overheating of the body. When heat is unable to escape the body, it can, in turn, lead to conditions such as sore throat, fever, mouth ulcers, acne, excessive thirst, redness and irritability.2 In expectant mothers, heaty foods are believed to cause a variety of conditions from morning sickness to bleeding (due to the effects of heaty food on circulation).

Because traditional Chinese medicine considers pregnancy to be a hot state, it’s best to control your intake of warming or heaty foods. Some of these heaty foods include:

  • Red meat, specifically beef, venison (deer) and mutton

  • Baked and deep-fried foods

  • Spicy food such as curry and cumin

  • Ginger

  • Jackfruit

  • Durian

  • Pumpkin and squash

  • Walnuts

  • Onions

  • Shrimp

  • Mango

  • Lychee

  • Longan

  • Pineapple

The following heaty foods should be avoided altogether during your pregnancy:

  • Alcohol

  • Coffee (you may opt for decaf instead)

Cooling foods

Excessive consumption of cold foods are believed to cause problems in circulation.3 Following TCM, you should reduce your consumption of, or avoid, the following:

  • Ice cream

  • Watermelon

  • Mung bean

  • Banana

  • Eggplant

  • Spinach

  • Crab

  • Apples

  • Kiwi

  • Aloe vera

  • Lemons

  • Seaweed

In addition, canned food and drinks as well as processed food are highly discouraged.

What Does Science Say About Heaty Foods and Cooling Foods During Pregnancy?

There is some logic to the restrictions of heaty foods and cooling foods followed by TCM — and TCM is not alone when it comes to following this system. In fact, other countries, such as India, follow the same system.4 However, it's always best to discuss your diet with your Ob-Gyn, nutritionist, or dietitians to ensure you're getting proper nutrition.

Apart from heaty foods and cooling foods during pregnancy, pregnant women are also advised to avoid or limit the consumption of other food items. Some food, such as red meat, are best consumed in limited and lean portions because they may cause constipation and make your pregnancy uncomfortable. You'll also be told to avoid liver, raw and half-cooked meat, and to remove the skin from chicken — all healthy ways of consuming protein-rich food when you're expecting.5

Other foods, like papaya and pineapple have enzymes that may cause early contractions later on in your pregnancy.5 As for other heaty foods and cooling foods during pregnancy, while there may be no general scientific evidence of being harmful to your health while you are expecting, you may be sensitive to them during this time.

The important thing to remember about heaty foods and cooling foods during pregnancy is that it's all about balancing your intake. Follow your Ob-Gyn's instructions and make sure you're getting the nutrition that you and your developing baby’s need through this exciting time.

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1. Sweeney, Erica. “How Balancing ‘Warming’ and ‘Cooling’ Foods Could Benefit Your Health.” HuffPost. Accessed 20 July 2020. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/warming-cooling-foods_l_5e15f675c5b687c7eb5ebb55
2. What Do ‘Heaty’ and ‘Cooling’ Really Mean?” Health Hub - Ministry of Health Singapore. Accessed 20 July 2020. https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/800/Heaty-and-cooling-09Nov2015-NHG
3. Lau, Ying, RN, RM, IBLC, PhD. "Tradition Chinese Pregnancy Restrictions, Health-Related Quality of Life and Perceived Stress among Pregnant Women in Macao, China." Elsevier Asian Nursing Research Journal. Accessed 20 July 2020. https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S1976131712000060?token=5B11415834B8A0B8197E4EC6C4108DB17127F67BDCFAF272D23450CA4024DD79DC4416F70D4FB821720473B70B2E99BC
4. Nag, Moni. "Beliefs and Practices about Food during Pregnancy: Implications on Maternal Nutrition." Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 9 no. 37 (Sept. 10, 1994). Accessed 20 July 2020. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4401755
5. "Have a healthy diet in your pregnancy: Your pregnancy and baby guide." NHS. Accessed 20 July 2020. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/healthy-pregnancy-diet/