Eating According to Chinese Medicine: Are Salads Bad for You?

Our belly is our “fire” that we must keep stoking and burning at just the right temperature to maintain a warm and inviting home... says Chinese Medicine. So, what’s all the fuss- is Chinese Medicine something worth listening to?  

For pregnant mamas, our body is a home for our little ones, so what we fuel our fire with is so important. According to Ayurveda, every food has an innate potency of either hot or Ushna, or cold, Shita. These classifications have nothing to do with whether food is kept at room temperature or chilled in the fridge. Instead, each food we eat either cools or heats our digestive system.

Maintaining a balance of hot and cold foods is important because hot foods are believed to aid our digestive system and cold foods nourish and strengthen our bodies.

Just as acupuncture may help women become pregnant (or induce them into labor), other tenets of Eastern medicine (like eating to maintain your body’s balance) may help you feel nourished during your pregnancy.


What Foods are “Cold”?

Examples of cold foods include:

  • Asparagus

  • Apples

  • Bananas

  • Cauliflower

  • Coconut

  • Cucumbers

  • Eggplants

  • Egg whites

  • Fennel

  • Grapes

  • Lettuce

  • Lychee

  • Mango

  • Mushroom

  • Melons

  • Oranges

  • Pumpkin

  • Pears

  • Spinach

  • Strawberries

  • Tofu

  • Tomatoes

Remember, cold has nothing to do with temperature but rather the cooling effect the food has on your body’s digestive system. Cold foods refresh us when the temperature outside is hot, but they are generally harder to digest. They can restrict digestion and make the immune system less active.

 A quick glance at the list above reveals many ingredients that make up a delicious salad. However, eating all of these foods raw goes against Aruyedic traditions that have served the  Chinese well for over 2,500 years. A popular notion in Chinese medicine is to “Keep Your Stomach and Spleen at 100 Degrees”. All of us, and especially pregnant mamas, can do this by eating less “cold and raw food” and eating more foods that are cold, but slightly cooked.


So What About That Salad?

A grilled salad? Really? Absolutely. Practitioners of Ayurveda heat up cold foods because our bodies are able to extract more nutrients from slightly cooked foods rather than raw foods.

This practice does have its detractors, namely raw food advocates who claim uncooked foods are more nutritious than cooked foods because enzymes, along with some nutrients, are destroyed in the cooking process. Proponents of raw food diets argue that lack of enzymes stresses your body. However, there are no scientific studies to support this claim or even to show that food enzymes contribute to better health.

Whether you lose out on nutrients or not really depends on HOW you’re cooking your cold foods. Boiling results in the biggest loss of nutrients but stir-frying, roasting, and steaming are better ways to keep the nutrients on your plate. Also, remember the “slightly cooked” part and keep your burner low enough to lock in the nutrients. Cooking raw foods with excessive heat can lead to oxidation (or in nonscientific terms, a loss of energy, and in the case of food, nutrients give us energy). Although consuming copious amounts of water is usually a good thing on its own, steaming foods with too much water can dissolve the nutrients in cold foods.


Do you believe that certain foods have the power to induce labor quicker? Check out an article in our library titled, Do These 3 Foods Actually Induce You?


What Foods are Especially Good for Stoking the Fire in Your Belly?

Now that you understand more about cold foods and how to prepare them, what is so special about some of the specific foods Aruyvedic practitioners recommend?

According to Josie Bouchier, acupuncturist and holistic women's health expert, spinach nourishes the blood (and you’re pumping for two!) strengthens organs, treats constipation, is high in folate, and is simple to add into dishes and smoothies. Eggs, meanwhile, nourish the blood, calm the mind, harmonize digestion, and are a wonderful source of protein and iron.


Pregnancy and Protein

Because women tend to tinker with their diets more than men, we’re more likely to be deficient in many nutrients. Protein is no exception with most women falling woefully short of recommended guidelines. To figure out how many grams you need, take your weight and multiply it by .36. So, a 165-pound woman needs 59 grams. Mamas-to-be need to ramp that up to 75 grams or three servings every single day. Mamas who are more active or who are 35 + need to pack in the highest levels of protein.

(Telltale signs you may already be operating at a protein deficit are puffy skin and brittle hair and nails).

You have enough to take care of bringing life into this world so instead of trying to concoct intricate protein-rich meals, choose snacks like peanut butter, Hippeas, or fresh chickpeas, and hummus paired with veggies.


Best All-Around Cold Food

If we had to pick one powerhouse “cold” food, it would definitely be bananas. They regulate blood sugar and are full of potassium, Vitamin C, and fiber. Potassium helps to lower blood pressure and fiber aids digestion. Vitamin C helps boost a strong immune system - so important while you’re pregnant and especially when we’re still dealing with a worldwide pandemic.


Nutritional Benefits Are Only the Beginning

Just as you and your baby can benefit from a diet of equal parts “cold” and “hot” foods, there are also emotional advantages to Chinese medicine. Eastern traditions of meditation, yoga, and massage are healthy and healing practices for pregnant women dealing with the ups and downs of gestation.

Ultimately, ask yourself if you are fueling your mind, body, and soul or if you are reacting to what’s happening around you. A proactive and prepared pregnancy mindset is so beneficial for you and your baby now and into the future.