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​To Eat or Not To Eat?- The Myth About Pregnancy and Healthy Eating

13-Jul-2015.By: Contributor

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Food has been given to mankind as a blessing and also serves as a means of survival, which thankfully is readily available, though at varied proportions in various parts of the world. Generally, people are advised to stay healthy and keep fit by eating a balanced diet and tons of fruit. The young, old, convalescent, sportsman, upwardly mobile, labourer all have an idea of what to ingest in their bowels in order to lead healthy lives; This long list also involves pregnant women, but theirs is bombarded with a lot of myths that some have come to believe in them and live by them as much as they believe in the air they breathe. These old wives' fables as some would call them, has clung onto various minds like a leach on an animal that won’t let go as long as its host is still alive. It’s agreeable that health practitioners have put out warnings on some specific food items as a no go area for pregnant women, most of the hearsays are just wildly believed myths that haven’t been proven otherwise and probably never will.

One of the most “impressive” myths is trying to determine what the sex of a child will be. Science has proven that the chromosome(s) released by the father is what determines whether the foetus is male or female. Worldwide superstitions, however disputed this. One claims that “what a woman eats before conception influences the baby’s sex. It states that if the intending mother wants a girl, she should eat dairy-rich diet, such as all fluid milk products, cheese, yoghurt and so on; magnesium- rich foods such as nuts, soybeans and leafy green vegetables. If it’s a boy the intending mother wants, she has to eat salty foods, plenty of red meat and fizzy beverages which have high sugar content.

Now moving on to peppers, which include bell pepper aka Tatase (green, red, yellow), Cherry pepper aka Shombo, Jalapeno, Serrano, Cayenne and so on, it is believed that anyone intending to become a mother who eats lots of these will be ‘blessed’ with a baby that has a large head accompanied by lots of hair. The question then is this, how on earth does the amount of pepper a pregnant woman takes affect the size of the baby’s head or how much hair will grow on it? Beats the imagination! Now, one of the challenges mothers to be has to contend with during pregnancy is heartburn whose effects ranges from mild to very bad. Now, medical personnel advise that any food item that causes heartburn should be avoided; some of these food items sometimes include peppers such as Mexican food, chili and general spices. While some women can wolf down a truckload of spices without a stir, some cannot because of its after effect. So if one falls into the category of those who cannot bear to have chili in their meals, does that mean they will have bald children?

Having snails in meals is supposed to be a relish and something to look forward to even for pregnant women, but still food myths in pregnancy will not allow them to remain what they are, food item! Now, there are different myths about eating snails while being pregnant one of which is that when one eats snails, the babies will experience excessive salivation after they are born. Journal of Basic and Applied Scientific Research, an online Journal corroborates that these claims are unsubstantiated beliefs and fads surrounding the consumption of snails. It states that it is believed that, pregnant women who eat snails will eventually end up having babies with “drip mouth.” Contrary to these claims, it has been proven scientifically that snails, in fact have great nutritional benefits for pregnant women. “Experiments reveal that snail meat is an excellent source of minerals and thus recommended for growing babies, teenagers, pregnant, and lactating women. It is also recommended for use by people suffering from diabetes and hypertension and generally for people who would want to maintain good health. “

Chiwe Udofia whose study was published in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health points out that snails which are native to forests and areas of moist vegetation in West African countries such as Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria has a high protein and iron content which is better than beef. Her research also points out that snails contain essential nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and Vitamin A. beyond being nutritious for pregnant women, snail meat can be used to develop complementary foods for children under 5years to prevent rickets, iron deficiency anaemia, and protein energy malnutrition. With all the aforementioned benefits, how then can a food item as nutritious as snails could be dangerous to an innocent child in the womb? That really is food for thought.

Light skinned or dark skinned, most expecting mothers would be content with any skin colour for their baby as long as it’s still within the family heritage. This is however not to say that some people prefer a skin colour over the other. It’s therefore no wonder some pregnant women ask for what meals they can eat to ensure their baby is born fair skinned and of course there is an answer for that, white coloured food! O yes! White coloured food! Some myths have proposed that when a pregnant woman eats light coloured foods such as milk, yoghurt and maybe garri-now that was a joke, there is a higher probability the baby would be fair skinned and if the mother has a high dose of dark coloured food such as chocolate, dates, soy sauce etc., the baby would have a darker skin. Despite this old Indian tale, people have fallen into the trap of limiting themselves to a particular colour of food to help determine their baby’s complexion. Now, here’s the shocker from experts. “ No. A baby's complexion -- whether dark or fair -- is decided by his genes at the moment of conception .There is nothing you can do to change your baby's complexion before or after birth. What can temporarily change or influence your baby's skin colour are health and environmental issues. Once these issues are resolved, your baby's skin colour will return to the shade and tone he was born with” says Patricia Collins on babycenter.com’

Beyond the scope of this write-up, many fables, myths and sayings abound on determining the sex, size, complexion, physical appearance, genetic formulation of an unborn child, but shouldn’t the health of the child and mother be the priority? Experts have advised that when an expecting mother eats right, drink right, sleep right and takes the required medications (for regular or exceptional cases), all things being equal, mother and baby should be fine. So why then should a mother want to eat loads of carrot while pregnant in order to have an ‘orange coloured’ baby? Just asking!!!



Last Updated: 30-Jun-2016 07:39 PM

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