Confinement superfoods

Confinement superfoods
Photo: ST

These confinement superfoods not only help you recover faster after childbirth, but they also improve the quality of your breast milk and benefit Baby, experts tell Eveline Gan.

Citrus fruit and kiwifruits

Best eaten

As is, or in a smoothie.

How it helps

These fruit increase collagen production, which quickens wound healing - helpful if you've had stitches, says clinical dietitian Jaclyn Reutens, who plans the menu for confi nement-meal caterer Yeyeah Delights. Citrus fruit, such as orange, generally have higher levels of vitamin C and also help your body absorb iron better. Have a serving with your lunch and dinner, suggests Pauline Xie, senior dietitian at National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP).

Instead of juicing, blend them to make smoothies, because this retains the nutrient-rich pulp and fi bre. Other fruit that are high in vitamin C include kiwifruits and papayas.

Pork liver

Best eaten

Stir-fried with ginger and sesame oil.

How it helps

Another excellent source of iron, liver is high in vitamin A as well. But be sure to consume this and other innards, such as pork stomach, kidney and intestines, in moderation. They're high in uric acid and cholesterol, cautions Jaclyn.

Prawns

Best eaten

Cooked with rice wine, stir-fried or steamed.

How they help

Did Grandma warn you to stay away from shellfish during your confi nement? Contrary to this traditional belief, prawns are, in fact, a high-quality protein food for new mums, says senior traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) physician Zhong Xi Ming.

They're loaded with vitamins and minerals, including omega-3 fatty acids, and may even help boost your breast milk supply, says Xi Ming, who practises at Eu Yan Sang Premier TCM Centre at Paragon. But, avoid taking them if you have sensitive skin or allergies.

Tofu

Best eaten

Steamed or cooked in soup.

How it helps

A staple in Chinese cuisine, tofu (beancurd) is high in protein and calcium, and low in calories. Compared to meat protein, it is also friendlier on the wallet. Xi Ming says tofu helps to release "heatiness" and makes a great confi nement dish when cooked with rice wine.

Chinese rice wine

Best eaten

Add it during the final stage of cooking.

How it helps

From a TCM perspective, rice wine - made from fermented glutinous rice - helps to warm your body and promote blood circulation after childbirth. It also helps clear postpartum discharge (lochia), says Xi Ming. Because it has a lower alcohol content than other types of wine, she says it's safe for breastfeeding mums. Just make sure you add it during the fi nal stage of cooking so the alcohol evaporates.

Dairy

Best eaten

Opt for low-fat versions.

How it helps

Calcium is important at all stages of your life, says Pauline. But you'll need more of it - about 1,000mg per day - if you're breastfeeding, to maintain healthy bones and teeth. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, are the best sources, says Jaclyn. Make sure to have one to two servings every day - one serving is equivalent to a glass of milk, two slices of cheese and a 150g tub of yogurt

Oats

Best eaten

Stirred into milk and topped with fruit. Try including them in homemade cookies.

How it helps

Like brown rice, oats are a great energy booster for sleep-deprived mums. According to Sarah Sinaram, senior dietitian at Raffl es Diabetes and Endocrine Centre, they're high in protein, dietary fi bre, vitamins and minerals. This wholegrain food might even help boost your milk supply. There is no solid scientifi c evidence to back this claim by some nursing mums, but it's worth a try if you're worried that you can't keep up with Baby's demands, says Sarah.

Turmeric

Best eaten

Add ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder to any dish.

How it helps

A spice commonly used by Indian mothers during confi nement, turmeric contains a myriad of nutrients, including vitamins B6 and C, fi bre, potassium and magnesium. A few studies suggest that it may help reduce infl ammation and tackle digestive woes. According to Sarah, new mums following traditional Indian confi nement practices would typically include this spice in a dish dubbed hariri, containing various nuts and seeds, sugar and ghee, to supplement their main meals. The recipe is believed to boost breast-milk production.

Green papaya

Best eaten

Cooked in soup with fi sh.

How it helps

Unripe green papaya contains milky sap, which is believed to help boost breast-milk production, says Kang Phaik Gaik, senior nurse manager and senior lactation consultant at Mount Alvernia Hospital. She advises adding it into soup only in the fi nal 15 minutes of cooking to maintain its milk-boosting benefit.

Chicken feet

Best eaten

Cooked in soup or stews.

How it helps

Don't cringe at this - chicken feet are a good source of collagen and can help improve blood fl ow after childbirth, says Xi Ming. Having double-boiled chicken feet and peanut soup regularly can help boost your breast milk supply, too. TCM practitioners also consider peanuts a superfood - they contain protein, good fats and vitamins, which nourish the spleen and stomach, she adds.

Lean red meat

Best eaten

Stir-fried, stewed or grilled.

How it helps

You'll need at least 19mg of iron daily to help replenish blood loss during childbirth, says Pauline. One serving of lean beef contains about 3.2mg of iron.

Your body absorbs iron better when it comes from animal sources (such as red meat) compared to plants (like legumes and spinach), she adds. Serve with a side of vitamin C-rich fruit or greens to boost iron absorption, but don't wash your meals down with a cup of teh or kopi - these caffeinated beverages can counter the effect.

Fenugreek

Best taken

Brewed as a tea.

How it helps

Breastfeeding mums in India have traditionally used this herb to increase their milk supply. According to Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye, head and senior consultant at the division of obstetrics and gynaecology at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, fenugreek is considered safe for nursing mums, although having too much of it can lead to loose stools.

Make the tea by adding one teaspoon of fenugreek seeds into a cup of hot water. Take this three times a day, says Prof Tan. It's also available in capsule form from pharmacies.

Spinach

Stir-fried, steamed or cooked in soup.

How it helps

There's a reason Popeye loves this green leafy veggie. This multitasker is loaded with various nutrients, including vitamins A and C, fi bre and iron, all of which replenish your red blood cell count and help you recover faster, says Jaclyn from Yeyeah Delights. Do include broccoli, cai xin and kai lan in your diet, too.

Legumes

Best eaten

Slow-cooked in soup and stews, and with some ginger or turmeric to aid digestion.

How it helps

Lentils, peas, green and yellow mung beans are high in vitamins and minerals and low in fat and cholesterol, says Sarah of Raffl es Diabetes and Endocrine Centre. In fact, with their high-protein content, legumes can be a healthier alternative to meat, as well. Soya nuts and edamame make better snacks than junk food.

Salmon

Best eaten

Steamed, baked or stir-fried.

How it helps

Feeling the post-baby blues? Have some salmon. Besides being high in protein, which helps with wound healing, it also contains zinc, which is good for fi ghting postpartum depression, says Jaclyn. Another reason why you should load up on this power ingredient: it contains the brain-boosting DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, a healthy fat that can be passed from your diet to breast milk for Baby, she adds.

Brown rice

Best eaten

Steamed.

How it helps

Don't cut the carbs even if you're eager to lose that post-baby weight. Any sudden drop in your calorie intake after delivery can make your milk supply dip, says Pauline.

Jaclyn suggests eating smart by opting for wholegrain carbohydrates, such as brown rice, which burns energy gradually. It's also high in fi bre, which aids bowel movements.

Water

Best taken

As is.

How it helps

While some mums swear by red date tea to prevent water retention after childbirth, the experts say that plain water is a better hydration option. About 88 per cent of breast milk is made up of water, so it's important for nursing mums to drink up, explains Pauline from NHGP. Aim for eight glasses per day.

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