Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Loretta
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Hi!

There's certainly a lot of food related advice for pregnant women - no raw eggs, no liver, no unpasteurised dairy products, go easy with the caffeine, go easy with the tuna, no marlin and swordfish and no raw fish or shellfish. There's also conflicting advice about eating peanuts (of particular concern as my husband has eczema).

The advice I've found and been given, however, is focused almost entirely on foods found in European diets.

I'd be very grateful to learn which foods women in Japan are recommended to eat and avoid.

For instance, I understand that Korean women are urged to eat plenty of wakame, but I've also heard that Japanese women might be told to take care not to eat too much wakame and other seaweeds. I'm also not sure about Calpis.

I'll be spending a couple of weeks in Japan next month, so I'd be very grateful for any information that will help me maintain an adventurous diet. If there are any sashimi/sushi items that are considered risk free I'd particularly like to know about them. It's bad enough that I've developed an acute aversion for any kind of green tea!

Many thanks!

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clarissa
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

I have never been to Japan but I think that all sushi variants with vegetabels and without fish or egg should be save.

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Loretta
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Hmmm... what would those be?
Kappamaki (nori, rice and cucumber) and that's it, I can't think of any others that can be found in Japan.

The alternatives that are probably safe to eat include inari sushi (rice, mirin soaked tofu and sesame) and maki-sushi with fried prawns or other fried/grilled seafoods, like anago or unagi eel
Tamago sushi (rice topped with rolled omelet) should be fine as the egg is cooked.
Here's some fried prawn onigiri I had last year http://bp2.blogger.com/_n1sjt7SfiAw/SFuZ9IEV09I/AAAAAAAAAKs/TDMaAq_1Vhg/... don't know what they're called though (EDIT now I do, tenmusu, a speciality of the Nagoya region... which is where the photo was taken)
There are other onigiri made with cooked salmon, ume, konbu, kelp, tuna-mayo etc I can still have.
But these are all very tame choices I'm already very familiar with.

What I'm not sure about is if the same advice about not eating raw fish applies to eating fish in Japan as it may be processed/treated differently. And then there are other fuzzy areas like the fish used in heavily vinegared styles of sushi such as narezushi. It's not technically cooked, so is it OK?

maki
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Hi Loretta,

Congratulations on your pregnancy!

This is what I've seen from some Japanese sites about eating recommendations for pregnant women.

- Aim for +50 calories more than your normal daily intake of calories during the first trimester, +250 calories during the second trimester, +500 during the third trimester; and +450 calories when you are nursing.
- Eat lots of calcium, especially in the form of dairy products, also whole little fish like chirimenjako and shirasuboshi, nuts, seeds. The developing baby will absorb the calcium it needs from the mother's body anyway, so the extra calcium is especially necessary for the mother's health. I guess in that sense Calpis is fine since it's dairy based, though it is high in sugar so you should probably just have it in moderation.
- Eats lots of folic acid (aka Vitamin M). This can be from foods like spinach, dried wakame, organ meats, egg yolk, milk and beans. Some sites also recommend taking folic acid and/or general B-complex supplements (though you have to take any 'take supplements' advice with a grain of salt...the nutritional supplement business is booming in Japan)
- Eat iron-rich foods like green leafy vegetables, organ meats, red meat
- Fish in general is recommended as being highly nutritious and safe, but certain fish that may be high in mercury are to be eaten in moderation. The main culprit here is tuna.

I found this page (English) on the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare site: Advice for Pregnant Women on Fish Consumption concerning Mercury Contamination. This has a list of fish consumed in Japan that is deemed to have high mercury levels, which should be eaten sparingly if at all by pregnant women. That list is from 2001 though - this Japanese page is a bit more up to date. Basically if you aren't eating dolphin(!) and whale(!) the fish to eat sparingly would be various kinds of tuna, yellow porgy, maybe some types of cod.

Japanese sites don't really advise against eating raw fish per se, just to watch out for fish that could be high in mercury. I know this goes against what Western sites say. If you like sushi, you could have sushi made with tamagoyaki, kanpyou (dried gourd, used in futomaki and kanpyoumaki), pickled vegetables, etc if you want to avoid fish - or boiled/fried shrimp (prawns), cooked eel (unagi, anago), etc. too. Or you could just avoid maguro sushi and enjoy whitefish sushi and so on.

That's the scientific info. On a sort of folk medicine level, in general pregant women are recommended not to eat food that are too cooling (or yin) to the body. For instance, there is a saying 'akinasu yome ni kuwasuna' (Don't let the daughter-in-law eat autumn eggplant(aubergines)) - this is supposed to be because eggplants, like other members of the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, etc) are supposed to have a cooling effect on the body, which is not good for pregnant or nursing females in particular and females in general. If you want to look up that sort of thing, look into macrobiotics or Chinese herbal pages about 'yang' (warming), 'yin/yang' (balanced) and 'yin' (cooling) foods.

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Loretta
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Thanks Maki!

Eating more than before is rather difficult at the moment. Just keeping what I eat down is a challenge so I'm trying to make every mouthful count, nutritionally speaking. But I'm hoping that I'll be feeling better by April.

Both those lists and the run down you gave are very useful and I'm very grateful you've taken the time to help me make informed choices. My UK GP mirrored the advice about folic acid, particularly for the past three months, and it's the only supplement I've taken.

I notice that the hoya sample that was tested had no mercury traces. I wonder if I'm going to be brave enough to finally give that delicacy a try! :D

Thanks again!

Jiza
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

enhorabuena loretta!! :D

This is cool... we are thinking about having a baby so this info is great for me too! :D

Also, pregant women are supposed not to eat raw meat (this includes spanish ham, roast beef, carpaccio, and so on) so take a look on what you eat!

Mmm... now I have a crush for inarizushi... >_<

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Loretta
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

¡Muchísimas gracias, Jiza!

The only meat I eat now is fish, but it's still good to know the advice from the Spanish authorities.
The only Spanish food I've cut out from my diet is horchata de chufa. I normally get a big supply of tiger nuts each year and make it myself, but there are bacteria issues with these tubers, particularly when they're stored over long periods (and the conditions I can store them in are far from perfect). I've never got sick yet from drinking horchata, but this is not a time in my life to be taking risks, especially now my immune system is at a low.

Jiza
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

i didn't know horchata was 'dangerous'. I absolutely LOVE it (my grandmother's family was from Alicante) but I cut it out from my diet ... because it's too much fattening lol!
How should chufas be stored anyway? :)

I asked my mum and she said you should avoid all kind of fiambre (even chorizo is raw meat even if it has too much paprika and spices for the develop of any bacteria) and boquerones en vinagre (that's also raw!). Also, any food that is too spicy could have a risk but I guess the best thing you should do is to ask your doctor ! :D

JJ sobey
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Loretta - if you're having nausea issues, ginger has a natural anti-nausea effect. If you like ginger try including some in your meals. I really craved sushi ginger during my pregnancy - it calmed my stomach! Ginger tea has the same effect.

JJ

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Loretta
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

This is where too much information can make things tricky.

The first sign of pregnancy for me (and one I only recognised with hindsight) was a total aversion to tea and caffeinated drinks. I then found out that caffeine has adverse effects on a foetus. I had a similar experience with ginger - I absolutely can't stand the stuff now. But a doctor friend told me that one theory for the nausea/sickness is that the foetus releases an enzyme to protect itself. Ginger seems to suppress the action of this enzyme. Nausea is often seen as a good sign for the foetus' well being so I can only assume that, if it is an enzyme that's being released, it's doing some good. So the jury is out as to whether ginger is a good idea or not. Personally, and I say this because I've come to trust and respect the food aversions I now have (which are minimal) I'd rather not take it. And I've partly come to this decision because the taste of ginger has 'changed' for me, anything with ginger tastes like it has dirt/silt mixed into it. But I stress, everyone is different, so I would hate anyone to consider my comments of universal value.

But thanks for the tip! It does seem to help a lot of people.

Jiza
----
I should have made it clearer about the 'dangerous horchata' comment.
When the chufas/tigernuts are pulled out of the ground they go through a long and rigorous process of cleaning and drying. They are dried out for at least 3 months in dark, well ventilated conditions. And shaken/turned on a daily basis throughout this time. They are checked for quality and thoroughly cleaned/disinfected. How the chufas are disinfected varies depending on the company/horchateria processing them. Some use chemicals, others go through a sort of pasteurisation process (try Helados Gori in Alicante for excellent horchata without the chemicals/bleaches - and don't offend the owner by drinking it through a straw! :D ).
When I receive a bag of chufas, I have no idea what process was applied to it other than the fact that the contents have been dried. I also don't know how long those chufas were in the bag for. Keeping them wrapped in plastic will increase the bacteria (perhaps even fungal) content. Also, I just don't have the facilities at home to keep them in a fresh, well ventilated location over long periods.

The reason this becomes an issue is that chufas aren't cooked in order to make horchata, they're used raw. So any unseen nasties will make it into the finished product. I just scrub and rinse and soak them overnight and blitz them in a liquidiser with the other ingredients before straining and drinking it.

Homemade horchata with chufas that have been kept in humid, warm conditions for long periods may be dangerous.
Horchata made from freshly purchased chufas kept in ideal conditions or bought from a reputable horchateria is not at all dangerous.

Chufas are extremely nutritious and low in cholesterol, so I assume it's the amount of sugar that gets poured into horchata that makes you consider it to be fattening. How about making your own? See how little sugar you can get away with adding to it. As long as you have a blender/liquidiser and some cloth to strain it through it's very easy to do.

Jiza
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

oookay now I understand! thanks for the explanation :D

I've thought about making my own horchata several times but as I'm the only one drinking it (my husband hates it) i think the same as i thought when first making homemade soy milk (maki's recipe)... It'll be a damn lot of horchata/soy milk and it will spoil anyway. So... the easiest thing to do is to buy a bottle now and then.

When I lived in valencia and alicante due to my job, i had horchata with fartons. I love it... aw... >_<

Loretta
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A BIG THANK YOU!

I can't tell you how useful (and reassuring) this thread was for me on my recent trip.
Having just started to recover from excessive sickness a few days before departing for Tokyo, by the time I arrived I was ready to make ammends and eat, and eat, and eat.
Due to the circumstances of my visit I went to quite a few formal lunches and had some rather large and elaborate meals - the advice here made me much more comfortable about eating sashimi and guided me in my sushi choices. Even hoya turned up as an option in an izakaya and I had no reservation whatsover about trying it (loved it!).
The 12 days went way too quickly, but I gained just over 1.5 kilos in that time and my health improved enormously.
I don't think I'll ever forget eating chirashi sushi with family and friends pausing every now and again to catch my breath as sakura fubuki blew past.

anne14
Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

we are thinking about having a baby so this info is great for me too! I asked my mum and she said you should avoid all kind of fiambre (even chorizo is raw meat even if it has too much paprika and spices for the develop of any bacteria) and boquerones en vinagre (that's also raw!). Also, any food that is too spicy could have a risk but I guess the best thing you should do is to ask your doctor.

Anne,
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Loretta
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Thanks Anne!

Boquerones/agritos (anchovy fillets marinated in vinegar) are the perfect example of why a Doctor in the UK wouldn’t necessarily be the best person to advise me on what food I should be avoiding in Spain.

Commercially available boquerones should be absolutely fine to eat as Spanish law requires that the fillets be frozen (at -18C for 24-48 hours) at some point to ensure that they are free from parasites (Anisakiasis). So the little round tubs of boquerones available at supermarkets are safe (the law means that any fish meant to be eaten raw/vinegared is treated in the same way - fish preserved with salt is fine). However, boquerones made at home (and this could include those at some bars or restaurants) won’t necessarily have been pre-frozen so that the risk of parasitic infection is eliminated. A Doctor in London couldn’t possibly be expected to know this. I would think it a real shame to avoid boquerones completely because I didn’t understand what the risks involved actually were.

And even for the food available in the Doctor’s own country, the risks aren’t always clear. In this instance I’m thinking of cheese and all the messy and conflicting advice associated with it. But at least with English and Spanish speaking countries I can inform myself and decide on the risks using my own judgement (which is why I’m happy to eat Gruyere made with unpasteurised milk but will avoid Camembert made with pasteurised milk).

yamikuronue
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Mostly off-topic, but your post is bringing back (now-)fond memories of having to race to the grocery store down the street on my bike because Mom realized she was out of ginger - it seemed some days that all she'd drink was icewater with lemon and grated ginger XD It's weird to hear that ginger might be bad now - I'm super-concious of what I eat, so I'm not looking forward to getting pregnant, I'll probably change my diet every time I read an article XD

Congratulations!

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c-helle
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Congratulations to you! Will this be your first?

My first introductions to Japanese food came during my pregnancies! Miso became my best friend, as one of my midwives recommended it for nausea/vomiting (I have hyperemesis with my pgs, so I am glad to report that this helped), and it's so much better for rehydrating than electrolyte replacement drinks. I was also advised to seek out gobo, which was excellent advice, because I always felt better after eating it. I got conflicting advice about seaweeds. Some said to eat it, because it's healthy, helps regulate bp, has plenty of minerals. Others said it could be contaminated just as some fish are contaminated with mercury. As I had a very difficult time keeping myself fed and hydrated adequately, I ended up just eating what would "work". Sea vegetables worked for me, so I kept eating them.

Eggs shouldn't be a problem as long as they are cooked throughout. In fact, one pregnancy diet recommends eating at least two eggs a day. I don't know a lot about Japanese food, but what those things (gobo, miso, seaweed) really helped me through.

Loretta
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Thanks c-helle,

pregnancy is over now, and although I had a short (and very welcome) period of respite from the hyperemisis which coincided with that trip to Japan, it ended coming back and getting more aggressive during the end of the pregnancy - keeping liquid down was a huge problem and I ended up on a drip :(

Thanks for the tips about gobo and miso, also my father-in-law had suggested wakame as Korean women are advised to eat plenty of this seaweed during pregnancy.

And yes, first child. I have no idea how others manage tough pregnancies with a toddler to contend with - you have my respect and my awe.

bronwyncarlisle
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Heh. How do you like the idea of this:
A guy I work with and his wife had unexpected twins (not totally, they knew there was one on the way) when their first daughter was about 18 months. One of the twins was diagnosed with hip dysplasia so had to be in one of those plaster casts that sets them in a horse riding position. Then the eldest child was diagnosed with the same thing! So Kevin's poor wife was stuck coping with three kids under two, two of whom were in waist to ankle plaster casts for several months. That's my idea of parent hell.

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c-helle
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Re: Dietary advice for pregnant women in Japan?

Congratulations! It is so wonderful to snuggle a new baby. I hate that you ended up on a drip; I know that it is so uncomfortable (don't we have to move so much, just to make ourselves comfortable when we're pregnant?).

Honestly, my second pregnancy with toddler in tow was much easier, despite . I suppose because I knew I could "do" pregnancy and birth.

I loved wakame! I picked it up accidentally--I couldn't find the kombu--but I am now so glad I did, as my son loves it too.

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