Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy (Tamil Beliefs)


There’s this little girl, she wrapped her little fingers around mine, and my world has forever changed. Earlier this year, I gave birth to the most precious baby girl. Pregnancy and motherhood has been one of the best, yet most challenging times of my life. 

During my pregnancy, I was fortunate enough to have the help of so many wise elders who shared their wisdom with me. In an effort to dig a little deeper, I looked into some of the common beliefs shared with pregnant Tamil women in terms of foods to avoid. I hope you find this information as intriguing as I did. 

Photo Credits: Radival_Oliveira

Papaya: This is the number one food I was told to avoid during my pregnancy. Papaya is thought to be a fruit with a ‘hot’ property, and believed to possibly cause abortion. Looking into some research, I found that the avoidance of papaya could be two-fold. One, papaya in Tamil, papali, is made up of two words – pappa (meaning little child) and ali (meaning to destroy). Literally meaning to destroy a child, and thus avoided. It was also believed that consuming this fruit caused the onset of an overdue menstrual period, therefore linked to early miscarriage. Also, papain, the digestive enzyme in papaya has been used to soften and tenderize meat in some parts of the world, and the belief is that if it can be used to soften meat, it may soften the fetus and cause a miscarriage. 

Pineapple: This was also a fruit that I was told to avoid. Pineapple is a fruit with a ‘hot’ property, and thus recommended as one to avoid. Furthermore, I was told eating lots of pineapple could cause bleeding. However, you would have to eat many whole pineapples for this to actually happen. 

Sesame seeds: While this is also a food with a ‘hot’ property, it is also believed that sesame seeds embody fertility and can stimulate the ovaries unnecessarily. 

Eggs: Eggs are thought to cause the baby to grow too much, making labour difficult and also believe to cause rashes for the baby. Before pregnancy I really enjoyed eating soft-boiled eggs, and as my family doctor also recommended only eating hard-boiled eggs, I found avoiding eggs a little harder to give up. Oddly, after avoiding it in pregnancy, I do not like eggs as much as I did before pregnancy. 

Sweet potato: This was another one that I was told to avoid during pregnancy because it causes ‘vayvu’ or gas. The belief is that foods that cause gas cause restriction of the movement of the fetus. 

Others: Other things to avoid in general were very spicy foods as they could cause indigestion and heart burn, day-old food as it could have bacteria if not stored properly and other hot inducing foods which were believed to have hot properties, thereby causing uterine contractions (garlic, onion, tea, etc.). Mutton was also limited during pregnancy. 

Recommended foods: Foods that I was encouraged during pregnancy to eat were spinach, venthiyam (fenugreek seeds),  nethili karuvadu (dry fish) for the iron content, kungumapoo (saffron milk), fresh fruits, rasam, and many others that I can’t remember now. In general, it is encouraged that woman eat what they like also, as being happy during pregnancy is important to the health of the mother and baby. My husband was amazing during my pregnancy in this regard, and traveled far and late at night during those really intense craving times!

What are some things you’ve heard to avoid in pregnancy? 

Thanks everyone for all your kind words, support and patience with my blog. I hope to soon get more into a routine and start blogging more frequently. For everyone who has requested recipes for some of the photos I’ve posted, I will surely get to them slowly. Some days all I can manage is to take a snap of my food.



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