During my month-long Chinese postpartum retreat (坐月子, zuò yuè zi), I ate fruit after nearly every meal. My hospital meals usually came with sliced papaya or an apple. And when I returned home, my Chinese postpartum doula (yuepo) would slice pieces of fruit and layer them like a lotus flower for me to snack on. So I was surprised to read blog references about raw fruit being forbidden during zuo yuezi, especially in luxury confinement centers in mainland China.
Taiwan has a subtropical climate and rich soil fertilized by almost constant seismic activity. It is unsurprisingly a fruit paradise, with almost every conceivable type of tempting tropical fruit available. Much of the fruit is so exquisite that it is often given as gifts for important holidays, much in the same way as we would gift chocolates or wine back home in Australia. We have received boxes of fat, golden persimmons, nashi pears the size of footballs, and boxes of specialty wax apples from Pingtung – a Taiwanese fruit that popular during Chinese New Year.
I am sure I don’t need to convince people about the health benefits of fruit. After childbirth, fruit can provide an important source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. But Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory holds that only some fruits are appropriate for the diet of a new mother during her postpartum retreat.
TCM is about creating balance in the body — think the bagua diagram with swirling yin and yang forces represented in white and black. In winter, you are encouraged to eat warming foods and in summer to eat cooling foods. A woman’s body is more cool (yin) after giving childbirth and needs to be rejuvenated with warming foods. Many fruits are yin, and some are extremely yin. But some fruits are actually heaty (yang), or are neither particularly hot nor cold. The secret is to understand the properties of each fruit and to modify consumption accordingly. Also, let the seasons be a guide as to what fruit is best eaten when (e.g. it is generally better for your body to eat more cooling fruits in summer than in winter).
Like many cultural traditions, there are different interpretations of what you ‘should’ or ‘should not’ eat. The same is true with classifying what foods and ‘yin’ or ‘yang’. And every person’s body is different so will react to food in different ways. But below is my attempt at classifying what is helpful or otherwise to eat after childbirth based on my own zuo yuezi experience. Please feel free to leave a comment to help refine the list.
- Papaya (paw paw) — good ripe or green, cooked or raw, excellent for encouraging lactation
- Guava — good for weight loss
- Dragon fruit
- Dates — lactogenic properties
- Red grapes — anything red is apparently good for the blood supply
- Kiwi fruit (my yuepo told me that kiwi fruit are good for new mothers, although I have read elsewhere that they are very yin)
- Lychees (litchees) and longan (fresh or dried)
Enjoy in moderation:
- Lemons (e.g. as an addition in food in small amounts)
- Nashi pears
- Star fruit