Five Korean Ingredients You Should Avoid While You Are Pregnant

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Five Korean Ingredients You Should Avoid While You Are Pregnant

(Photo credit – canstockphoto.com used with licence)

Disclaimer – I want to make it clear that this article is not intended for medical, health or dietary advice. Please seek appropriate professional advice if you have any concerns or questions about your pregnancy.

So, I made an announcement a few weeks ago that I’m expecting my first baby and the due date is getting very close now. Just like an any expectant mother, I’m very nervous and apprehensive about what’s to come next. At my first obstetrician visit (at around 8 weeks pregnancy), I was handed a pregnancy information pack. It included what to expect in the coming months and types of exercise that are good for a pregnant women etc.  Among these, one of the papers listed food that should be avoided by a pregnant woman. As I was going through the list, there was a couple of ‘whaaat!?’ moments. Just to name a few, it said I can’t have smoked salmon, ham, salami, sushi, soft cheese (e.g. brie) etc. OMG! They are all my favourite foods! In fact, without knowing, I had been eating those foods until that moment. Then I started to worry. Is my baby going to be OK!? After reading that paper, I watched very carefully what I ate. Then it crossed my mind, what about Korean food? I eat Korean food more frequently than anything else. What Korean food can I eat and what should I avoid? So I decided to some research and compile a list of ‘Korean food you should avoid while you are pregnant’ to share with you and bring up some discussion.

1. Job’s Tears (Korean name – Yulmu, 율무) 

jobs-tears

(Image from tastehongkong.com)

A most common way to intake Job’s tears (also known as Adlay) in Korea is via multi-grain rice (Japgokbap, 잡곡밥) and Job’s tears tea (Yulmu-Cha, 율무차). You can click the respective links to find out more about them. Job’s tears are known to burn water and fat that is required for a baby’s growth. It also increases the risk of premature birth as it releases amniotic fluids and apparently it can cause constipation as well. On the other hand, Job’s tears are known to be beneficial after giving birth as it discharges unnecessary fluids from the body and helps reduce swelling.

2. Mung beans (Korean name – Nokdu, 녹두)

 Mung bean

(Photo credit – canstockphoto.com used with licence)

Mung beans are mainly used in Mung bean pancake (Bindaetteok, 빈대떡) and Mung bean sprout salad (Sukju Namul, 숙주나물) in Korean cuisine. Mung bean has a cold characteristic (in food yin and yang) and hinders digestion. (side comment: You know, when you get pregnant heart burn and indigestion issues become a natural part your daily life. So obviously you don’t want to intentionally add additional inconvenience on top of that!) Mung beans are also known to burn the fetus’s fat and if consumed in large quantities it can cause a miscarriage.

3. Red beans (Korean name – Pat, )

Red beans (Adzuki beans)

(Photo credit – canstockphoto.com used with licence)

Red beans (also known as Adzuki beans) are commonly consumed in a form of Red bean porridge (Patjuk, 팥죽), Korean shaved ice desert (Patbingsu, 팥빙수), Korean Glutinous Rice Ball Doughnuts (Chapssal Donuts, 찹쌀도넛) and Half-moon shaped rice cakes (Songpyeon, 송편). While red beans make the whole body’s hormones active, it can cause oxytocin activity due to the hormone hypersecretion.

4. Ginger (Korean name – Saenggang, 생강)

Ginger

(Photo credit – canstockphoto.com used with licence)

I frequently use small doses of ginger when cooking meat. Relatively large volumes of ginger are used in Ginger tea (Saenggangcha, 생강차) and Korean cinnamon punch (Sujeonggwa, 수정과). While ginger is known to improve morning sickness in the early stage of pregnancy, eating too much ginger can cause atopic dermatitis to the fetus due to the spicy characteristic.

5. Barley malt powder (Yeotgireum Garu, 엿기름 가루)

Barley Malt Powder

(image from cookcooktv.com)

Barley malt powder is most commonly used in Sweet rice drink (Korean name – Sikhye, 식혜). It is known to dry breast milk if consumed, so many Korean women drink Sikhye when they want to stop breastfeeding but not so much before.

Closing remarks

So, how accurate and trustworthy is the above information? Well, I don’t know. The judgement should be yours, your health and medical professional’s to bear. I listed two reference materials below, though they are written in Korean. There were many other websites and group discussion forums that listed pretty much the same ingredients as above, however I didn’t want to list them all in the below reference. Just so you know, during my pregnancy, I had mung bean sprout salad on a regular basis, at least once a month and I also had cinnamon punch and Korean glutinous rice ball doughnuts and baby and I have been fine so far. I guess I didn’t consume them in excessive amounts. Have you had any of above foods while you’re pregnant? Do you think you will still have them after reading this post? Why not share your experience and plans with your fellow Korean food lovers!

Reference (written in Korean)

임신부 금기 음식의 속사정 : 맘 & 앙팡. 2013. 임신부 금기 음식의 속사정 : 맘 & 앙팡 매거진. [ONLINE] Available at: http://navercast.naver.com/magazine_contents.nhn?rid=1491&attrId=&contents_id=20314&leafId=1491. [Accessed 05 July 2013].

임산부가 피해할 음식은 무엇!: Kizmom 2012. . [ONLINE] Available at: http://kizmom.hankyung.com/news/apps/news.sub_view?popup=0&nid=05&c1=05&c2=03&c3=00&nkey=201210091644251. [Accessed 05 July 2013].

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About Sue

Hi, I'm Sue and I am the author/cook/photographer behind My Korean Kitchen. Thank you for joining me in this delicious culinary journey!

Comments

  1. Hello Sue! I am 8 weeks pregnant and I live in Korea. My OB/GYN didn’t give me any information on what to eat and what not to eat. I’m American and my hubby’s Korean so we eat a lot of Korean food. When I asked the doc about what is safe, she just said “Korean food is sooooo healthy. Why wouldn’t you want to eat it? That’s all you should eat!” That wasn’t helpful at all for a concerned first-time mother!! Your blog was the only thing I could really find on the matter in English so thanks!!

    • Thanks JK, I know how you would have felt after talking to your doctor. Yes, it is very scary and you want to do what’s best for you and your bub. Bear in mind, this post is for your information only so it’s not medical advice. :) I hope you and your bub’s doing well.

  2. Hello,

    Red beans should be safe during pregnancy. Many websites claim that it is good for pregnancy and very nutritious. I love Korean food and grew up on it.

  3. I live in Sweden, and we have very good recommendations here. For us sushi is okay to eat as long as it has been frozen for three days before eating it. Every good restaurant do this and everyone at home as well if the fish is raw. The same goes with salami, just keep it in the freezer for three days and all possible listeria will die. Soft cheese is okay as long as it is made of pasteurized milk!

    You have to eat a very unhealthy big amount of ginger to be dangerous for the baby. Here, ginger is recommended for pregnancy illness or morning sickness. Spicy food during pregnancy is okay as long as you are alright.

    When you are breatfeeding on the other hand, cabbage and have negative effect on the baby’s stomach.

  4. Congrats! So glad to see you’re back- you helped me first learn to cook Korean food for my husband when I was first married! Now our third baby is on the way! ;)
    About ginger- I never heard that. And I would think that if it would cause atopic dermatitis then Korean women should not eat gochujang or Kimchi either! Many Korean foods are very spicy! I think moderation is fine. Be careful after pregnancy though- I know you will eat a lot of Miyuk guk- those spicy foods will visibly upset your baby of you plan to breast feed!

    • My mum also told me not to eat spicy food while breastfeeding, including Kimchi! She told me that it will upset baby’s stomach.
      I had heaps of spicy food during my pregnancy though (just typical Korean food). Hopefully, my bub doesn’t develop any skin rashes. Good luck with your third baby!

  5. How interesting! I know of a few ingredients to avoid during pregnancy from Chinese culture. Will definitely keep this in mind. Thanks for sharing!

  6. One of crazy weird craving I had when I was pregnant with my first child was Japanese red bean ice bar. I was eating at least one bar a day. Good thing I didn’t know about red bean then. Heheh. I craved for sushi and sashimi when I was pregnant, but I heard preggers still eat them in Japan (maybe freshness is different as the fish quality is so good in Japan). Anyway, good luck with your delivery! I can’t wait to hear the great news. :)

  7. Is that your belly? This may sould creepy but you have a really cute pregnant belly! :-) Also, I have read and heard about these cautions from Chinese traditions as well so I guess they are somewhat reliable. Maybe? Better be safe aye.

  8. I went through three pregnancies and I stay away only from raw meat/fish, but I didn’t know about all these especially ginger and beans. I ate beans like crazy :D Also ate plain Barley instead of the rice many, many times.I’ve had smoked salmon, ham, salami, and soft cheese throughout all my pregnancies too. Although I am not planning to have another baby this is good post and very informative.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Sandra! I sometimes think an advice we receive nowadays are way too cautious. I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’m so looking forward to having smoked salmon, salami and soft cheese soon!!! (Not too long to go. :))

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