Your body is amazing. It supported a new life for nine months, and then overcame a physical task unlike any other, to give birth to your beautiful baby. Now, your body is producing milk and adjusting to new hormones, sleep deprivation, and new routines. In many cultures, including in Asia, it is expected that during the postpartum period women rest and bond with the baby while her family takes care of all the other daily responsibilities. Much of the recovery is due to nourishing foods that replenish the woman’s energy (Qi) and blood. Although we may not be so fortunate to have family and friends tend to all our needs for 100 days like in China, we can ensure that we are eating well. Below is a list of foods that will build your qi and blood and promote healing and recovery:
• Oat porridge with dates
• Roast sweet potatoes, pumpkin and yams with rosemary
• Chicken stir fry with shitake mushrooms and rice
• Shepherds pie with beef mince, mushrooms, carrots and mashed potato as a topping
• Peanut Satay sauce with chicken or meat on rice
• Potato and egg salad
• Tuna fish pie made with hard boiled eggs and served with mashed potatoes and peas
• Stir fired Tofu, eggplant and mushrooms with sesame seeds on rice
• Home made muesli slice with honey and dates
• Rice porridge with Soy milk, apricots and almonds
• Dark leafy green salads with avocado and grated beetroot
• Warm chicken salad with artichoke and grapes
• Chicken mushroom casserole served with rice
• Scrambled Eggs with parsley
• Chicken, avocado and watercress sandwiches
• Mussel Chowder with calamari
• Kidney bean and mushroom lasagna with a spinach salad
• Any red meat dish
(Note the maximum recommended intake of meat in traditional Chinese medicine is 2 –4 oz per serving, 3 –7 times a week).
Cooking methods are also an important consideration, as slowly or lightly cooked foods are seen as more nourishing and kinder to the digestive system. The vital difference between using raw oats in muesli and consuming oats cooked in porridge, or having a lettuce salad instead of stir cooked vegetables. This is the reason why soups (especially chicken), are considered so nourishing in those initial postnatal weeks.
A congee is traditional Chinese medicinal porridge made from rice or barley. It is seen as a powerful therapeutic food for strengthening digestion, boasting energy and aiding in the recovery from illness.
A basic congee can be made from using one cup of grain to 6- 9 cups of water or chicken stock.
• The amount of liquid you use will determine the thickness of the porridge, which can be thick like an oat porridge or watery like a soup, depending on your preference.
• Polished rice is usually used, however sweet (glutinous rice) can be used to give a sweeter tasting congee
To prepare, simply rinse the rice thoroughly and place with the liquid in a crockpot overnight (on low heat). Or simmer in a heavy pot on a low heat for 4-6 hrs, stirring frequently.
To this basic recipe any combination of Chinese red dates, black dates, cinnamon, cardamonn, fresh ginger, chicken, pork or mushrooms can be added for flavour and medicinal properties. Suggestions include
• Use sweet glutinous rice cooked with apricots or black dates and a little cinnamon for a sweet warming Qi and Blood tonifing congee
• Add fresh Shiitake mushrooms cooked with a little garlic to a plain cooked rice congee, topping with freshly chopped spring onion for a warming savoury Qi and Blood building congee
• Grind 25 grams of black sesame seeds, add to the uncooked rice and cook as a normal congee for a blood building congee
• Cook slices of chicken and ginger in a rice congee replacing the water with chicken stock and topping with spring onion for a variation on chicken soup.