Caviar of the East: 3 Benefits of Consuming Bird Nest Drink During Pregnancy

Bird nest drink contains nutrients essential for pregnant women. Some of its benefits are to support stronger pregnancies and healthier babies.

A happy pregnant woman drinking from a mug at home

Edible bird nest drink, or bird nest for short, is a secretion created by swiftlets. It has been a delicacy in traditional Chinese medicine since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). Also known as the “Caviar of the East,” bird nest has been used in traditional medicinal practice as a multipurpose general health rejuvenation tonic. This includes providing essential nutrients to mothers and their babies during pregnancy. 

What are these nutrients, and how can they benefit you and your unborn child? Read on to learn more.

The First Trimester: When Your Baby Takes Its First Meal  

The first meal that humans consume is the amniotic fluid in our mother’s womb. As early as the first trimester of gestation, the foetus swallows amniotic fluid. It not only absorbs the essential nutrients – such as glucose, fructose, fatty acids and amino acids – but is also exposed to the bacteria in it. These bacteria then make their way to the foetal gut and form a part of the developing microbiome. 

Studies show that nutrients and microbiota signals in the gut modulate brain function and behaviours. A lack of nutrients or exposure to bacteria from the mother may alter the development of the neural circuits that process these signals. When this happens, the child may face issues, such as obesity, autism, or irritable bowel disease later in life. 

Prenatal nutrients and microbes in the amniotic fluid may have a long-lasting impact on the child’s brain development and health. Thus, pregnant mothers should be conscious of their diet, especially during the first trimester. 

How is an Edible Bird Nest Drink Beneficial for You and Your Baby?

A baby wearing spectacles and holding a pencil while sitting in front of an opened notebook with a sketch of a lightbulb above the child's head
Bird nest can potentially boost your child’s intelligence.

The main components of a bird nest are proteins (approximately 40%-60%) and carbohydrates (about 20%-30%). It also contains antioxidants and 17 essential amino acids. They include valine, isoleucine, and phenylalanine, and mineral and metal ions like calcium, sodium, and potassium.

In 1981, an American scientist proved that an edible bird nest contains two collagen-rich amino acids capable of accelerating cell multiplication and promoting epidermal growth. Similarly, Professor YC Kong from the Chinese University of Hong Kong also found in 1992 that bird nest contains Mutagenic Stimulation Factor (MSF) and Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF). They can stimulate epidermal growth, prompt cells to break up hormones and promote human cell regeneration. They can also enhance tissue growth and cell-induced immune function, which restores energy levels and helps people recover from illnesses.   

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an edible bird nest is associated with the lung meridian. It can also nourish yin (cold) and improve the energy and qi of the lungs. In turn, these functions can aid in managing respiratory diseases like bronchitis, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Long-term smokers, on the other hand, can consume this to clean their lungs.

Bird nest is also gentle and warm-natured, thus making it suitable for restoring energy levels in overworked people. People with gastric bleeding or ulcers can also consume the nest to repair damaged tissue and support healing. Meanwhile, the sweetness of the nest makes it suitable for nourishing the stomach, regulating the spleen. It can also improve the appetite of post-surgical patients, children, and the elderly. However, it’s important to note that not all edible bird nest products in the market are authentic. To prevent side effects from consuming an adulterated product, always buy one from reputable retailers.

Nevertheless, this highly nutritious delicacy confers a wide range of health benefits for you and your baby.

Boostsintelligence  

Bird nest contains sialic acid, a natural brain nutrient that can promote infant memory and mental development. According to a 2003 study by Colombo, a sufficient intake of sialic acid at the beginning of pregnancy can promote foetal brain development and strengthen brain cell connections.   

In addition, continuous consumption after childbirth can improve the quality of breast milk, thus promoting a baby’s physical and intellectual development. 

Strengthensimmunity  

Even though bird nest doesn’t have any significant antimicrobial properties, it contains prebiotic nutrients – glycans and glycopeptides. They can promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Consumption of these prebiotics has many health benefits. These include gut health maintenance, cancer inhibition, immune stimulation, and reduction of cardiovascular disease.

The active glycoproteins can also aid cells in preventing bacterial and viral infections. They also help to improve the identification of foreign tissue cells. As discussed in the previous section, the healthy gut microbiome of pregnant mothers is also beneficial for the development of the foetus. Alternatively, an intake of sialic acid through breast milk can also strengthen a baby’s lungs and immune system.

Anti-ageing and improve skin condition  

The main factors that lead to skin damage are photo-ageing, inflammation, and scratch wounds. In this regard, the consumption of bird nest can supplement the body with cytokinin — a hormone that promotes cell division — and Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) proteins, which help stimulate, increase, and regenerate various cells. 

Plus, it can accelerate the recovery of damaged skin and healing of skin burns and corneal damage. You can supplement your baby with essential nutrients, reduce the risk of adverse effects during pregnancy and make stretch marks less noticeable. This is because the bird’s nest contains collagen, which can help strengthen and maintain the elasticity of the skin dermis whilst aiding in uterus recovery after childbirth.

How to Cook Bird Nest?

A bowl of bird nest drink with red date and some wolfberries in it, surrounded by raw bird nest, dates and wolfberries
Bird nest can be prepared with red dates and wolfberries.

You can prepare bird nest drink in 3 simple steps: 

1. Steep 

Soak one piece of bird nest (serves 2-3 people) in warm water for 2 hours or until it has expanded and has a soft texture.

2. Add water and ingredients  

Place the soaked nest in a double boiler with 2 bowls (400 ml) of water. Add cane sugar (40 g, adjust to taste). You may also use rock sugar in place of cane sugar.

3. Cook 

Double-boil for 3 hours with a moderate flame. There you go – a simple and nutritious bowl for you and your baby. 

For mothers who would like to enjoy this in various ways, you may add other ingredients, such as red dates, goji berries, Asian pear, or papaya, to the drink. You can even replace water with chicken broth and add some corn starch to satisfy those umami cravings. 

Every mother wishes for her unborn child to be in good health. The first trimester of gestation is a critical period for your baby to access nutrients. Many studies show the benefits of consuming bird nest. Set the foundation for your child’s health today by taking the nest during your pregnancy.

References

  1. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2018. You are what you (first) eat. [Accessed 1 October 2021] 
  2. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021. Edible bird’s nest: the functional values of the prized animal-based bioproduct from Southeast Asia–a review[Accessed 1 October 2021] 
  3. Neural Plasticity. 2018. Effect of maternal administration of edible bird’s nest on the learning and memory abilities of suckling offspring in mice[Accessed 1 October 2021] 
  4. International Food Research Journal. 2018. Assessment on bioactive components of hydrolysed edible bird nest[Accessed 1 October 2021] 
  5. Annals of Microbiology. 2019. Characterization of edible swiftlet’s nest as a prebiotic ingredient using a simulated colon model[Accessed 1 October 2021] 
  6. Pharmacognosy Magazine. 2020. Anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing activities of edible bird’s nest in human skin keratinocytes and fibroblasts. [Accessed 1 October 2021] 

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