A vegan diet brings has been proven to have many health benefits, the two most prominent being a lower risk of diabetes and lower risk of heart disease. Yet, when it comes to sensitive times like pregnancies, there may be some potential cons – there is a worry that pregnant women following a vegan diet may be low in nutrients like B12, iron and calcium which are extremely important during pregnancy. If pregnant women do suffer from lack of such vitamins, it can raise the likelihood of miscarriages and birth defects.
Are Vegan Mothers At A Disadvantage?
Research shows that women who follow a vegan diet during their pregnancy may not be at any more of a risk than meat-eaters. In fact, vegan women may even have some advantages like a lower risk of postpartum depression. In The Vegan Review’s interview with Vegan mother and food nutritionist Erin Platt, she expressed that she has had a smooth, healthy pregnancy so far (30 weeks) and she feels that “following a vegan diet has allowed me to have an enjoyable pregnancy so far, and I haven’t experienced some of the common issues that women complain about… and I don’t think that is a coincidence! I think a lot of the issues that women experience while pregnant directly linked to their diet and lifestyle.”
Yet, these benefits can only be gained, and the cons can only be avoided if a good vegan diet followed. For example, Platt expressed that she follows. “A whole food plant-based diet rather than a junk food vegan diet”. As it provides her with all the nutrition necessary to get through pregnancy. Included in this diet her “big smoothies almost every day with 2 scoops of protein powder” which provides her with the energy needed to keep up with pregnancy.
What Does A Well-Planned Vegan Pregnancy Include?
A well-planned vegan pregnancy includes eating foods which are rich in nutrients. And vitamins as well as taking vitamin supplements where necessary.
Protein: Protein is an essential part in maintaining a healthy diet. During pregnancies protein is even more important as a lack of sufficient protein can slow down a baby’s growth as protein assists in building cells for babies. In order to get the required amount of protein, pregnant women can incorporate tofu into their diet; tofu is often used in many vegan recipes and it is a great source of protein, contains all essential amino acids and contains magnesium and zinc. Some more foods rich in protein include nutritional yeast, chickpeas, buckwheat and nuts – here’s our article providing you with the top sources of protein!
Iron: Iron during pregnancies is responsible for producing more red blood cells. Without this, pregnant women can become anaemic or can suffer from premature labour. Some iron enriched foods to include in vegan pregnancy diets are edamame. Spinach and quinoa and can easily be made by following online recipes. For example, here are 16 iron-boosting recipes for vegans.
Calcium: Calcium is crucial during pregnancies as calcium is responsible for building baby’s bones and muscles. As individuals generally get calcium from non-vegan foods. Vegan mothers must ensure they are getting their required amount of calcium throughout their pregnancy. For example, through brown bread, sesame seeds and dried fruit great sources of calcium. These recipes show how easy and tasty it can be to gain the protein you need!
B12: Vitamin B12 is especially important for those following a vegan pregnancy as it is well known that it is one of the vitamins vegans often lack. B12 can found in fortified foods like soymilk and fortified cereals. However, as sources for vegans may be limited, a vitamin B12 supplement may also be needed – Here’s our article providing a deeper look into vitamin B12 and vegans.
Whilst this is a condensed list of vitamins and nutrients for pregnant women, an extensive, general vegan nutrition guide can be found here to provide more assistance.
Taking Supplements During Pregnancy
There are many options for supplements depending on areas you may feel are lacking. For example, Baby & Me 2 provide prenatal vitamins which contain Choline which support healthy development of babies. Ashley Melillo from Blissful Basil says “As a vegan, it can be incredibly challenging to meet the recommended daily intake for Choline in general but especially during pregnancy” and therefore, she chose to use Baby & Me 2 as the Choline provides the necessary amount of nutrients. Similarly, Country Life provide a magnesium supplement which also includes calcium, zinc and vitamin D. And mothers which need more of these vitamins can opt for this. Food nutritionist Erin Platt expressed that she takes “a vegan prenatal vitamin, B12, algae DHA/EPA. And vitamin D daily” which she also took before pregnancy.
As different nutrients help your body in different ways, your body may need different amounts of each. For example, while you need 1,000 mg of calcium daily, you only need 27 mg of Iron daily. Therefore, in order to make sure you are meeting the required amount it is worth referring to a guidance which tells you how much you need of each.
Therefore, not consuming meat, or any animal products during your pregnancy does not have to be a worry. Vegan pregnancies bring some valuable advantages to your pregnancy. And though there can be some extra things to be careful about. They can overcome with a carefully planned, varied diet that meets all you and your baby’s needs.
Thinking post-pregnancy? Read more about introducing vegan diets to your children here.