Vegan diets are based exclusively on foods that are derived without harming animals even in the slightest of ways. The diet style does not contain any animal or animal-derived ingredients. People who advocate animal welfare and people who are impressed by the health benefits vegan diets promise are actively switching to one.
Vegan diets, if properly planned are suitable for all stages of life. It is considered safe for pregnant women as well.
Read on to know more about following a vegan diet during pregnancy.
Vegan Diet During Pregnancy And Safety
Vegan diets are often criticized for lacking some nutrients, and hence being inadequate in life stages like pregnancy.
A vegan diet tends to be low in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, calcium, iodine, zinc, and iron-all that are particularly important when a woman is carrying.
Lack of vitamin B12 during pregnancy could increase the risk of miscarriage and preterm birth.
If you can plan a vegan diet that contains all important nutrients in the right levels, it will be just as healthy as any diet that is suggested for pregnant women.
Research has suggested that women that follow a balanced vegan diet are at lower risk of postpartum depression. The chances of pregnancy complications will also be less.
What Are The Benefits Of Following A Vegan Diet During Pregnancy?
If planned well, a vegan diet is going to offer many health benefits to the mother and the baby.
The high fiber content of vegan diets protects against preeclampsia, a complication resulting from the rise in blood pressure during pregnancy.
Plant-based diets are fiber-rich but they are often low in sugar and fat, a feature that could reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes and high weight gain during pregnancy.
Women planning to follow a vegan diet during pregnancy have to ask the advice of their doctor and also get the guidance of a registered dietician.
What Are The Concerns Associated With Following A Vegan Diet During Pregnancy?
Some of the common concerns that should be addressed while planning a vegan diet for pregnant women are:
Regardless of the type of diet they follow, many women tend to have lower vitamin D when they are pregnant. Inadequate levels of vitamin D during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.
Vegan foods naturally contain lower levels of vitamin B12. In pregnant women, B12 deficiency could increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, and gestational diabetes. To ensure they get adequate vitamin B12, vegans have to take B12 supplements.
Vegan diets that don’t include iodized salt or iodine supplements will most likely lack the nutrient. Insufficient iodine uptake affects thyroid function adversely. In pregnant women, iodine deficiency leads to poor infant development.
Insufficient levels of calcium in the body during pregnancy could increase the risk of preeclampsia. It could also increase the chances of bone fractures and bone disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for the development of the nervous system, eyes, and brain of the fetus.
Inadequate levels of protein in pregnant women could affect the growth and development of pregnant women.
What Foods To Eat?
Pregnant women on a vegan diet have to include the following foods in their diet:
- Legumes- They are rich in fiber and plant-based protein.
- Nuts and seeds: They are rich sources of healthy fats, iron, and zinc.
- Nutritional yeast: It is rich in protein and often comes fortified with vitamin B12.
- Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich in various nutrients and antioxidants.
- Whole grains: Whole grains and cereals are rich in B vitamins and fiber. They also contain iron and zinc.
What To Avoid?
If you are pregnant and are following a vegan diet, you will have to avoid a few foods that you normally include in your diet if you weren’t pregnant:
- Caffeine: Even though you do not need to avoid caffeine altogether, experts recommend limiting its intake to 200-300 mg every day. That would be 1-2 ups of coffee.
- Alcohol: To avoid any complications, stay away from alcohol all through your pregnancy period.
- Overly processed foods: You get plenty of highly processed foods in the vegan category too. When pregnant, avoid these foods.
- Unpasteurized juice and raw sprouts: The items might be infected with bacteria, and consuming them will increase your risk of food poisoning.
- We also recommend avoiding restricted versions of the vegan diet, as they cause nutrient deficiency.
Supplements To Take
As vegan diets might lack certain nutrients, vegans are recommended to take supplements :
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Pregnancy is a crucial life stage that requires you to be careful about your diet and activity levels.