Vegan Nutrition in Pregnancy
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states:
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”
The world’s largest organization of nutritional professionals states very clearly that a vegan or vegetarian diet is not only a safe option, but a healthy option!
There are many benefits to a vegan lifestyle while pregnant. We do want to emphasize that these benefits are only experienced on a whole food vegan diet full of healthy fruits and vegetables!
Lowered risk of preeclampsia
Lowered risk of gestational diabetes
Lowered risk of complications such as perinatal hypoxia (lack of oxygen)
Lowered risk of ingesting pathogens harmful to baby Improved heart health
May reduce morning sickness
What about protein?
The recommendation for protein intake for a pregnant woman is around 70 grams per day. This may seem daunting but there are plenty of plant-based options that make it possible!
A few high protein options:
DHA - A necessary part of cell membranes and is important for brain development and vision. You can choose to take a vegan friendly DHA supplement or you can consume the recommended 200-300 milligrams in your diet. Flax seeds and their oil, hemp seeds and their oil, leafy green vegetables, soy, walnuts, and rapeseed oil are all high in DHA. Two teaspoons of flaxseed oil in your daily diet will provide sufficient DHA for most pregnant women!
Folate - You will hear a lot about folic acid from the time you even begin to think about having a baby. It is vital to prevent neural tube defects in a growing fetus. However, when looking into folic acid supplements you will actually want to look for plant-based folate, as synthetic folic acid can actually be detrimental to your health and that of your baby.. While following a whole food vegan diet you will most likely be consuming more than enough folate from the foods you eat. Some great plant-based sources of folate are orange juice, legumes, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains. If you choose not to take a supplement your folate should be closely monitored to ensure the healthy development of your baby.
Vitamin D - Typically, spending 15-20 minutes out in the sunshine without sunscreen will provide you with enough vitamin D. If you are unable to be outside, a supplement is a good idea for anyone on a vegan diet but especially during pregnancy.
B-12 - This is actually an important one for everybody! We should all be taking a b-12 supplement, but this is especially necessary if you are vegan and pregnant. There are plenty of great vegan-friendly supplements to keep up with your b-12.
Magnesium Oil - Supplementing with magnesium, while not necessary, can be quite beneficial. It helps to raise vitamin D levels, increases sleep quality, reduces aches and pains, and increases energy levels. It can even help reduce nausea! Using an oil is ideal because it does not have to go through your gastrointestinal tract, losing potency along the way, in order to be used by your body.
The most important part of maintaining a healthy vegan pregnancy is making sure your diet is well-rounded and full of nourishing foods.. As with any diet, if you are filling your plate with processed foods, instead of experiencing health benefits you will see a decline in your health. Eat a variety of whole foods, including plenty of fruits and veggies, and you will meet almost all of the dietary recommendations for pregnancy without any issues.