Vegan Pregnancy Supplements: Getting the Nutrients You Need
Vegan Pregnancy Supplements… What You Need to Know
A well balanced plant based diet that recognizes all essential nutrients and using vegan pregnancy supplements is beneficial for Mom and baby!
People who follow a vegan diet do so for one or more reasons: ethical, environmental, nutritional, and/or religious. Vegans consume only plant foods—grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes (and processed foods made from them)—and no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy products. For most vegans who become pregnant, the diet continues throughout pregnancy and lactation.
Pregnancy is a time of high metabolic and nutritional demands. All pregnant women should follow the recommended nutritional guidelines, which are essentially the same for vegans and non vegans alike. With a little planning and good sense, women on a vegan diet can meet the increased energy and nutrient requirements of pregnancy.
Staying Healthy is Easy with a Well Planned Diet
There has been recent negative press on vegan diets, but the reality is that vegan diets when properly planned are much healthier for humans than an omnivorous one. Over the past few years, news of infant deaths due to malnutrition or neglect have tragically been reported. In a couple cases, the families’ defense was that they were vegan. Unfortunately, this led to a widespread misconception that vegan diets are not appropriate for pregnant women and young children.
The fact is that the deaths were not caused by veganism; they were caused by malnutrition. Vegan diets, when followed with care, supply all the nutrients required for optimal health and development. Denying a weeks-old infant breast milk or commercial formula (the only foods acceptable for newborns) and only feeding soy milk and apple juice, for example, is not a vegan diet.
Informal pregnancy outcome data (of 2,028 pregnancies) collected in the same community of vegans from 1970 to 2000 showed a lower-than-average C-section rate (1.4%), postpartum depression (1%), neonatal mortality (0.4%), maternal mortality (0%), and preeclampsia (0.4%), with no complications or negative outcomes higher than average.
Vegan Pregnancy Supplements Help Keep You on Track
A vegan diet is actually extremely beneficial during pregnancy. Since vegans generally weigh less on average than omnivores, vegans have lower risk pregnancies. There as the been a formal study has been conducted that compares gestational diabetes rates among vegans vs. nonvegans, there is suggested research that maternal diet may be a risk factor for GD. One such risk factor is low fiber intake. Vegans are known to have a higher fiber intake level- meaning a vegan diet may protect a pregnant woman from gestational diabetes.
Most of the “avoid” or “limit” foods for pregnant women, such as seafood, soft cheeses, sushi, undercooked meats, cold cuts, and unpasteurized milk products, are already excluded on a vegan diet. The only vegan products pregnant women should avoid are sprouts and any raw produce that may not have been properly handled due to cross contamination. Naturally, the human body thrives on a Plant Based diet.
During the first trimester, caloric needs are generally the same as for nonpregnancy. During the second and third trimesters, an additional 200 to 300 calories per day (over prepregnancy estimated needs) are generally recommended. Since caloric needs increase only approximately 15% and nutrient needs increase up to 50%, a nutritionally dense diet in pregnancy is needed to meet nutrient needs within the caloric recommendations. Vegans should be counseled, just like all clients, that intake of low-nutrient foods such as candy and sweets should be limited.10
Women who find it challenging to meet energy needs should be counseled to choose nutritious foods with higher caloric density. Suggestions include smoothies (using a base of fortified vegan milks such as soy, rice, almond, or hemp), nuts and nut butters, dried fruits, and healthy fattier foods like avocado and olives. Smaller, more frequent meals and snacks can also help increase food intake.
Two hundred to 300 calories may sound like a lot of extra food to pregnant women; it is not uncommon for them to overcompensate and “eat for two.” Using resources such as Ask A Vegan Dietitian with affordable meal planning can help a new mom stay on target.
To allow for increased blood volume and to ensure that a growing baby has the correct amount of fluid, pregnant women need at least 10 ounces of extra water intake over normal recommended intake. Some pregnant women need reminders to drink enough, especially for those who are pregnant in the hotter months. Dehydration can lead to early labor because the hormones that stimulate contractions will be in higher concentrations in a body that is not, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout your pregnancy.
Vegan Supplements to Consider
A woman’s diet affects the fatty acid status of her developing infant during pregnancy. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a necessary part of cell membranes and is important for brain development and vision. Low omega-3 status in pregnancy might lead to insufficient conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to DHA, thus a DHA supplement providing 200 to 300 milligrams is a good idea.
Pregnant vegans should be sure to consume a reliable source of omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis. Good vegan sources of these fats include flaxseeds and their oil, hemp seeds and their oil, leafy green vegetables, soy products, walnuts, and rapeseed oil. An easy tip is to have 2 teaspoons of flaxseed oil or 2 tablespoons of canola oil to provide sufficient omega-3 fatty acids for most pregnant women.
Folic acid deficiency, which increases the risk of neural tube defects, has never been identified as an issue for pregnant vegan women. As vegans typically consume more vegetables, which are high in folic acid, than meat eating women. Pregnant women need 600 micrograms per day. Some easy vegan sources are orange juice, legumes, leafy green vegetables, fortified plant milk, and whole grains. People who follow a plant based diet are already at an advantage when it comes to folic acid. Pregnant Vegans should still continue to take an daily multivitamin with 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid.