Keeping a vegan diet during pregnancy shouldn’t cause any extra worry. Including a variety of vegan foods into your diet will keep both you and your baby healthy throughout. Maintaining open communication with your midwife or doctor will also help. They can suggest supplements that will make up for what you may be lacking in your diet. Most importantly, knowledge about the foods you are eating and how they are absorbed into your body will allow for you to better plan the meals you need to eat during pregnancy.
Iron deficiency is one of the biggest concerns with a vegan diet. Iron supplements is a viable route to take, but knowing which foods contain iron and which foods allow for iron absorption is a good idea.
Leafy greens like kale, chard and spinach as well as legumes are excellent sources of iron. Certain breakfast cereals and enriched breads and pastas contain iron as well. Soy products are great, but too much can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb other needed vitamins, whereas fermented soy products (tempeh, miso) will not.
Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron. Make sure to included foods like broccoli, tomatoes and fruits into your meals to assist your body. It is best to limit the amount of coffee and teas consumed. They are high in polyphenols and tannins that reduce iron absorption.
Vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain development. Omega-3 fatty acids are mostly found in fish products and B-12 in animal products. There are a variety of supplements that can be taken. Adding flax seed and walnuts (omega-3) and fortified foods and beverages (B-12) this obstacle can be easily overcome. Nutritional yeast will also help boost your B-12 intake.
Iodine is also important for brain development and easier to obtain. Adding iodized salt to your meals and eating dried seaweed will provide a substantial amount.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium is easy to obtain, but with Vitamin D your body will not absorb it. Eat a variety of green vegetables like cabbage, bok choy and broccoli as well as white beans, tahini and almonds to obtain calcium. Soy and almond milk are excellent sources as well. Vitamin D can be found in many types of fortified cereals and juices. It is also found in prenatal supplements.
The most important thing to remember about a vegan diet and pregnancy is to always talk with your midwife or doctor. It is why they are there. If you are showing signs of missing certain nutritional needs they will help guide you through the steps you need to take. It could be as simple as adding more greens to your diet or taking prenatal supplements. You should not have to change your vegan ways because of pregnancy.