Today I want to share with you some information and thoughts about eating a vegan diet during pregnancy...
... my decision to start eating a vegan diet sometime in 2013 was one of the best decisions of my life. I wrote a little bit about why I changed my diet in this post. Now, even though I am convinced that the way I am eating is the best for me (plus the environment, the world, and the baby in my belly), I am facing scepticism by a lot of people, many times. This did not turn any better when people found out that I was pregnant and I still sticked to my diet. I know that this scepticism is something many vegans or even vegetarians have to fight with and since I got a few questions about me, eating vegan during pregnancy, I decided to share some information and some thoughts.
First of all I want to say: It's absolutely fine and healthy to a vegan diet during pregnancy!
Then I want to say: You should take really good care of what you eat - no matter if vegan or not, and you should especially take care of what you eat when you are pregnant- no matter if vegan or not!
You will get all your vitamins and nutrients through whole plant based food - even more and better than you ever would through meat or dairy products. The emphasis is on whole plant based food! Get informed about this lifestyle and read what your body needs and what it does not need (sugar, empty calories, fat...)!
During pregnancy you will have a somewhat higher demand for nutrients (e.g. you need around 150 milligram of vitamin C during pregnancy instead of the usual 100 milligram) and the best way to fulfill these demands is through veggies and fruits! Of course, I will not recommend anyone to eat a unhealthy vegan diet which is based on white bread, pasta and ketchup. But when you eat a plant-based whole food diet there is NO reason to worry about anything. You know that many women have problems with their iron levels during pregnancy, right? Well, guess what - I do not even eat meat and my iron levels are fine (I am in week 30 now)! There is plenty of iron in whole grain products, in nuts, in green veggies and in red fruits. And guess what more - my calcium levels, my vitamin D levels, all these "critical" nutrients that vegans may not get enough off, they are all fine.
BUT - I am also taking good care of myself. I think the most important for every vegan, vegetarian or meat eater is to get informed, to read about what we, as human beings, actually need. I read a lot since I started eating a vegan diet and I even started a correspondence degree course in nutrition consultancy in December last year! Well yes, I decided to study nutrition because I believe that nutrition is one of the most important aspects of our life. You are nothing without your body, and your body is nothing without the right nutrients!
So what do I eat?
LOTS of veggies and fruits!
LOTS of lentils, whole grains, beans and nuts
JUST A LITTLE of plant oils and salt
ALMOST NO invert sugar and empty calories
Its that easy!
Plus eating something different every day! One day its lentils, the next its whole grain pasta, then potatoes, then beans etc. etc. and of course different veggies and fruits with it every day.
During pregnancy I take some extra care, of course, everyone should do so. For me, this means that I pay attention not to forget my daily green smoothie and to eat more than usual (more healthy calories - more nutrients for the baby).
Now, let me give you a little more information about some of these "critical" nutrients that you have to take some extra care off during pregnancy:
When people ask you about your protein - let them know that it is impossible not to get all the protein you need when you eat enough healthy calories (legumes and whole grains)! Its simply not possible because protein is everywhere in there. And in case you want to say something more - tell them that the average American (and German) eats way too much protein and that this is actually quite harmful for their kidneys!
The same actually applies to calcium - when you eat enough green veggies, nuts and oranges (they have so much calcium and I love them in my smoothies or just like that!) then there is no need to fear a deficit. And by the way, milk actually increases calcium loss from the bones, since it acidifies the body pH which in turn triggers a biological correction (calcium from the bones is utilized to neutralize the acidifying effect of milk).
When it comes to iron, just make sure that you eat your plant based iron together with some vitamin C so that your body is able to absorb it. So have oats with fruits, beans with potatoes and nuts with a nice spinach salad. PLUS make sure not to drink green or black tea (it makes it impossible for your body to absorb the iron)! When you stick to these simple rules and when you eat enough, you will never face any problems with your iron levels - I promise :)
Now a last one - the most discussed one- vitamin B12! Everyone seems to know so much about B12 and everyone keeps telling me that my diet cannot be a healthy one because there is no way to get enough B12 from it. Well... let me tell you one thing, there are actually so many people out there, eating meat and milk, having a B12 deficit! Why? Because your body is only able to absorb B12 when your gastric mucosa functions well. And you know what? It only functions well, when you eat lots of good food and fruits and veggies and it gets totally damaged when you eat los of fat and meat because its just not able to cope with it. Many people do not even know that they have problems with their gastric mucosa but its acutally a widespread phenomenon. Then, there is also the whole story about where B12 actually comes from and that a large percentage of the B12 which you can find in animal products, is there ONLY because it was fed to the animal when it was still alive. Well, why not just skip this part then, and take this little B12 pill directly? I supplement B12 and I would recommend doing so to every vegan or vegetarian, no matter if pregnant or not.
In general, I think its always a good idea to get your blood checked. When you are pregnant your blood will be checked regularly so you will be able to keep track on it. Whenever you feel tired, depressed, or just not good, it may be a sign that you have some deficits and you should check if your body misses something. When you feel great, strong and full of energy, then this means that you treat your body well and that you have nothing to worry about. The most important is always, to listen to your body! In the beginning of my pregnancy I had really bad cravings for red fruit - well, my body needed this extra iron from them, so I just had lots of red fruits. Then I was craving for lots and lots of oranges and I just ate tons, because I knew my body was in need for some extra calcium. Learn to listen to your body, appreciate it, love it and treat it well and you will not face any problems eating a vegan diet during pregnancy.
Now this is a long post and I could tell you SOOOOOO much more but I think I will stop here. Have a look at this website for information and for awesome books and studies on the whole topic: http://www.thechinastudy.com/
You are also always welcome to ask me questions. This post is far from answering all the questions you may have, so please feel free to contact me. I will be happy to help and share information!