Which Foods Should I Include In My Diet If I Am A Vegan And Pregnant?

Pregnant vegan

Ensuring you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals can be especially tricky if you follow a restricted diet, such as veganism, when pregnant, but it is definitely not impossible. Having a nutritious diet is what matters and that doesn’t necessarily mean one that is meat- and/or dairy-based.

A review of 22 studies found that, in general, veganism or vegetarianism during pregnancy appears to be safe; however, vegans or vegetarians may be at risk of B12 and iron deficiencies.1 As well as B12 and iron, there are other vitamins and minerals you may need to make sure you are getting if you follow a vegan diet, such vitamin D, iodine and calcium and you should be making sure to include enough protein in your meals and snacks.2-4

Consider including the following foods in your diet if you are vegan:

Mushrooms:

Mushrooms are the only non-animal-derived food that contains vitamin D, a vitamin that is essential for calcium absorption, and consequently, your baby’s bones and teeth. However, it is still recommended to take a vitamin D supplement (10mg per day) to make sure that your intake is adequate.2 Mushrooms are also a good source of protein as well as of some B vitamins, in particular niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (B5), and riboflavin (vitamin B2).5

Seeds and nuts:

Sesame seeds and tahini, a sesame seed paste, are a very good source of calcium, and are relatively good sources of protein.2 Seeds and nuts are also good sources of essential fatty acids, such as alpha linolenic acid which is found in flax seeds and flaxseed oil as well as walnuts. Alpha linolenic acid is converted to omega-3 fatty acids in the body. Seeds and nuts are also good sources of omega-6 fatty acids and zinc. Zinc needs increase when you are pregnant and absorption of zinc is lower with a plant-based diet.6-8

Fortified breakfast cereals, breads and milk:

Eating fortified food is a great way to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals that you wouldn’t otherwise generally find in a vegan diet, in particular B12, vitamin D and iron.2

Soy products:

As well as being a great source of protein, tofu is also a very good source of calcium.5 Miso soup is another good source of protein.8 Soybeans are also a good source of an essential acid called alpha-linolenic acid, an acid which gets converted to omega-3 fatty acids in your body.4

However, soy products should be eaten in moderation due to containing high levels of phytoestrogens. In a study of 7928 baby boys, 51 were found to have hypospadias, a condition in which the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis and not at the tip. Mothers who were vegetarian during pregnancy had a greater chance of having a baby with this condition, and this was considered to be due to ingesting a higher amount of phytoestrogens, compared with omnivores.9,10

Foods known to have phytoestrogens include:

  • Soybeans and soy products
  • Tempeh
  • Linseed
  • Sesame seeds
  • Wheatberries
  • Oats
  • Barley11

If you feel like you aren’t ingesting adequate levels of vitamins, minerals or protein from your diet alone, you could consider a supplement to make up for any deficiencies.

References:

  1. Vegan-vegetarian diets in pregnancy: danger or panacea? A systematic narrative review.
  2. Vegetarian and vegans mums-to-be
  3. Aside From Folic Acid, Which Vitamins And Minerals Are Recommended When Planning A Pregnancy?
  4. What are the benefits of mushrooms for pregnant women?
  5. Vegetarian Diets for Pregnancy
  6. You’re a Pregnant Vegetarian? No Problem!
  7. Pregnancy Nutrition
  8. Healthy soups during pregnancy
  9. Hypospadias
  10. A maternal vegetarian diet is associated with hypospadias. The ALSPAC Study Team. Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhoodof
  11. Phytoestrogens
Melody Watson
Melody Watson holds Bachelors degrees in Biochemistry and Microbiology. She works as a medical writer for a medical communications agency in Berlin, Germany, where her work ranges from medical translation to writing publications for medical journals. Melody is passionate about promoting science, including evidence-based medicine, and debunking pseudoscience.

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