Can you be vegetarian and pregnant?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Can you be vegetarian and pregnant?” and will discuss what diet should vegetarian pregnant women opt for?

Can you be vegetarian and pregnant?

Yes, you can be vegetarian and pregnant. Even if you’re vegetarian when pregnant, you can still obtain all the protein, vitamins, and minerals you need. Additionally, there is no need for a sophisticated pregnancy diet; all you need to do is consume a wide range of healthful fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. According to studies, it is possible to maintain a vegetarian diet and have a healthy pregnancy. However, vegetarian pregnant women have higher risks of nutrient deficiencies than non-vegetarian. In the prospective study in Toronto with 368 pregnant women, the prevalence of suboptimal B12 status (serum total B12 <210 pmol/L) was 35% at 12–16 gestational weeks and 43% at delivery; the prevalence of B12 deficiency (serum total B12 <148 pmol/L) was 17% and 38%, respectively (1).

Protein is the weak link between vegetarianism and pregnancy.

Nutritionally, vegetarian diets are in terms superior to other types of diets since they contain (1):

·         Contains a lot of fibers.

·         Contains a plethora of essential nutrients.

·         Low in cholesterol and saturated fat.

While you’re pregnant, your protein requirements rise, making vegetarianism more difficult. The typical pregnant woman requires between 71 and 75 grams of protein each day. However, plant proteins have low digestibility (on average 85%) and some contain antinutritional factors or fiber, interfere in the absorption of plant proteins (1). This figure might be significantly greater if you’re carrying more than one child. A dietitian’s customized examination is recommended if you wish to eat vegetarian while pregnant to determine your unique protein requirements.

To ensure you receive enough protein when pregnant, organize your meals around sources of protein such as legumes, grains, and nuts. You may also need to take protein supplements (1).

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine suggests that vegetarian pregnant women have to follow the recommendations for protein intake and should increase up to 25 g of protein each day to reach 1.1 g/kg/day as in pregnancy the demand for protein increases. The recommendations are to consume daily portions of dark green vegetables (1–2 servings), other vegetables and fruits (4–5 servings), bean and soy products (3–4 servings), whole grains (six or more servings), and nuts, seeds, and wheat germ (1–2 servings) (1).

When it comes to vegetarianism, which is the best option for women who are expecting?

In general, vegetarianism abstains from including animal products in the diet, however, there are exceptions. Eggs and dairy products are included in certain vegetarian diets. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including dairy and eggs. Vegetarians who are pescatarians consume fish as part of their diet in addition to other seafood (1). Is there a kind that’s better for pregnancy than another?

If someone is amenable to a less restricted diet during pregnancy, I attempt to steer them in that direction since it may be simpler to complete the nutritional need. I’d urge someone vegan but open to dairy during pregnancy to make the switch so they can have their protein and calcium requirements satisfied via dietary sources.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics a well planned plant-based eating pattern could be appropriate for all stages of life if adequate and healthy recommendations are followed. For example, in the vegetarian population, if the diet includes a variety of plant products, it would provide the same protein quality as a diet that included meat (1).

If you’re vegan or don’t want to change your dietary habits during pregnancy, you’re still in the clear. You and your baby will just need a supplement or a vegetarian food like tofu to satisfy their nutritional requirements.

A vegetarian diet’s nutritional needs when pregnant

Prenatal vitamins are essential for all expecting mothers, regardless of whether they consume meat or not. You may need extra supplements if the vitamin doesn’t include enough calcium or folate. Iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acid should also be supplemented, as well as vitamin B12. Vegetarians should guarantee that their diet contains sufficient proteins, pyridoxine, biotin, calcium, copper, magnesium, and zinc. In addition, they should reduce intake of n-6 fatty acids and trans fatty acids that inhibit such conversion, by limiting consumption of processed and deep-fried foods, and alcohol (1).

Pregnancy nutrition may be improved with a varied diet that includes a wide range of foods.

Calcium

Calcium is required for bone and tooth growth, as well as for the function of the muscles and the nervous system. How much should I take each day? 1000mg. What to eat? dairy products, fortified soy or rice milk; soybeans; dates; calcium-fortified foods; soybeans; figs; calcium-enriched foods. Calcium can be found in low-oxalate (high bioavailability) foods such as bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, okra, turnip greens, and soy products. Other foods with slightly less calcium bioavailability are fortified soymilk, sesame seeds, almonds, and red and white beans (1).

Folate

Cell development and neural tube abnormalities are both reduced when folate is consumed. Folate is required for both of these purposes. A high intake of plant-based foods may result in high folate levels (1).

How much should you take per day: 600 micrograms

What to eat? Fortified meals, such as orange juice and dark leafy green vegetables. In fact, a longitudinal case–control study recruited 109 participants and showed high folate intake in lacto-ovo-vegetarian pregnant women and low risk of folate deficiency (1).

Iron

supplementation is essential for iron deficiency anemia during gestation (1). Iron is required for two reasons: to aid in tissue development and to increase blood flow. The iron from vegetarian diets is less available for absorption because these diets contain nonheme iron from plants that is worse absorbed than heme iron contained in animal food like meat (1).

How much do you take each day? 48.6gThe recommendation is to meet 27 mg/day of iron during pregnancy (1).

What to eat? It’s better to consume a variety of foods rich in vitamin C such as red or green bell peppers or citrus fruits to get the most out of your diet’s supply of vitamin C. Additional recommendation for vegetarians is to enrich the diet with iron-fortified breads and cereals, beans and lentils, raisins, and blackstrap molasses, as well as sources of vitamin C, like tomatoes and citrus fruits for optimal iron absorption, cooked in cast iron pans (1).

Omega 3

Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for the development of the nerves, brain, and vision.

Due to the limited vegetable sources of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), pregnant vegetarian women are encouraged to consume an algae-based supplement. ALA (Alfa-linolenic acid) is the only n-3 fatty acid present in plant foods (flaxseeds, hempseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and their oils), but ALA elongation to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA is limited, and influenced by diet (1).

How much DHA should I take per day: 200 milligrams. Vegetarians may best satisfy this need by consuming a microalgal source. You should consume fish and fortified foods like chia and flax seeds, as well as chia and flax seeds.

Protein

Protein is required for the following functions: tissue construction and cell repair. About 71 to 75 grams a day. Beans or lentils, soy products, nuts or nut butter, eggs, and dairy products are all acceptable diet choices.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is found in adequate ranges only in animal and dairy foods. If the consumption of animal foods is absent as seen in vegetarian diets it results in low intake and cobalamin deficiency due to its scarce presence in plant foods, although vegetarians consume some fortified foods as cereals and soy products (1).

Vitamin B12 is required for the following functions: maintaining nerve and blood cell health. 2.6 micrograms are the daily dosage. Nutritional yeast supplemented with iron or calcium is a good choice for a breakfast cereal.

Vitamin D

Fetal bone growth needs vitamin D, as does calcium intake throughout pregnancy. Approximately 600 IU (15 micrograms) should be taken daily. Among the best foods to consume are dairy products such as milk and eggs, as well as fortified cereals and soy milks. Reaching adequate levels of vitamin D from fortified foods is a challenge for vegans because few plant foods are fortified with this vitamin. In such cases, especially in the vegan population, vitamin D supplements seem to be the most adequate way to ensure correct vitamin D status (1).

Zinc

Providing support for tissue development and function, zinc is essential. During pregnancy the need of Zinc increases so women are encouraged to enhance the intake of zinc and adopting food preparation methods which improve its absorption (soaking, germination fermentation, and sourdough leavening of bread) and reduce phytate levels in zinc rich foods (1).

How much do you take each day? 11 milligrams.

What to eat: legumes, nuts, seeds, milk, certain hard cheeses, and fortified cereals are all good options to include in your diet.

Hormones

Vegetarian or vegan diets may result in low iodine intake because the main dietary sources of iodine are meat, fish, and dairy products, but iodine in the salt could avoid the risk of deficiency (1). Hormone synthesis needs the mineral iodine. 210 mcg per day is the recommended dosage. Iodized salt is the best food to consume.

Don’ts for pregnant vegetarian women

You should also avoid the following foods:

·         If you drink alcohol, your chances of having a preterm baby or one with a low birth weight are up.

·         Limit your caffeine intake to no more than 300 mg per day.

·         Non-nutritive or artificial sweeteners have been authorized by the FDA 

·          for use during pregnancy. Nevertheless, stay away from saccharin since it might cross the placenta and end up on the fetus’s tissues after birth. Reduce your consumption of all other types of sweeteners, including natural ones.

·         To be on the safe side, avoid eating raw or undercooked nuts and cereals, unpasteurized milk and cheese, raw or undercooked eggs, and soy products when pregnant.

Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.

Did vegetarianism become popular?

Do vegetarians eat dairy?

Do vegetarians live longer?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Can you be vegetarian and pregnant?” and discussed what diet should vegetarian pregnant women opt for?

References

  1. Sebastiani, Giorgia, et al. The effects of vegetarian and vegan diet during pregnancy on the health of mothers and offspring. Nutrients, 2019, 11, 557.