Is it healthy to be vegetarian while pregnant?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “ Is it healthy to be vegetarian while pregnant?” and will discuss the benefits of being vegetarian while pregnant.

Is it healthy to be vegetarian while pregnant?

Yes, it is healthy to be vegetarian while pregnant. Some of the nutrients pregnant women need can’t be obtained from plant sources. It is possible to eat a healthy vegetarian diet at every stage of life, including pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Although plant-based diets are at risk of nutritional deficiencies such as proteins, iron, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, omega-3, and vitamin B12, the available evidence shows that well planned vegetarian and vegan diets may be considered safe during pregnancy and lactation, but they require a strong awareness for a balanced intake of key nutrients (1).

Preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and gestational diabetes may both be prevented if you eat a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables. Asthma, eczema, diabetes, and even certain malignancies may all be prevented by eating a plant-based diet during pregnancy.

 To ensure that you’re receiving all of the nutrients you need throughout pregnancy, you may want to see a dietician who can ensure that you’re getting all of the nutrients you need from your diet.

Benefits of vegetarian diet while being pregnant

You and your baby may get the advantages of a vegetarian diet, including:

Risk of Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia risk is reduced. High blood pressure and organ damage are common symptoms of preeclampsia. Only one of 775 healthy vegetarian moms who had adequate prenatal care and supplemented their diets with vitamins suffered preeclampsia, according to an examination of medical data. People with preeclampsia are more likely to be obese and to consume a diet heavy in saturated fat. Preeclampsia may be prevented if pregnant women eat a well-balanced, plant-based diet.

Preeclampsia may be caused by a relative prostacyclin deficiency secondary to an excessive production of thromboxane A2. A vegan diet (low in arachidonic acid) might provide protection against this condition, especially if the conversion of linoleic acid to arachidonic acid is inhibited by decreased activity of the enzyme delta-6-desaturase (1).

Reduction in gestational diabetes

Reduction in the chance of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. A high-fiber, low-saturated-fat vegetarian diet may minimize the risk of excessive weight gain and gestational diabetes in pregnant women. Preventing a C-section may be less difficult if you follow a vegetarian diet if you have gestational diabetes. Insulin may also be reduced as a result.

Studies showed that dietary total fiber and cereal and fruit fiber were negatively associated with gestational diabetes risk. Each 10 g/day increment in total fiber intake was associated with 26% reduction in diabetes risk. Each 5 g/day increment in cereals was linked to a 23% risk reduction and fruit fiber with a 26% risk reduction (1).

Reduction in brain problems

Brain tumors and neural tube abnormalities may be reduced. High nitrate consumption during pregnancy has been linked to the development of neural tube abnormalities, which are birth malformations of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. Vegetarian diets lower the risk of nitrate poisoning since cured meat and smoked fish are the primary sources of nitrates in conventional diets.

However, a recent study assessed that self-reported postpartum depression was more prevalent among vegetarians than omnivorous subjects, probably due to inadequate micronutrients intake. Plausible links between nutrition and mood have been reported for folate, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iron, selenium, zinc, and Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are required for the biosynthesis of several neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These nutrients may be deficient in vegetarian diets (1).

Tips for a vegetarian Diet That’s Good for pregnant women

Make sure your vegetarian diet is nutritious and meets all of your nutritional demands during pregnancy by following these guidelines:

·         Consume a wide range of foods. Make sure that the majority of your dietary intake is unprocessed. Include a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in your diet.

·         Reduce your intake of vegetable oils. Make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fats in your diet by carefully selecting vegetable fats. Trans fats and oils from the tropics (coconut, palm, palm kernel) should be avoided. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for brain development and proper functioning of the retina. In many studies, maternal serum docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) concentration has been associated with neuronal development and plasticity, receptor-mediated signaling, membrane fluidity and the formation of second messengers (2).

·         Make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Eat a lot of calcium-rich vegetables. Vitamin D cannot be obtained from a diet, so be sure you are getting enough of it from the sun. In the first weeks of pregnancy, the level of the vitamin D metabolite 1,25(OH)D3 increases 2–3-fold, regardless of the level of intake, but the significance of this phenomenon is unknown (2).

·         Take a B-12 supplement. You will need to supplement Vitamin B-12 since it is mostly found in animal sources. According to research, vegetarian women may include extra sources of vitamin B12 in their diet to avoid fetal depletion (1).

– Iron is one of the most important micronutrients. The usual absorption from plants is low and could be further decreased by phytates and polyphenols, which are present in some plant based products. The absorption of haem iron from meat is much higher The daily need of iron during pregnancy is 27 mg/day. Make sure this amount is being supplied through diet or supplements (2).

– Folates are extremely important for the prevention of neural tube defects. The RDA increases by up to 50% in pregnancy, and the recommended supplementation dose is 400–800 μg from 2 months prior to conception onward, which is essential in the first trimester and could be continued after the 12th week of pregnancy (2).

What to eat while pregnant?

Foods that are high in nutrients, including fruits and vegetables, should be included in a well-planned vegetarian diet along with fortified foods and supplements. Plant-based foods that are high in nutrients. Pregnant women on a vegetarian diet should consume enough of the following foods:

Tofu, seitan, and tempeh are all examples of plant-based proteins. In many dishes, soy products may be used instead of meat. Other options include making your mock meats, although they’re high in fat and salt, and should be consumed in moderation.

Legumes. These foods are rich in fiber and plant-based proteins. The nutritional value may be enhanced by sprouting, fermenting, and thorough cooking. Seeds and nuts. Iron and zinc are abundant in many of these plants. Get your selenium from Brazil nuts and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 necessary found in walnuts, hemp, chia, and flax seeds.

Plant-based milk and yogurts with added calcium. Getting adequate calcium is made simpler with the help of these meals. Choose unsweetened products wherever feasible. It’s good for you! Vitamin B12 is commonly added to this protein-rich topping, which gives your food a cheesy taste.

Cereals and pseudocereals, as well as whole grains These foods, are also a good source of fiber and B vitamins, as well as iron and zinc. Several grains are particularly high in protein, including amaranth and spelled. 

Sprouted or fermented plant foods. Probiotics and vitamin K2 are found in Ezekiel bread, miso, tempeh, natto, pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. These nutrients are readily absorbed by your body. Vegetables and fruits. Leafy greens, as well as fruits and vegetables that are purple, red, or orange have the most nutrients and plant components.

Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.

Is it bad to be vegetarian while pregnant?

Can vegetarians eat chicken?

Can vegetarians eat chocolate?

Can vegetarians eat fish?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “ Is it healthy to be vegetarian while pregnant?” and discussed the benefits of being vegetarian while pregnant.

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.
  2. Danielewicz, H., et al. Diet in pregnancy—more than food. Europe J Pediat, 2017, 176, 1573-1579.