The Right Food And Nutrients For Vegetarian And Vegan Mothers
The number of people who choose to follow vegetarian diet has grown significantly. Vegetarians are individuals who choose to exclude meat, poultry and fish. Some may even avoid consuming eggs or dairy products in their diet. They only consume plant foods like grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes and processed foods made from plants. Whether you are a vegetarian or a strict vegan, it is important that you have a well-balanced diet during pregnancy. Do you know the vital nutrients for your pregnancy and the sources if you are a vegetarian or vegan?
Protein: It is an essential nutrient for expecting mothers. Amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks for body cells which help to build cells and make hormones for expecting mothers and growing baby. While vegetarian mothers may avoid consuming dairy and egg products in their diet, they can include a variety of legumes, whole grains, soy and nuts and seeds in their diet. To ensure that they consume the sufficient amount of protein in their diet, pregnant vegan mothers can consume green peas, chickpeas, pinto beans, quinoa, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain cereal and bread, soy milk, tofu, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts and miso.
Calcium: Calcium is vital in building strong bones and teeth. Besides building strong bones and teeth, calcium also helps the baby to grow a healthy heart, nerves and muscles. Plus, it develops a normal heart rhythm and blood-clotting abilities. If mothers do not get enough calcium in their diet during their pregnancy, their baby will draw it from their bones, which may impair their own health later. Vegetarian mothers can obtain calcium that they need from dark green, leafy vegetables like broccoli, collard greens and bok choy. They can also include tofu, cheese, almonds, sesame seeds, cereal, orange juice and corn tortillas to get the calcium that they need.
Iron: Do you know that pregnant mothers’ blood volume increases by 50% during pregnancy? This helps to support the mother and developing baby. It is important for mothers to consume iron to produce more red blood cells. Low iron can result in anaemia which may lead to preterm labor and low birth weight. To ensure that they are getting enough iron in their diet, mothers should consume beans, edamame, soy products, oat bran, barley, quinoa, bulgur, pumpkin seeds, spinach, kale, seaweed and dried fruits.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 with folic acids help with the baby’s brain development. It is also important for the formation of red blood cells and building genetic material. The deficiency of vitamin B12 is linked to neural tube defects and the increase risk of preterm labor. Vegetarians, particularly vegans, may not get enough of this vitamin because it is only found in foods that come from animals. They can consume vitamin B12-fortified soy milk, nutritional yeast, milk, yogurt, cereals and cheese.
Vitamin D: Pregnant mothers should consume vitamin D to build and maintain healthy teeth and bones. Severe deficiency in vitamin D is linked to complications like congenital rickets and bone fractures in new-born. It is known that the best dietary sources of vitamin D are milk and fish, vegetarian or vegan mothers can have fortified soy milk, bread, cereal and cheese. Besides dietary sources, mothers can also absorb vitamin D from the sun. All they need to do is to expose themselves for a few minutes in the morning to help their body to produce vitamin D.
Pregnancy is one of the most crucial and challenging phase of a woman’s life. It is the phase that changes their lifestyle and habits. Vegetarian mothers may face greater challenge as they need to find supplements to the missing nutrients in their diet. It is important for mothers to keep themselves and their baby healthy during this phase.
Leong Kim Weng is a writer who writes about parenthood's articles. He uses this platform to reach out to the young parents. Writing for www.parentsdojo.com has given him the opportunity to learn and share interesting perspectives with others.