Vegan diet in pregnancy: safety, supplements, diet plan

Vegan diet in pregnancy: safety, supplements, diet plan
Eating healthy during pregnancy is important for your health and that of your fetus, and future vegetarian and vegan mothers need to make sure they get enough iron and vitamin B12 every day.

A balanced maternal diet during pregnancy is imperative for the pregnant woman's health and is crucial for maintaining an adequate environment for optimal fetal development. According to some theories, environmental factors and lifestyle during pregnancy determine the risk of developing chronic diseases later in life and also influence the health throughout the life of children.

The number of vegetarian and vegan diets has grown worldwide in recent decades, with the knowledge that these foods could prevent coronary heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Although vegan diets are at risk for nutritional deficiencies, such as protein, iron, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12, available scientific evidence shows that well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets can be considered safe during pregnancy and lactation, but require a strong awareness for an intake balanced by key nutrients.


Supplementation with iron, folic acid and vitamin D, essential in pregnancy

All pregnant women need adequate nutritional supplements. Iron supplementation is essential to prevent iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy. To avoid the neural tube defect, a folic acid consumption of 600 mcg / day from fortified foods and dietary supplements is required. In addition, adequate levels of vitamin D (600 IU / day), choline (450 mg / day) and iodine (220 mcg / day) are required for normal fetal growth and brain development.

During a normal pregnancy, the efficiency of calcium absorption increases, so that the calcium intake is equal to that of a woman of the same age, who is not pregnant. During pregnancy and lactation, an adequate calcium intake is considered to be 1000 mg / day. Women with calcium intake less than 500 mg / day need additional amounts to meet maternal and fetal bone requirements

Good sources of iron for vegetarians and vegans are legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, wholemeal bread, eggs (for vegetarians who include them in their diet), fortified breakfast cereals (with added iron) and dried fruits such as be apricots.

Good sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians are milk and cheese (it is recommended to choose low-fat dairy products, where possible), plus eggs. Good sources for vegetarians and vegans are fortified breakfast cereals (it is recommended to choose sugar-free options, where possible), fortified and unsweetened soy drinks, yeast extract. Because there are fewer sources for vegans, a vitamin B12 supplement may be needed.

Regarding the intake of vitamin D, although we receive it from sunlight, we do not always have enough. All adults, including pregnant and lactating women, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, especially in the winter months (October to the end of March). From late March / early April to late September, most people should be able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Vegetarian food sources for vitamin D include egg yolk, and for vegans, foods rich in vitamin D, including some breakfast cereals and supplements with this vitamin. Vegans should read the label to ensure that the vitamin D used in a product is not of animal origin.

Regarding calcium intake, vegan pregnant women should make sure that they do not lack this mineral. Good sources of calcium for vegans include dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, soy vegetable milk, rice and oats enriched with vitamins and minerals, black bread, sesame seeds and tahini, dried fruit, tofu.

Long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are important for the normal development of the baby's brain and eyes. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and trout, are rich sources of long-chain Omega-3 DHA.

Pregnant women who do not eat fish, so vegan and vegetarian, can get short-chain Omega-3 fatty acids from the diet, such as α-linolenic acid (ALA), from other foods. The body is able to turn a small part of these fats into long chains of Omega-3, but it is not known exactly if this process is too effective. Long-chain fatty acid levels in vegans and vegetarians have been shown to be lower than in fish consumers. However, there is no strong evidence that lower intake of long-chain fatty acids in vegans and vegetarians would have adverse health effects.

Algae-based Dega Omega-3 supplements are available on the market, in addition to a limited range of Omega-3 DHA-enriched foods and beverages. Foods that contain short chain Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) include: some seeds (such as flax and chia seeds), nuts and walnut oil, soybeans, vegetable oils (such as flax seeds). , rapeseed and soybeans).

Example of a vegan menu in pregnancy

Breakfast: a bowl of oats left overnight soaked in vegetable milk and mixed with a few nuts (or almonds, cashews, etc.), fruit of your choice (banana pieces, grated apple, etc.), cinnamon powder or ginger and, if you prefer a sweeter breakfast, a teaspoon of brown sugar

Lunch: Spanish-style potato tortilla, made from potatoes with chickpea flour, onion and black beans, with salt and olive oil, eaten with lettuce and bell peppers, seasoned with salt, lemon and olive oil

Dinner: a portion of wholemeal pasta with a sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, herbs and spices, seasoned with pieces of tofu and olive oil and eaten with an arugula or baby spinach salad

Healthy vegan snacks:

  • boiled and baked chickpeas, with a little salt and paprika
  • vegetable yogurt with granola
  • hummus with chopsticks, carrot, cucumber
  • mix of raw nuts and dried fruits
  • fresh fruits.


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