Vegetarians and Pregnancy.

Updated: Apr 4

There are a lot of theories that vegetarians might not be getting enough nutrients to help in the growth and development of the fetus in their womb, but there is no solid fact that backs up these theories.

Vegetarians can get the required nutrients for pregnancy through plant sources. If the doctor notices they are deficient in any nutrient, the doctor will prescribe supplements that will help treat the deficiency. Here are some of the nutrients vegetarians’ needs while pregnant and the food sources to get them. You will also see the importance of legume for a vegetarian mother during pregnancy.

Nutrients for vegetarians during pregnancy.

Protein.

Protein helps to builds up the muscles and tissues of the little one inside you which is why you must strive to take in that extra, recommended for pregnant women. When you don’t take enough protein, your blood sugar becomes unstable and you become weak, tired, moody and lightheaded.

You might even have a temporary memory loss which may lead to premature labor. You would also be underweight which is not healthy for a pregnant woman. As a vegetarian, you don’t have any excuse not to have enough protein in your daily diet because basically, all the food you eat contains protein.

Vegetarians can get their protein nutrients from food sources such as legumes, soybeans, kidney beans, white beans, black beans, red beans, eggs, seeds, chickpeas, lentils, almonds, walnut, cashews, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.


Iron.

Iron is essential during pregnancy to enable the smooth production and distribution of blood to your placenta where your baby feeds. Vegetarians can get their protein nutrients from food sources such as legumes, soybeans, kidney beans, white beans, black beans, red beans, eggs, seeds, chickpeas, lentils, almonds, walnut, cashews, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, cereals, beans and legumes, whole grains, tofu, tempeh, chard, kale and spinach.

Avoid beverages such as tea and coffee as the tannins and Polyphenol Content found in them that inhibit the absorption of iron into the body. You can also increase your daily requirement with iron supplements. Ask your health provider to recommend a good one for you.

Calcium.

Calcium is essential for the baby’s strong bones and teeth. Food sources of calcium include blackstrap molasses, almond seeds, kale, Napa cabbage, beet greens, turnip greens, sesame seeds, bok choy, collards, spinach, milk, yogurt, cheese, almond milk, oranges, soy milk, cereals, tofu and so on.

Vitamin B12.

For the optimal development of the brain and spinal cord of the fetus, pregnant women are advised to consume large amounts of vitamin B12.

Vegetarians will have to take more of dairy products to be able to meet up with the recommended amounts. Having a low B 12 level can lead to neural tube congenital disabilities for the fetus you are carrying. So it is important to monitor the levels on other to maintain the recommended levels throughout your pregnancy period.

Food Sources for vegetarians during pregnancy.

Whole grains.

You can find them in food sources such as quinoa, oats, brown rice or millet. They supply the body with vitamin B complex, protein, minerals and fiber. You will find out that purchasing natural whole grains and turning them into food will be more beneficial than buying the processed types.

Vegetables.

Vegetables contain a lot of vitamins such as vitamin A, C and minerals such as iron and calcium. They also contain photo chemicals such as lutein and beta-carotene which prevents chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, arthritis and different heart diseases. These vegetables include kale, watercress, collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and so on.

Ensure that you buy organic vegetables during pregnancy to avoid ingesting dangerous chemicals into your body that might harm the fetus.


Blackstrap molasses.

You can find nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, chromium in this super food. You can use it to add to porridge or pastries to get a sweetened taste.

Culture and Fermented foods.

Yogurt, vegetable pickles, miso, sauerkraut are examples of cultured and fermented foods which supplies the body with good bacteria.

Nuts and seeds.

Nuts and seeds contain nutrients such as fiber, protein, minerals, Omega -3 fatty acids. Food sources of nuts and seeds include flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts and pumpkin seed to get the required omega 3 nutrients.

To extract the required nutrients, you will need to grind them using a blender or coffee grinder. You can either eat them as a snack or use them to add flavor to your soup, stews and dips.


The importance of legumes in a vegetarian diet during pregnancy.

Most vegetarian women concentrate on getting more calories during their pregnancy, through pasta and fried foods and often neglect the main reason they identified themselves as vegetarians which are adopting a healthier lifestyle.

It is important during pregnancy as a vegetarian to get nutrients such as folic acid, protein, iron, calcium, omega 3 and 6, potassium and magnesium. The best place you can get these nutrients is from legume food sources. They are good sources of thiamine, niacin, calcium, iron, fiber and protein.

Soy products such as tempeh and miso are good food sources as they contain enzymes that aid digestion thereby preventing constipation which is the common problem of pregnant women.

Legumes such as peas, lentils, soybeans, peanuts and beans are great sources of food which will provide you with almost all the nutrients you need. It has cholesterol content and is generally low in fat which is essential for those who plan to lose weight during pregnancy. As an excellent source of fiber and protein, legumes prevent the growth of hemorrhoids, colon cancer, constipation and lower the levels of cholesterol.

More sources of legumes include edamame, tempeh, split peas, black beans, peanuts, kidney beans, plain soy milk, garbanzo beans and Lima beans.

How to add legumes to your daily diet.

  • Don’t get stuck preparing just one type of beans. Experiment with different kinds of legumes. You could try Anasazi beans, fava beans, adzuki beans, black-eyed beans on different days. It is better this way as it will encourage you to increase your legume intake.

  • Give your soup or stew an extra flavor by adding legumes to it. You can also add them to your casseroles, rice, salad and stir-fries.

  • You can turn your beans into purée to use as dips and spreads.

  • You can make or buy tofu loaves and use them to eat your tomato sauce. You can even add tempeh to your sauce for extra packed nutrients.

  • You can cook beans that will last you for a week and store it in the fridge. That way, you don’t have to cook them from the beginning every time you want to eat beans.

  • If you plan on using canned beans, ensure that you drain the liquid it comes with and also rinses the beans as it contains a high amount of sodium that helped in its preservation.

  • Avoid eaten processed protein such as protein powders which come from chemicals. They can be harmful to your pregnancy.

  • Other food sources such as nutritional yeast can be added to your cereals, smoothies, sauce, soups and any other food you want.

A regular checkup with your doctor and nutritionist is required to know if you are deficient in any nutrient and look for ways to increase your nutrient stores.



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