Evolutionarily speaking, Homo sapiens or humans are omnivorous or can consume both plant and animal products. However, some of us choose to avoid foods from animal sources and still to an all plant diet. This kind of diet is good to follow but for women who are pregnant, going vegetarian can deprive them of several essential nutrients. To make this situation even more complex, there are vegetarians (called vegans) who not only shirk away from meat or chicken but all the animal products including milk, eggs, curd etc. Other than vegans there are some more types of vegetarians such as:
Pescatarian: Popularly known as ‘fishetarians’, these people consume the best of everything. Their diet includes food from plants, dairy, eggs and even fish. Meat and poultry are excluded.
Lacto-ovovegetarian: They consume dairy products and eggs in addition to plant products but no meat, poultry or fish.
Lactovegetarian: Their diet includes plant and dairy products but meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are excluded.
If you are a pregnant woman following any of the above diets, you may run deficient in some essential nutrients if you tend to ignore your nutrition. Pregnancy supplements are good backups and can help you obtain important vitamins and minerals for a healthy pregnancy. This way you can continue having your ‘green food’ without turning into a meat eater during pregnancy. Most of the popular pregnancy supplements for vegetarians include:
Calcium and Vitamin D:
As most of the rich sources of calcium are animal products, being a vegetarian may make it difficult for you to obtain this essential mineral. Women can go for calcium supplements during pregnancy to meet their demands along with adding lots of fruits and vegetables in their diet. It is important to take care of your vitamin D levels too. Vitamin D helps in absorption of calcium and is synthesized by your body on exposure to sunlight. Deficiency of this vitamin can weaken bones and teeth. You can take vitamin D supplements for pregnancy, if just can’t have enough exposure to sun.
The demand for zinc increases during pregnancy. But thankfully vegetarians don’t have to worry much about it as it is present in good amounts in legumes, whole grains and nuts. So, all you have to do is include these in your diet.
The nutritious demand of a pregnant woman is more than as compared to others. So, as vegetarians already have a narrow choice of food to fulfill their protein demands, they have to dig in for some rich plant based sources. These are beans, soy products, and whole grains. Tofu is a good alternative for cheese and can be incorporated in most of your meals along with soy milk.
Iron is a critical mineral during pregnancy and is required in higher amount during this phase. This is because, your baby meets his iron demand from you and if you run down in this mineral; you are probably depriving the iron power to your infant. Doctors often recommend iron supplements during pregnancy, in the second and third trimester phase. A diet rich in iron is a must along with supplements. Tofu, whole grains, banana, apple, spinach can provide you with lots of iron.
Don’t fall out of folate as this vitamin becomes absolutely vital during pregnancy. Folate deficiency causes neural tube disorders in infants and birth of underweight babies. Foods including fortified pasta, bread, cereals, juices along with dried beans and green vegetables can provide ample of folate to vegans. Generally, folate supplements for pregnancy contain about 400 micrograms of this vitamin.
Essential fatty acids:
Vegetarians mostly miss out on fish which is rich in essential fatty acids. These can be managed by supplementing your diet with flaxseed and its oil, walnuts, canola oil and soybeans. DHA is one of the most important fats for brain development. Some pregnancy supplements are enriched with micro algae derived essential fats.
Meat is loaded with vitamin B12. But for vegetarians, there are few natural alternate sources of this vitamin. Thanks to the B12 fortified foods which can help vegetarians to gain good amount of Vitamin B12. Women are even recommended to consume probiotic supplements during pregnancy as these have been found to have incredible benefits along with increasing the B12 levels.
Some women take iodine supplements in pregnancy. However, if you use iodized salt for cooking, there is hardly any need for extra supplements for this mineral. Milk is also a rich source of iodine but for vegans beans and prunes should be good.
Pregnancy supplements become even more important for vegetarian women as it is hard consume a well balanced diet consistently. So, these supplements make up for your cheat days! Pregnancy can make you finicky about food. Trying out new recipes can help you avoid food boredom. So go ahead as there is so much you can do with vegetables, tofu and legumes. Endorse a healthy diet and have a worry-less pregnancy.