As the founder of a raw and vegan home delivery food service in Buenos Aires, I’m a big advocate for healthy and conscious living. For me, that means a diet rich in plant foods, a large percentage of which are raw, ensuring that the foods are full of live enzymes, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, all of which are essential to healthy living.
After years of study in nutrition and holistic health, I know that it is possible to get the nutrients needed from a diet that doesn’t include animal products. However, right before or during pregnancy, many have asked me how to either start or continue on a diet of this nature without harming the baby. As most would expect, pregnancy in particular, is a time of life when a woman’s lifestyle and diet choices can make a huge impact on her own pregnancy experience as well as the health of her newborn. A plant based diet, even if you’re not vegetarian or vegan, is essential to ensuring the healthiest possible start to life for your new baby. Even so, it’s more important then ever to make sure that your diet is balanced if you choose to limit or not consume animal products during pregnancy.
In my viewpoint, many of the recommendations made by the American Pregnancy Association, support general health guidelines in line with a diet high in organic, plant based foods. For starters, they suggest avoiding raw meat, deli meat, fish with mercury, fish from contaminated waters, raw shellfish, raw dairy products (milk, cheese, eggs) as well as contaminates found on unwashed vegetables. They also suggest avoiding alcohol and caffeine, all of which are important steps to good health, whether pregnant or not.
As with any other time in your life, it’s important to get the right balance of nutrients in the diet. Protein is very important for the developing baby, but can be found in complete plant-based sources such as quinoa, flax seed, spirulina and chlorella. Other non-complete forms of protein include beans, nuts and seeds as well as the majority of fruits and vegetables. With the right variety of foods, and the inclusion of some complete sources of protein on a regular bass, getting enough protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet is not difficult.
Although not part of the APA’s recommendations, many natural health experts also advice against consuming soy products during pregnancy, even though soy is a vegan source of protein. The reasoning lies in the hormonal reactions soy can produce in the body, impacting brain development, the reproductive organs, cell growth and immune function.
Carbohydrates & Fats
The right amount of carbohydrates and fats is also important during pregnancy which can be achieved through the consumption of whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, millet and sarraceno (gluten free grains) in addition to healthy fats such as avocado, coconut oil, non-refined extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds. Please keep in mind that if you or your partner have a genetic history of allergies or asthma, it may be wise to limit your intake of nuts, especially peanuts, although more research needs to be done in this area.
Organic Fruits & Vegetables
A rich amount of organic fruits and vegetables, in order to avoid pesticides and other chemicals, which can interfere with the development of the endocrine, immune and neurological systems, is essential to a healthy pregnancy. Calcium, which many believe necessitates the consumption of dairy products, can actually be found at abundant levels in seaweed (10x the amount of calcium found in milk) as well as nuts, grains, beans and many vegetables (for example parsley which contains almost 2x the amount of calcium found in milk). Seaweed is also very important for getting the trace minerals such as zinc, copper, iodine, etc. Consuming large quantities of leafy greens will support your baby’s cognitive development, by ensuring that you are taking in enough iron.
Raw foods, even sprouted seeds and grains, provide an enhanced level of nutrient and vitamin content. Food based supplements as well as superfoods (goji berries, bee pollen which are complete protein sources as well as maca, which is great for the production of breast milk and protein) are excellent for pregnancy. Omega 3-s found in flax seed and krill oil (non-vegan, but an excellent source) are the essential fatty acids required for healthy brain development and proper development of the nervous and immune systems.
B-12 & Folic Acid
Vegan and vegetarian soon-to-be moms should also be sure to supplement their diet with the appropriate levels of B-12 & Folic Acid. B12 is responsible for red blood cell production, cell division and helping to prevent heart disease. It is also necessary for growth and development (making it extremely important during pregnancy and nursing), the health of both the nervous and immune systems, and protecting and optimizing brain function (memory, concentration, etc.). Folic acid is said to impact intelligence and the health of your baby later in life.
As a final note of caution, I will say that if you are going to make extreme dietary changes, it’s best to begin making those changes before pregnancy rather then after becoming pregnant. For example, a detoxification or cleanse with raw foods and juices can be ideal for achieving optimal health pre-pregnancy. However, any form of heavy detoxification or fasting during pregnancy can be harmful to the developing fetus. This is because a detox stimulates the release of toxins, pesticides and other chemicals that are present in the body, which tend to get released into the blood stream during this process.
Even so, adding more healthy foods to your diet as mentioned above will be extremely beneficial for both mother and child if introduced slowly and intelligently.
 Mercola, J. (2009, November 7). No-Nonsense Guide to Naturally Healthy Pregnancy. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/11/07/no-nonsense-guide-to-a-naturally-healthy-pregnancy-and-baby.aspx
 Gordon, S. (2011, July 15). Just say no to nuts during pregnancy. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/allergy-and-asthma/articles/2008/07/15/just-say-no-to-nuts-during-pregnancy
 Cousens, G. (2011). Conscious eating. (2 ed., p. 633). Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
 Pitchford, P. (2003). Healing with whole foods. (3 ed., p. 223). Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
 Wolfe, D. (2008, June 26). Raw food pregnancy & kids. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIgFoTWkq6I&feature=plcp
 Benson, J. (2010, December 27). Iron, folic acid supplementation during pregnancy results in children with better motor skills. Retrieved from http://www.naturalnews.com/030843_folic_acid_motor_skills.html
 Finnegan, J. (No date). Vital role of essential fatty acids in pregnant and nursing women. http://www.mercola.com/beef/omega3.htm
 Benson, J. (2011, May 29) Folic acid during pregnancy may reduce baby’s cancer risk. Retrieved from http://www.naturalnews.com/032557_folic_acid_pregnancy.html
Published On: May 14, 2012