Your Account
Visit Basket
Pregnant 04

Blog

Supporting a vegan or vegetarian diet during pregnancy

A balanced vegetarian or vegan diet is considered to be a healthy diet, with many health benefits associated with it. Doctors and healthcare practitioners agree that it offers a good grounding for good health and for a very healthy pregnancy.

A balanced vegetarian or vegan diet is considered to be a healthy diet, with many health benefits associated with it. Doctors and healthcare practitioners agree that it offers a good grounding for good health and for a very healthy pregnancy. With modern diets, doctors and dieticians tend to focus on cutting out unhealthy food from diets, such as very fatty and processed foods, so vegetarian and vegan diets are a pretty good baseline to be starting from.

A question we’re often asked here at Vegetology is “do pregnant mums that are vegan or vegetarian need to take dietary supplements during their pregnancy”?

In our experience, vegans and vegetarians tend to have a good knowledge of the nutrients contained in food. So before jumping straight into advising on supplements, the first thing to do is just map out their weekly diet to see what is being consumed regularly and where the gaps are.

There are plenty of online sites that can be used to research the composition of the fruits and vegetables you’re consuming to see if you’re getting enough of the essential nutrients required. Our favourite ones to use are NHS Choices, The Vegetarian Society and The Vegan Society

Doctors generally advise the use of supplements from conception right through to postnatal care, such as Iodine, Vitamin B12, Zinc and Folic acid. A good place to start with supplements for a vegan or vegetarian diet during pregnancy would be a good quality source of Omega-3, Vitamins D3, B12 and Iron.

Pregnant 04

Taking a closer look at Omega‑3

No doubt about it, when we’re talking about food, fats can be confusing: Which fats are good? Which fats are bad? Do we really need to eat fat? Will I become fat if I eat fat? The list of questions are endless.

One thing’s for sure there, Omega-3 is not called an essential fatty acid for nothing! It is vital for human health, but, our bodies don’t make it, so we have to get it either from our diet, usually from oily fish, or in the form of supplements.

Omega-3 plays an important role in boosting a woman’s immune system when trying to conceive and during pregnancy. It is also crucial to the baby’s development in the womb as well as after birth. Omega-3 benefits a baby’s heart health, brain health, brain development, general development, growth and the immune health, while in the womb and once born.

If we look at Omega-3 from the point of being a vegan or vegetarian, it's all about understanding the forms of Omega-3. We need DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA is the most important for pregnancy and for baby, but DHA and EPA as a combination is perfect.

If we look at Omega-3 from the point of being a vegan or vegetarian, it's all about understanding the forms of Omega-3. We need DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA is the most important for pregnancy and for baby, but DHA and EPA as a combination is perfect.

Many vegans and vegetarians take flaxseed, chia or other seed oils, thinking that this gives them all the Omega-3 that they need, but whilst they’re great, natural products in themselves, they don’t give you the right type of Omega-3. They contain their Omega-3 in the form of ALA which is alpha-linolenic acid. ALA needs to be converted by the body into DHA or EPA before it can be absorbed and the benefits utilised. But here's the thing, that conversion is very low at best.

There is some evidence to suggest it's hit and miss, depending on your health at the time as well as your diet. For example, let’s look at someone taking 1,000mg of flax a day. Of a 1,000 mg of a good quality flax, about 500mg of that is ALA, so there's the Omega-3, but you're only going to get about a tenth of that converted into EPA or DHA. That means from a thousand milligrams, the best case scenario is that they’re getting just a maximum of 50 milligrams of useful, bioavailable Omega-3.

To put that into context, it means that someone would have to take about 20 days worth of flaxseed to get the same as one day’s worth of a good quality vegan/vegetarian approved EPA & DHA supplement!

Pregnant 03

Taking a closer look at Vitamin D3

You probably can’t have helped but notice that vitamin D3 is in the news, a lot! Nick-named the sunshine vitamin we don’t naturally produce it ourselves, we literally do get vitamin D3 from exposing our bare skin to the sun. Easier said than done, especially in the winter months! Vitamin D3 deficiency isn’t just a problem here in the UK or northern Europe, people who live in hot countries are also commonly found to be deficient.

Why? Well in hot and sunny climates people, quite rightly use a strong sunscreen which blocks out the sun’s rays. People might also choose to cover up because of lifestyle or religious choices. In India, for instance, nearly 75% of the population is Vitamin D deficient even though they get more than enough sunshine.

Just as with Omega-3, there are absolutely loads of benefits with Vitamin D. It aids the immune system and again it promotes heart health, eye health plus brain development.

Vitamin D3 is vital to bone and muscle development and prevents conditions such as rickets, poor growth and muscle weakness. A deficiency in Vitamin D3 can also cause seizures in infants and heart problems. It also has links to preventing or treating asthma and diabetes. In fact, the UK government have literally just started recommending that we all supplement with Vitamin D.

Is there a downside for vegans and vegetarians? Well, yes and no!

Traditionally Vitamin D3 supplements have been made from lanolin which comes from sheep wool, so, understandably, that doesn’t sit well with people who have made an ethical decision about their diets.

Vitamin D2 was launched many years ago as an alternative, which your body then has to convert that to D3. Unfortunately, just like flaxseed, the conversion rate is a hit or miss affair.

There is also a myth about Vitamin D3 only being being found in animals, but that's just not true. It's also found naturally in certain tomatoes or grasses. However the problem's always been getting something viable and sustainable from a plant-based source. The good news is that at Vegetology, we have developed a Vitamin D3 supplement which is extracted from a particular type of lichen, which is like a type of moss.

This lichen produces Vitamin D3 because it grows in extreme mountainous regions. It gets a lot of sun, and it needs to protect itself from the sun, which is why it naturally accumulates Vitamin D3. There are now lichen sources of Vitamin D3 available that are approved by The Vegan Society and Vegetarian Society.

Taking a closer look at Vitamin B12

Everyone benefits from Vitamin B12, not just babies and children. Vitamin B12 is needed for the formation of red blood cells, it supports the brain and nervous system plus it supports the immune system and energy levels.

It’s another vitamin that's very low in a standard diet without meat. Again, if you are a vegan or vegetarian and see a gap of Vitamin B12, then we’d definitely recommend supplementing. Because Vitamin B12 supplements can be produced through fermentation, there there are plenty available that are suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Iodine, Folic Acid, Zinc and Iron

The brilliant news about these four vitamins is that they can be found in abundance in a healthy, balanced vegan or vegetarian diet! The key thing is to make sure that you’re getting enough of them. Do your research, look at your diet for any gaps and maybe even ask your doctor, nutritionist or midwife for advice. If they feel that you would benefit from a supplement then all of these are readily available in vegan and vegetarian form.

To find out more about supplements that are suitable for vegans and vegetarians then browse our wide range now!

SHOP NOW
Ebook WEB 01

Free eBook | Ultimate Guide to Dietary Supplements

Download Now
Join the Vegetology family!

Be the first to hear about new products, offers and more.

By continuing you agree for your personal data to be collected and handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

© 2022 Vegetology. All rights reserved.Powered by Aurion Digital