We take some of the biggest lies and misconceptions around veganism and tackle them head on
If you’re nurturing a new life it stands to reason you need to be consuming the corpses and secretions of animals. Right? Right? Well actually, no. It is very much possible to have a healthy plant-based pregnancy, as many vegan mothers will attest.
These women are backed up by a number of healthcare professionals including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Dietetic Association (ADA). The UK’s own NHS has also stated that a well-planned vegan diet can be healthy during pregnancy.
The much-quoted statement published last year by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals – said a strong vegan diet is suitable for all life stages. One key point made was that: “Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.” Maintaining optimum health is important at all times – including, of course, during pregnancy.
The one caveat – as ever – is that the diet should be properly planned, and include adequate quantities of certain nutrients. The NHS highlights vitamin B12 (which, it should be noted, is very often lacking in omnivorous diets) as well as vitamin D and iron as particularly important. The organisation also advises pregnant women to ensure their calcium uptake is sufficient.
Notably, the vast majority of foods pregnant women are advised to avoid are non-vegan. According to the NHS: “All pregnant women, regardless of their diet, are advised not to eat mould-ripened soft cheese (such as brie or camembert) and soft blue-veined cheese (such as roquefort or Danish blue). These cheeses could contain listeria, which can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or serious illness in newborn babies.
“Pregnant women are advised not to eat pâté, including vegetarian pâté, which can also contain listeria. Some vegetarian pâté contains raw eggs, which may carry a risk of salmonella infection.
Pregnant women are also advised not to eat raw or partially cooked eggs.”
Veganuary, a charity which encourages participants to go vegan during January, adds: “Vegan women can easily meet their nutritional needs when pregnant. A study in 1987, of 775 pregnant vegans, showed that their diets had no effect on the birth weights of their babies, and that their own weight gain was normal. In fact, these women actually gained a little more weight than women in the general meat eating population. Preeclampsia rates were also nearly non-existent.”