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Can A Plant-Based Diet Be Healthy During Pregnancy?

If you're familiar with trends in the diet world, you have likely heard the phrase "plant-based diet", but what is it exactly, and is it safe for pregnant women?

The plant-based diet is very similar to the vegan diet, but it is not as strict. It involves eating mostly plants as opposed to animal products. It's eating a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes while eating a very low amount of meat or dairy.

While pregnant, it is extremely important to get all the nutrients your growing baby needs and many people are skeptical about "fad" diets providing everything. If you're not eating many animal products, can you get the iron, calcium, folate and other vitamins that are fortified into dairy products or come naturally in meat? According to sources, yes. If you're careful.

The nutrients you will miss when going plant-based, protein is important but you can find enough by eating tofu, beans, lentils, quinoa, tempeh, grains like whole grains and many vegetables like spinach, soy, and broccoli. It is recommended to get 70mgs

Calcium is fortified in milk and other dairy products. It is naturally found in vegetables like spinach, brussels sprouts, kale, other leafy greens,  fortified soy, tofu, rice milk, and some nut-based milks are fortified like normal dairy products, sesame seeds, tahini, fortified breads, and dried fruits.

Vitamin D is found fortified in dairy products but just going out and it can make its way into the body if you spend 20 minutes in the sun, but that's not always feasible. Without dairy, the best way to get enough is by eating citrus. Drink orange juice or eat oranges. Mushrooms are one of the only vegan options that aren't fortified so it's best to find soy or nut-based milks or orange juice that specifically says "fortified with vitamin D".

Vitamin B12 is a very important vitamin that doesn't get the attention that it deserves. Many people pop a supplement that has a similar effect as an energy drink. This particular vitamin can really only be found in fortified foods or vitamins, so supplementation is best, just talk to your doctor before taking any vitamins. Many cereals are fortified with B12, same with some Soy and nut milks.

Iron is a seriously important vitamin and it's very easy to get loads when you're eating the plant-based diet. You can get large amounts when you eat darker "leafy green" vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and fortified breads and cereals. You may want to speak with your doctor as you go into your second and later, the third trimester about supplementing because your needs may increase.

If you're eating plant-based, comfortable with the diet (or lifestyle) and find out you're pregnant, you don't need to worry. You do need to mention your diet to your OB to make sure you're staying on track but it is completely possible to eat plant-based or vegan while pregnant.

Of course, consult your doctor before making any dietary changes to determine the best course of action for you and your baby.

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