I am a student midwife in the midst of some confusing research about nutrition. I've recently been presented with some interesting research indicating that vegan and vegetarian diets could be putting women and their babies at risk for nutritional deficiences. On a gut level I don't really believe this to be the case, but after doing hours of research I'm having a hard time coming up with good resources that support the vegan and vegetarian diets in pregnancy and...so I'm turning to the mothering community for help because I know that folks on here are well educated about their lifestyle choices and making the best decisions for their families. So I'm asking for some help in gathering resources.
Please share with me resources (links, books, etc.) that detail the physiology of nutrient absoption and metabolism for vegetarians. For example, its often put out there that vegans have a lower RDI for calcium because the calcium in greens and vegetable sources is more bioavailable than the calcium in milk. Or that free amino acids found in plant foods are more readily assimilated than proteins from animal products. I would really love to have good, solid information on this! Also some thourough exhaustive resources on the optimal vegetarian and vegan diets in pregnancy and post-partum.
I know that food also has strong energetic effects too and there is much more to life than what can be quantified in rational terms, so I would also be very interested in intuitive experiences that people feel moved to share about their choices around not eating animal or meat products. This would really add some depth to my understanding...
Thanks so much folks!
Well, I don't have any resources for you, unfortunately. I will say that I have three daughters, ages 9, 8, and 3 weeks old, and was vegan for all of their pregnancies. My two older daughters are also vegan, and the third will be raised vegan as well. With the exception of my youngest, we have all had blood work done many times over the years, for routine purposes, and we have never suffered from any nutritional deficiencies. My older daughters have always been very healthy and have tons of energy, more than most children I know.
I think with any restrictive diet you are potentially putting yourself at risk for nutritional deficiencies, and you have to be aware of your diet in a way that you perhaps wouldn't if you ate a wider variety of foods. That being said, during each of my pregnancies I have seen nutritionists as part of my regular care, and they were all very supportive and impressed with my diet. They all said that my diet was considerably healthier than almost all of their other patients.
Good luck with your research!
Mama to 3 awesome girls: DD1 born 2001, DD2 born 2002, DD3 born March 2011
Here you go, plenty of solid nutrition advice for vegan mamas and vegan babies:
The ADA recommendations for vegan babies and toddlers: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=8060
"The American Dietetic Association and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agree: Well-planned vegetarian and vegan eating patterns are healthy for infants and toddlers."
ADA position paper on vegetarian and vegan diets:
"It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes."
Vegan Health on pregnancy, infants, and children:
Vegetarian Resource Group on vegan kids:
on pregnancy and breastfeeding: