In our modern, industrialized world, achieving good nutrition can be a bit tricky. It’s true that fruits and vegetables and lean, high-protein meats are preferable to doughnuts and greasy fast-food hamburgers, but the pollution of our food chain by environmental toxins has turned the simple decision to eat a peach into a reason for pause.
A peach is no longer just a peach.
A peach can be a delicious source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that give our bodies good health, or it can be a tasteless repository of forty-two different types of toxic pesticides that are bad for our bodies and especially bad for a baby in the womb.6
Fortunately, by making informed choices and avoiding those foods known to contain high levels of such contaminants, you can easily reduce the harmful chemicals that can pass from mother to unborn child. Choosing foods grown locally, and in their natural growing season can greatly reduce pesticide levels. Choosing organically grown foods can virtually eliminate significant pesticide exposure.
Being a vegetarian or a vegan can be an option for a pregnant woman, if you make informed choices. Here are four things to keep in mind:
1. Being sure to get plenty of Vitamin B12, typically found in animal foods (meat, dairy products, and eggs), is especially important for pregnant and nursing women (and for babies and children). Good sources of B12 for vegetarians are dairy products and eggs. Vegans should be sure their diet includes foods that are fortified with B12, like fortified breakfast cereals, fortified yeast extract, and fortified soy milk. Red Star Nutritional Yeast, Vegetarian Support Formula, for example, is one reliable vegan source of B12. It tastes great as a seasoning sprinkled on soups, salads, and even popcorn. And don’t forget, a prenatal vitamin is an important safety net for all women.
2. Calcium is also very important during pregnancy and nursing (and for moms, in the months just after nursing, to replenish the calcium in their own bones). If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, add rich sources of calcium in your diet, such as tofu, tempeh, sesame seeds, greens (collard greens, turnip greens), and figs. (Check the label on your tofu. Tofu processed with calcium sulfate tends to have much higher levels of calcium than tofu processed with nigari.) You’ll also get some calcium from kale, soybeans, bok choy, mustard greens, tahini, broccoli, almonds, and spinach. And you can find many calcium-fortified foods (soy milk, orange juice—even whole grain waffles), and of course, calcium supplements. The lower animal protein intake of vegetarians does seem to reduce the body’s calcium losses, but there is not enough evidence to say that vegans need less calcium when pregnant or nursing. I recommend getting 1,000 milligrams every day (1,300 milligrams if you are under age nineteen).
3. Variety in your diet is especially important. I suggest that you eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to take advantage of all the unique phytonutrients in different foods. Phytonutrients are the thousands of different naturally occurring compounds in plants that have a positive effect on human health. While providing color, flavor, and disease-resistance in plants, they also benefit the humans who eat them. And don’t rely too much on soy as your only major protein source. ....read more