A List of Vegan Super Foods for Pregnant Women
Appropriately planned vegan diets, according to the American Dietetic Association, are nutritionally adequate for pregnancy and can result in positive maternal and infant health outcomes. A vegan diet is plant-based and devoid of animal sources of fats and proteins found in meat, fish, eggs or milk products. Along with a high intake of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds, a few foods that boast a super-concentration of nutrients can help support a healthy vegan pregnancy.
During pregnancy it can be difficult for vegans to obtain enough dietary protein and calories to meet the needs of the developing fetus as well as the energy requirements of the mother. Combining foods such as beans and rice and grains and nuts provides more amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Quinoa has all of the essential amino acids and is therefore a complete protein, comparable to meat and soybeans. Arthritis Today magazine reports that, with 22g of protein per 1 cup serving, quinoa has more than any other grain. It is also high in fiber and iron. Chilean researchers reviewed the properties of quinoa, which has been cultivated since ancient times in the Andes, and found the grain has an exceptional balance of oil, protein and fat suited for human nutrition and that quinoa's minerals, vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants protect cell membranes and enhance brain and nerve function. The report was published in the September 2010 Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Quinoa cooks rapidly and is versatile in soups, salads or side dishes.
- During pregnancy it can be difficult for vegans to obtain enough dietary protein and calories to meet the needs of the developing fetus as well as the energy requirements of the mother.
- Quinoa has all of the essential amino acids and is therefore a complete protein, comparable to meat and soybeans.
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Hemp seeds are a complete protein and rich in omega-3 fats. These essential fatty acids must come from dietary sources and are also found in fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds and spirulina. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered healthy fats, thought to be important during pregnancy for fetal visual and brain development. They may also help prevent preterm birth and postpartum depression. An analysis of randomized controlled trials published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2007 revealed that supplements of omega-3 fats given to high-risk pregnant women were associated with a lower incidence of early preterm delivery, defined as birth at less than 34 weeks gestation. While this study tested the effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids -- a type of omega-3 fatty acids not found directly in hemp hearts, your body can produce these long-chain fatty acids from the type of omega-3 that hemp hearts provide. As a result, they might offer benefits during pregnancy.
- Hemp seeds are a complete protein and rich in omega-3 fats.
- While this study tested the effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids -- a type of omega-3 fatty acids not found directly in hemp hearts, your body can produce these long-chain fatty acids from the type of omega-3 that hemp hearts provide.
Chlorella is a blue-green algae, a nutritious staple of indigenous peoples who harvested it from fresh water lakes. Today, it is grown in controlled conditions and valued as a rich source of protein, folate, B12, iron and omega-3 fats. In Japan, scientists gave 32 women between the 12th and 18th weeks of pregnancy a daily dose of 6g of chlorella until they delivered. Thirty-eight untreated pregnant women served as a control group. The trial, published in the March 2010 Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, reported that pregnant women who took chlorella had fewer signs of pregnancy-induced hypertension and higher hemoglobin levels than controls. The researchers concluded that chlorella significantly reduces the risk of anemia, proteinuria and edema in pregnancy.
- Chlorella is a blue-green algae, a nutritious staple of indigenous peoples who harvested it from fresh water lakes.
- The researchers concluded that chlorella significantly reduces the risk of anemia, proteinuria and edema in pregnancy.
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- EatRight.org: Vegetarian Diets
- Arthritis Today: Keen on Quinoa
- Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture: Nutrition Facts and Functional Potential of Quinoa (Chenopodium Quinoa Willd.), an Ancient Andean Grain: A Review
- British Journal of Nutrition: Effect of Supplementation of Women in High-Risk Pregnancies with Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Pregnancy Outcomes and Growth Measures at Birth: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
- Plant Foods for Human Nutrition: Chlorella Pyrenoidosa Supplementation Reduces the Risk of Anemia, Proteinuria and Edema in Pregnant Women
- Mohebi-nejad A, Bikdeli B. Omega-3 supplements and cardiovascular diseases. Tanaffos. 2014;13(1):6-14.
- Preston mason R. New Insights into Mechanisms of Action for Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Atherothrombotic Cardiovascular Disease. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2019;21(1):2. doi:10.1007/s11883-019-0762-1
- Agnostoni C, Bresson, JL, Fairweather-Tait S. Scientific Opinion on the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA). EFSA Journal. 2012;10(7):2815. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2815
- Jain AP, Aggarwal KK, Zhang PY. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 2015;19(3):441–445.
- Zibaeenezhad MJ, Ghavipisheh M, Attar A, Aslani A. Comparison of the effect of omega-3 supplements and fresh fish on lipid profile: a randomized, open-labeled trial. Nutr Diabetes. 2017;7(12):1. doi:10.1038/s41387-017-0007-8
- American Heart Association. Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. 2017.
- Dipiro JT, Talbert RL. Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach. 10th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education; 2017.
Mary Earhart is a registered nurse, a public health nurse and licensed midwife. Her articles have appeared in professional journals and online ezines. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nursing from California State University at Dominguez Hills. She works in a family practice clinic, has a home birth practice and her specialty is perinatal substance abuse.