Here is part II of Alicia Silverstone's interview, featuring and Susan Levine and yours truly.
Are prenatal vitamins vegan?
Christina: Not all of them, but there are brands that are. I have seen women have good results with Deva vegan prenatal multivitamins. Both Mega and Rainbow Light brands of prenatal vitamins are also of the highest quality and have worked hard to not contribute to the upset stomachs that so many pregnant women deal with. These vitamins have all the nutrients needed and are designed to get to the cells more efficiently.
Would a woman who is vegan during pregnancy need to take more supplements than a non-vegan pregnant woman?
Susan: The needs are the same between vegan and non-vegan pregnant women with the exception of iron. The prenatal vitamin takes care of most of the iron needs during pregnancy. Because vegans do not get their iron from meat, it is advisable to focus on plant sources of iron such as whole grains, beans, spinach, chard, dried fruits, and beets. You can increase the absorbability of dietary iron by pairing iron foods with high Vitamin C foods.
Christina: Dark leafy greens like kale, collards, and bok choy are a great sources of iron in our diets. Broccoli, whole wheat, black turtle beans, escarole, watercress, dandelion greens, and lentils are all great sources of iron as well. Try to limit spinach and Swiss chard, as they contain high levels of oxalic acid, which inhibits absorption of calcium and iron.
Iodine, like that found in kombu or iodized sea salt is important during pregnancy and breast feeding because iodine deficiency is the cause of the most preventable form of brain damage in newborns. It’s been my experience that most macrobiotic women who do not eat fish are deficient in iodine - but getting enough is as simple as using iodized sea salt or taking a kelp supplement.
Are there solid facts that state that a vegan pregnancy is healthier than a non-vegan pregnancy?
Christina: According to www.happycow.net and www.naturalbirthandbabycare.com, a vegan pregnancy can be just as healthy and nutritionally adequate as any other. Experts like Dr. Neal Barnard will take it a step further and tell you that a properly nourished vegan woman will be healthier during pregnancy and not struggle as much with digestive issues, bloating, swelling of the feet, insomnia and all the other things that plague women during this special time.
Susan: In a 1987 study of 1,700 pregnancies at a vegan community in Tennessee, pregnancies were dramatically healthier. And only one in 100 babies had to be delivered by cesarean section, compared with much higher rates in the general population.
Alicia: All of the vegan pregnancies I have witnessed have been way smoother than those of my non-vegan friends. My friends Heather, Laura, Lalayna, Desire, and “Macro-Mom” Sarah Forrester Wendt did not have to worry about all the medications and interventions that our society has come to consider normal. From my point of view, the more vegan you are, the healthier you are – and that makes your pregnancy go more easily and helps your baby to be super duper healthy!
Will eating vegan increase the risk of the baby developing certain allergies later in life?
Susan: A vegan diet offers increased intake of immune boosting foods to help protect against chronic health problems.
Christina: As long as the mother is getting adequate amounts of zinc in her diet or as a supplement, there is no concern. Zinc is essential to health. It doesn't prevent allergies directly, but having a balanced concentration of zinc in the body results in a strong immune function that often is the key in allergy prevention and treatment. Zinc can be found in foods like whole wheat and nuts.
In part III, we'll cover child nutrition and breastfeeding. Stay tuned!