People follow a vegan diet for a variety of reasons. Some do it to reduce their carbon footprints, others to show support for animal rights, and some for health benefits like improved energy levels and skin. Although some may question the safety of such a strict diet, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that a vegan diet is completely healthy as long as you make an effort to avoid nutrient deficiencies. That being said, a person may still wonder if it is still safe to follow a vegan diet while pregnant. Research verifies that vegetarian diets can be nutritionally adequate in pregnancy. During pregnancy, you don’t need to go on a special diet, but it’s important to eat a variety of different foods every day to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby needs. Here are the most important nutrients vegan mums-to-be should include in her diet:

IRON

Your body uses iron to make extra blood and helps move oxygen  from your lungs to the rest of your body — and to your baby’s. 

Good sources of iron for vegetarians and vegans are: lentils, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans, black beans, chickpeas, dark green vegetables, wholemeal bread, fortified breakfast cereals (with added iron), dried fruit, such as apricots, quinoa, brown rice, pumpkin seeds, cashews, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, black strap molasses, prunes.

VITAMIN B12

Vitamin B12 is important for maintaining the health of your nervous system, but it’s also believed that when combined with folic acid during pregnancy, B12 supplements can help to prevent spina bifida and other spinal and central nervous system birth defects in your baby.

Good sources are:  fortified breakfast cereals (choose lower sugar options where possible) , fortified unsweetened soya drinks, yeast extract, such as Marmite.

VITAMIN D

Because vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods, it might be difficult to get enough from foods that naturally contain vitamin D and fortified foods alone.

So all adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, particularly during the winter months (October until the end of March). Vegans will need to read the label to ensure that the vitamin D used in a product isn’t of animal origin. From late March/early April until the end of September, most people should be able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight.

CALCIUM

When you’re pregnant, your developing baby needs calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps your baby grow a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles as well as develop a normal heart rhythm and blood-clotting abilities.

Good sources are:  dark green leafy vegetables, pulses, fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks, brown and white bread, calcium-set tofu, sesame seeds and tahini, dried fruit.

OMEGA-3

Omega-3s have been found to be essential for both neurological and early visual development of the baby.

Good sources are:   seaweed and algae, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, salnuts, edamame, kidney beans, algae oil