After five and half years of marriage to Christopher Jarecki, and over 13 years together, 34 year old Alicia Silverstone is excited to announce that she is expecting her first child, according to People magazine. While she has said previously that she has wanted to be a mother for as long as she can remember, Alicia has not announced if she will maintain her mostly vegan diet throughout her pregnancy. Alicia published The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet in 2009 to aid others in adopting a vegan diet. Her lack of announcement seems to suggest that little has changed for her nutritionally.
Maintaining a vegan diet throughout pregnancy is pretty controversial with very strong opinions on both sides of the fence. While a woman is supporting a growing fetus and her body is changing with pregnancy, she has greater nutritional needs that not all believe can be met with a vegan diet. While Jillian Michaels is right that only 200-300 extra calories per day may be needed to grow a healthy baby, the nutritional needs packed into those calories are very high.
It is recommended that expectant mothers ingest 60-71 grams of protein daily. While all necessary amino acids can be found in an omnivore diet, a diet containing a variety of plants may also be able to provide the same. It is recommended that expectant mothers ingest 1000-1300 milligrams of calcium each day, more for teen moms. Protein calcium can be found in green leafy vegetables, legumes, soy, and whole grains.
Without sufficient vitamin D, which is found only in animal products, calcium cannot be absorbed properly by the body. Vitamin D can be absorbed through the skin via direct sunlight. Twenty to 30 minutes of summer sun on the face and hands two to three times per week is recommended for expectant mothers who do not ingest animal products. Vitamin D supplements should only be taken with doctor’s orders and under a physician’s supervision due to the risks of fetal deformities with excessive amounts of vitamin D.
Vitamin B12 is also found only in animal products. It is important during gestation to help with tissue synthesis. It is recommended that expectant mothers ingest 2.2 micrograms each day. Fortified soy milk may help obtain the recommended allotment of vitamin B12.
Vitamin A is also found only in animal products. Growth retardation, rickets, and nerve damage are dangers of insufficient vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin B12 in children and newborns.
It is recommended that expectant mothers ingest 30 milligrams of iron daily, a high amount on any diet. Extra iron is needed during gestation due to increased maternal blood volume and to provide for the formation of the baby’s blood. Without sufficient iron in her diet, an expectant mother will become anemic. Some iron is found in green leafy vegetables and beans.
Another concern of a vegan diet is over-consumption of fiber, which can rob the body of necessary nutrients even if they have been ingested improperly. Many suggest that women on a vegan diet do not produce enough milk for breast feeding, and research has found vegan breast milk does not contain docasahexaeoic acid (DHA), which is vital for the development of the brain and eyes.
It certainly seems like it would take more intention to ensure a healthy pregnancy on a vegan diet. Those who follow a vegan diet often state that it is a health way of life for them. It will be interesting to see if Alicia Silverstone decides to maintain her vegan diet throughout this pregnancy.
January 18th, 2011