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When it comes to pregnancy, it is a common feature of a vegetarian mother to worry or give in to skeptic thoughts as to whether she is eating right; whether her vegetarian intake will successfully provide the essential nutrients for her and her fetus. But however recent studies are reassuring regarding a vegetarian diet supplement to meet the nutrient demands of the body. Studies have also shown lacto-ovo vegetarian (vegetarians who take eggs and milk) mother's weight gain is on par with the non-vegetarian mothers.
An important consideration in pregnancy is weight gain and a pregnant woman's body has to meet the need of 300 calories a day for a healthy baby. Vegetarians generally tend to be lean as the vegetarian diet is low in fat and rich in fibers resulting in a lower energy density level. Hence the calorie needs of a vegetarian mother have to be met.
If a pregnant woman can eat from a wide variety of food like nuts, nut butters, whole grains, soy food, legumes, fruits and vegetables and seeds, there is no need to worry about meeting the protein demands of the body.
Milk is a good source of calcium. If a vegetarian pregnant mother does not prefer to take milk there are always other sources of calcium like dark leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens etc. Soymilk, rice milk and orange juice are ideal sources of calcium.
Adequate vitamin D is required to promote calcium absorption in pregnant women. A good amount of exposure to the sun will supplement the needs along with diets like calcium fortified soymilk and rice milk, fortified dairy products and egg yolks.
Ovo-lacto vegetarians can easily meet this vitamin needs. But for stringent vegetarians fortified foods such as nutritional yeast (delicious sprinkled on popcorn), soymilk, meat analogs (vegetarian meat substitutes), or breakfast cereals can supplement this vitamin.
Green leafy vegetables, beans and legumes, dried fruits, blackstrap molasses, bran flakes, sea vegetables, nuts and seeds are all rich in iron. It is necessary to avoid tea and coffee that inhibit the absorption of iron. Food cooked in high cast iron skillets like acid foods like tomato can help in increasing the iron content.
Folic acid is the most essential requirement during the first few weeks of pregnancy. A vegetarian diet that includes folic acid is dark leafy greens, whole grains, orange juice, baked goods made with enriched flour, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and fortified cereals. Folic acid is also added in flour and baked food to serve the purpose for those mothers who are not aware of their pregnancy during the first few weeks.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Fish is usually a good source of Omega 3 fatty acid. This is essential for the development of the retina and brain and to maintain the central nervous system. Ground flax seeds (added to baked goods or smoothies), flax seed oil, walnuts, walnut oil, canola oil, soy products, soybean oil, hempseed oil, and wheat germ are rich sources of this acid apart from fish.
Whole grains are good sources of zinc than refined grains. Fiber may inhibit the zinc absorption but however since whole grains contain high zinc content the zinc necessity is met. Zinc sources include nuts, dried beans, hard cheeses, wheat germ, fortified and whole grain, cereals and pasta, sea vegetables, tofu, and miso.
Common food that supplement the nutrients
Canned Beans are rich in protein, iron and zinc; soy foods like tofu, with calcium sulfate are a rich source of calcium and also protein and iron. Zinc sources include nuts, dried beans, hard cheeses, wheat germ, fortified and whole grain cereals and pasta, sea vegetables, tofu, and miso. Nut butters are good source of protein and zinc. Many of these foods are also important sources of other nutrients. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip etc are good sources of calcium.
Hence vegetarian diet represents ample nutrients and can effectively supplement the missed out nutrients of a non-vegetarian diet during pregnancy.