We appreciate the ethical and moral concerns of those who choose to refrain from the use of animal foods. However, a vegan diet is not the best choice for the pregnant or nursing mother (or, really, the healthiest diet for your body at any point in your life). A nursing or pregnant mother cannot expect to eat a low-fat vegan or vegetarian diet and have a smooth experience during pregnancy and postpartum. Such a diet simply does not give her body the nutrients and healthy fats it needs. Vegan mothers may have an easy time during pregnancy and a positive birth experience, but postpartum ailments are common and subsequent pregnancies tend to be troublesome because of nutrient depletion. Our clinical experience has shown this to us time and time again.
Statistically, vegans do have fewer cases of heart disease than meat-eaters, but we have observed that they seem more vulnerable to colds, flus, structural problems such as joint pain, immune-system problems, and lymphoma. A vegetarian diet that incorporates dairy products and eggs is a step closer to the ideal diet, but it still deprives you of one of the most nourishing foods you can eat, especially during pregnancy and postpartum: deepwater fish.
Many health-conscious vegetarians stop eating meat and dairy products because they want to decrease their fat intake. There is nothing wrong with the fat that nature put into whole foods. When food manufacturers take the fat out, they have to add sugar and flavorings to add back the taste and what food technologists call the "mouth feel" of the full-fat versions. Foods that contain natural fats and proteins are more satisfying, and you need less of them to feel as though you have had enough. Eating meat, dairy products, and eggs does not cause heart disease. The relationship between food and clogged arteries is much more complicated than some people would have us believe. Moderate consumption of animal foods, along with lots of vegetables, whole grains, and fruit, will not put you at increased risk for a heart attack.
If you make the choice to stay with a vegan or vegetarian diet because of spiritual or moral concerns, we admire your commitment to your ideals. However, be aware that you need to focus on supplementing the amino acids, healthy fats, and other nutrients that are likely to be lacking in your diet.
From A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health by Dean Raffelock, Robert Rountree, and Virginia Hopkins with Melissa Block. Copyright © 2002 by Dr. Dean Raffelock. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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