Alia Bhatt’s baby shower will be a vegan treat. Is it healthy to stay vegan during pregnancy?
When she’s not delivering an Rs 100 crore hit, superstar actress Alia Bhatt chooses to lead by example. It celebrates a conscientious lifestyle, making choices that resonate with the climate-conscious times. Having become vegan in 2020 and in the third trimester of her pregnancy, she has now opted for a 100% vegan menu for her baby shower. This has obviously led to many questions as to whether a vegan diet is good and nutritious enough for expectant moms? And for many young people who make conscious choices with veganism, is it enough to maintain it during pregnancy?
“The question is about healthy nutrition and vegan food is medicine that has the power to change the trajectory of our health. Vegan foods can also be rich in protein and vitamins (the two components that are emphasized in every pregnancy diet). The misconception that deficits are caused by plant-based diets is something that needs to be busted. Instead, consuming them in sufficient amounts provides all the necessary vital nutrients, including calcium, protein, vitamins A, C, as well as B vitamins. Plus, they are naturally rich in fiber and antioxidants,” explains plant food expert Sanjay Sethi.
“The main emphasis of a plant-based diet is to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes that are in season. EATLANCET, which has outlined the Planetary Healthy Diets Framework, also promotes this way of eating” , he adds.
In fact, it explains why animal foods frequently contain toxins that enter the human digestive system and cause arterial inflammation, which damages the heart. For mothers prone to hypertension, switching from animal proteins to alternative plant proteins can significantly lower LDL levels.
“Thereafter, the inclusion of nuts like almonds and walnuts, flaxseeds, and hemp powder rich in omega-3s and protein can help meet all nutritional needs. If you are concerned that the transition to a plant-based diet harms your gut due to a lack of probiotics, our traditional household practices like eating foods with chutneys and using vinegar-soaked pyaaz aid digestion,” he says.
Additionally, foods like bananas, papayas, raisins, and ginger are excellent prebiotics that promote the formation of healthy microbes in the stomach, which improves immunity. Many people are adopting plant-based diets and becoming flexitarians. In fact, this is the route advocated by Ritika Samaddar, Regional Head, Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Max Healthcare.
“For those who find it difficult to switch to veganism due to the high costs of buying plant-based foods or who simply have trouble calculating their ratios, they can switch to a vegetarian diet and sometimes rely on curds and milk.. Otherwise, we have a great tradition of rich plant-based foods like split or green peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, quinoa, bulgur, oatmeal, cereals and whole-grain breads, nut butter, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, soy milk, tofu and lentils If calcium (an essential prerequisite for the third trimester) you worried, just opt for milk, cheese, and more leafy greens.
According to Pareen Sachdeva, a vegan who started Lactose-Free Goddess just to prove that veganism isn’t about blandness, “Veganism is the perfect antidote to food allergies. Many Indians don’t even know that their gut health issues like gas and acidity are caused by some kind of food allergy. For example, very few people know that although milk is an additional growth fluid for the baby, it is not necessary for adults. Additionally, any type of animal milk brings with it hormones and chemicals that are out of sync with the human body, which rejects it. We only crave milk because lactose is addictive,” she says. She makes pastries, pizzas, patties, and even barfis that don’t use milk or poultry solids, replacing them with coconut, soy, or almond milk. Likewise, plant-based foods and meats are just as good in terms of satiety and nutrient value.
“Why do we eat animal meat? Because we are drawn to flavor and texture, which can be easily replicated. Besides, the animals we eat are all herbivores, feeding on vegetable proteins,” she argues. She uses seitan, a plant-based meat substitute. “Wheat flour and water are kneaded into a sticky dough. It is then rinsed to remove the starch, leaving only a mass of pure gluten protein. This has a chewy texture and can absorb any meaty flavor you want. Its potato sprout burger patties have the same protein value as their animal meat counterpart.
The US-based National Library of Medicine in 2019 found enough evidence to show that “well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets may be considered safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but they require a high intake of awareness for a balanced intake of key nutrients. Pregestational nutritional intervention design is needed to avoid maternal undernutrition and the resulting impaired fetal growth.
And although many mothers take iron supplements in the normal course, they might get enough iron from beans, soybeans, oat bran, barley, pumpkin seeds, dried fruits, spinach and chickpeas. For any deficiency not filled by dietary intake, a mother-to-be can always count on the supplements recommended by her doctor. So there is no need to worry.