Hello everybody. Dr. Bryan Dzvonick here. In the following transcript from the above video, I discuss the most common nutrient deficiencies pregnant and nursing women may encounter on a vegan diet. By the end of this transcript, you will know what nutrients to add to your vegan diet to optimize your baby’s health and prevent diseases of malnutrition.
The micronutrient that is the most difficult to get on a 100% plant-based diet is Vitamin B12. If you are vegan and you are nursing, pregnant or planning to become pregnant you should be supplementing your diet with vitamin B12.
Some food manufacturers fortify their plant-based products with B12. Check your food labels. You may notice that B12 is added to some of your almond milks, flours and other cereal grains.
But ultimately, you’ll want to be taking a high-quality prenatal multivitamin. More on that in the last section of this article, so stick around.
Docosahexanoic or DHA is one of your omega-3 fatty acids. It makes up about 30% of the fat in the human brain and it is crucial for your baby’s cognitive development.
Getting adequate DHA from your vegan diet will require adding ample amounts of seaweed, spirulina and chlorella to your daily meal plan. These are the only plant sources that contain DHA.
You can also eat large amounts of foods that are high in another omega-3 fatty acid known as Alpha Linolenic acid. These include hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, edamame, and soybean oil to name a few. Notice how I said you will need to eat large amounts of these foods because your body will only convert less than 15% of Alpha linolenic acid to DHA.
To easily get optimal amounts of DHA you will need to supplement your diet.
You can get vitamin D from the sun for free. You’ll want to sunbathe in the mid-day sun. If you have very light skin, you should aim for 10-15 minutes per side every day. If you have very dark skin, you should aim for 25-30 minutes per side every day. And if your skin tone is somewhere in the middle than adjust your time spent in the sun accordingly.
If you’re not into sunbathing or you live in an area where there is no sunshine it’s ok because many plant-based processed foods are fortified with Vitamin D2 like some brands of orange juice, margarine and almond milk. You can also put mushrooms out in the sun upside-down and they’ll make extra Vitamin D2.
Do note, however that Vitamin D in the form of Vitamin D2 at higher doses may be less potent than Vitamin D3. Also, vitamin D3 in supplement form is not vegan because it’s derived from sheep’s wool.
Unless you’re getting plenty of sun every day and eating lots of fortified foods, your milk production will be lacking this vitamin. And since it is needed for growth and bone development of your baby you should have your vitamin D levels checked every 3 months throughout pregnancy and while nursing. You want your lab value to be between 50 and 100 ng/mL.
After 6 months of age, your baby can also spend limited time in the direct morning or later day sun to make their own vitamin D as well. Just be careful to avoid sun burns.
This mineral is not too difficult to obtain through a vegan diet. There are plenty of plant sources including white beans, chocolate, lentils, spinach, tofu and chickpeas to name a few.
If you are absorbing enough iron from your diet, there should be plenty in your breast milk up until your baby is about 6 months old. At that time, solid foods should be introduced while you are still nursing. If you are consistently supplementing with iron, however, adequate amounts should be passed through your breast milk past 6 months.
You should have your iron levels tested during pregnancy and while nursing to make sure you’re getting enough to pass to your baby. You’ll want to check your iron, total iron binding capacity and ferritin.
There are many other possible nutrient deficiencies for any mom’s diet (not just vegans) so taking a quality prenatal multivitamin prior to conception, during pregnancy and while nursing is recommended.
I have searched extensively and haven’t found any purely vegan prenatal vitamins that meet all my vitamin criteria for a quality product. The one that I recommend is called Prenatal Pro (by Pure Encapsulations) if you want to check it out. The only non-vegan ingredient it contains is Vitamin D3 and as mentioned earlier it is derived from sheep’s wool.
Prenatal Pro has optimal amounts of all the nutrients mentioned in this video except for DHA. For DHA, I recommend Algae Omega (by Norsdic Naturals) which does not contain animal products.
Your breast milk is the best food source for your baby but sometimes nursing is not an option. In that case, my first recommendation would be to find a human donor. If that’s not possible then you will need to feed your baby formula.
The good news is there are plenty of plant-based formulas with one caveat. By law they all must contain vitamin D3. If you are a very strict vegan this is one area where you need to think of your baby’s safety over the safety of animals and feed them the formula.
There’s a couple that I recommend. The first one is Earth’s best Non-GMO Plant Based formula with iron. And the second is Enfamil ProSobee Soy-Based Infant Formula, for Sensitive Tummies. Both of these have all the nutrients your vegan baby needs including DHA derived from microalgae.
Now you know what nutrients to add to your vegan diet to optimize your baby’s health and prevent diseases of malnutrition. If you liked this transcript, consider watching the video and subscribing to my YouTube channel for more content like this. Thank you for reading and I’ll catch you in the next one.