Green Parenthood: From Conception On

Environmentally minded teens on TikTok might very well have been getting their #recycle and #renewableenergy viewing figures up into the millions with advice on living sustainably, but how does one simply get the weening baby onto their first greens? Although our nation’s teenagers have displayed their activist muscle for centuries (The Times recently reported that 18th-century youngsters abstained from sugar on abolitionist grounds), it seems the average parent just can’t get their bairn to believe in the tastiness of the broccoli aeroplane. Unless they’re vegetarian or vegan, of course.

In fact, nature versus nurture apparently very much has a place in the dietary stakes and the debate over vegan. pregnancies has existed for years: can a plant-based lifestyle support both the mother and her developing child? Does it offer enough carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals? In short, as long as there is an adequate intake of prenatal nutrients, then yes

For pregnant women (and infants), the key concerns are protein, iron, and B12 and the ADA (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) has confirmed that plant-based diets provide adequate amounts of these for not only pregnancy, but lactation and beyond as well. A 2015 review published

in The British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology also deemed a vegan diet adequate for a pregnant woman’s needs. What’s more, vegan and vegetarian women are less likely to be obese or at risk of cardiovascular issues caused by diet, with a lower incidence of diabetes Type-II and high cholesterol, as well.

This does not mean that veganism rules out Gestational Diabetes occurring, but studies have found the incidence to be lower and a 2006 study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that an increase in fibre of 10g per day resulted in a 26% lower possibility of GD (Gestational Diabetes).

The same study stated that a 5g daily increase in fibre from only fruit or grains resulted in a reduction in risk of GD of 23%. Interestingly, a 2019 review published in the journal Nutrients suggested that veganism could very well lower the risk of not only GD, but also preeclampsia and preterm delivery, though more research is needed in the area.

While a dairy-free diet might benefit one’s sex life, according to the PCRM (Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine), might support a good sperm count and libido (both rather important for conception), and

was proposed as a MyPlate dietary guideline by the US Department of Agriculture only last year – what about the place of dairy or otherwise in the family as a whole? While a University of Rochester study suggests a male partner

is better served stepping away from the cheese plate, what about those of the female sex and what about their children?

Well, apart from there also seeming to be a correlation between dairy consumption and reduced vaginal arousal due to hyperlipidemia (elevated blood cholesterol), according to a 2009 study conducted by the Second University of Naples, the addictive casomorphic qualities of milk and cheese mean one rarely has only a little bit. Unfortunately, dairy is high in saturated fat, which has been linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease, so if we indulge in these animal products too often, our health suffers.

Whole Food Plant Based veganism, then, is what should be the mindset for the most part when it comes to conception, pregnancy, and lactation – and other stages in life, too. A junk food diet, even though it might exclude animal products, is still not a diet beneficial to health and well-being, whether one is growing another

human being or not. Predominantly WFPB living staves off chronic illness and disease, increases longevity, and aids the planet, as well – just so long as one pays attention to macronutrients and micronutrients essential for both baby and mother.

You don’t have to train to be a nutritionist, either. In addition to a prenatal supplement, there are a few foods which should be included regularly as part of a balanced plant- based pregnancy diet. Although the

precise quantities will vary throughout the three trimesters, as long as enough calories are being consumed, as well as protein, fibre, iron, calcium, vitamin D, folate, folic acid, potassium, vitamin B6, and magnesium (be not daunted

by this list!), then one should be adequately nourished for this incredibly physical moment in a woman’s life:

Lentils (Folate)

Lentils are one of the most folate- dense foods out there. Women are told to start taking folic acid when thinking about conceiving, let alone when they’re actually pregnant, as it is critical for development of the foetus, from the brain to the spinal cord. In addition to ensuring one’s diet is folate-rich (i.e. provides enough bioavailable vitamin B9) – grasp those lentils! – it is also recommended that 600mcg of folic acid be taken daily (one cup of lentils offers 358mcg). Other sources include dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and wholegrains, as well as avocados, okra, and squash.

Broccoli (Iron)

A brilliant source of iron, broccoli also contains high levels of calcium and potassium, too. The Mayo Clinic suggest 27mg as minimum for daily iron intake, which assists healthy

red blood cell production and brain formation in the growing baby. Non- haem iron (that found in plants as opposed to animal flesh), however, is more difficult to absorb, and so it has been advised that vegans consume 48mg of iron-rich foods per day.

That might be formed from all of the following together: one cup fortified cereal with one cup fortified alternative milk, plus two cups of broccoli with two cups of quinoa and one cup of lentils, and additionally one cup of tofu in a single day.

Tofu (Calcium)

Calcium is crucial for both mother and child: necessary for building the baby’s skeletal structure, if a mother isn’t eating enough calcium, the foetus will leech calcium from the bones of the mother.

So it is that the minimum RDA of calcium is 1,000mg. While that seems a lot, remember just half a cup of calcium- fortified tofu provides circa 80% of that RDA target. Other sources include dark leafy greens, seeds, and lentils. Together with folic acid and iron, these form the “holy trinity of prenatal awareness”.

Shitake Mushrooms (Vitamin D)

Vitamin D made headlines as a defence against Covid last year, but it really is

a power vitamin not to be overlooked. With an estimated one billion people worldwide believed to be deficient in vitamin D to some extent, it is worrying to realise many of us, not just pregnant women, lack sufficient vitamin D levels to absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphate. The suggested RDA ranges from 600IU to 2,000IU (International Units). Other sources include Oyster mushrooms, fortified orange juice, and tofu.

Seaweed (Iodine)

Iodine plays an important role in thyroid function and metabolism, as well as brain development. Pregnant women should aim to consume between 150mcg and 220mcg each day. Aside from vegan sushi rolls (whether avocado or cucumber, the choice is yours, and your baby’s if you’re suffering from morning sickness!), bread, prunes, and lima beans are other good sources of iodine, also.

Nuts (Protein)

Amino acids, which form protein, are the building blocks of the cells and tissues of the human body: hence protein’s importance. When pregnant, it is recommended that 71g of protein be consumed each day (25g above the usual RDA). Other useful sources include beans and nutritional yeast (a fabulous topping for freshly popped corn). Just one cup of cooked lentils, plus one cup of peanuts and a cup of tofu fulfils the daily requirement.

Another dietary consideration is choline. Thought to be as crucial as vitamin B12, choline

aids liver process and maintains brain health. Just as with calcium, if a pregnant woman is not consuming enough choline, the foetus will leech choline from the mother, from her brain. Choline determines a baby’s future cognitive functions for life and thus the foetus will take what it needs to the mental detriment of the mother (“preg head” wasn’t coined for nothing). The RDA is between 400mcg and 520mcg, with pregnant women advised

to aim for the higher amount. In a plant-based diet, sources of choline include soya milk,

almonds, shitake mushrooms, and broccoli, as well as quinoa and amaranth. A larger quantity of these foods have to be eaten than on an omnivorous diet, where just one egg provides 125mcg, for instance, but that is no bad thing as fruit and vegetables and nuts and seeds provide a wide variety of other nutritional gains, too.

Omega-3 fatty-acids and vitamin E are other important dietary requirements, not only internally but externally. A pregnant growing belly can be a worry for many women, anxiety increasing month by month, stretchmarks starting to show, and the question of whether her body will ever be truly hers again the monster sheep that lead a woman not into slumber but keep her eyes open wide and watching in the dark… Or something like that.

To this end, it is advisable to start the self-care early on: run that Epsom salt bath (mindful not to make it too hot), and afterwards rub an oil into not only the stomach area, but the hips and thighs and breasts as well. But what is the most natural option? What is safe? Olive oil is a tried- and-tested traditional option which stretches back to Ancient Egypt. Rich in antioxidants and vitamin E, as well as vitamins A and K, it might not be the latest retinol-containing cream, but it has its place in the beauty cabinet of those who are, in particular, looking for animal-friendly skincare options. Alongside that, coconut oil, also, works wonders, as does cocoa butter, shea butter, and pure vitamin E oil.

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