We need a range of B-group vitamins during pregnancy, including B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B9 (folic acid) and vitamin B12 (cobalamin). Although most B group vitamins are easily sourced from plant-based foods, vitamin B12 can be a more problematic, especially when following a vegetarian or vegan diet (2). Vitamin B12 is important for healthy red blood cells as well as the maintenance of the nervous system. Furthermore, low vitamin B12 intake can increase your baby’s risk of a neural tube defect.
Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal foods as plant foods are a very poor source of it. However, you will find it in dairy products, fortified tofu, soy milk and some cereals so look carefully on the labels. If you’re following a vegan diet, you may need B12 supplements or injections during pregnancy to assist in meeting your requirements. Be sure to discuss your options with your doctor before adding a supplement routine.
Calcium is vital for the development of your baby’s bones, teeth and cells, so ensuring your diet is high in this nutrient is crucial (3). Dairy products are an excellent source of dietary calcium, but if you have chosen not to include these, then vegetarian options can be found. Tofu that has been set with calcium, almonds, sesame seeds, tahini and dried fruit are rich in calcium. You can also purchase calcium-fortified plant products to help meet your pregnancy calcium needs.
Although you can get some ALA omega-3 from plant foods such as chia and flaxseeds, most long chain DHA and EPA, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, which are used to support your baby’s brain growth and development come from animal foods, with of course the best source being fish (4). The reason that fish are so high in these types of omega-3s is that their diet is rich in the algae which produce them! So, you can go straight to the source and look for algal DHA and EPA omega-3 supplements that will help to support your baby’s growth and development.
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