26 Sep Plant Based Pregnancy
Considering a plant based pregnancy ? More people than ever before are adopting a plant-powered diet and lifestyle. With the welfare of our planet and the animals we share it with at stake, not to mention our own continuing good health, it’s clear that the switch to ‘as vegan a life as possible’ is more than a passing trend.
In fact, our very existence relies on us to be responsible with – and accountable for – the resources at hand, so that we actually have a planet to pass on to our children. At Gently Vegan we believe that making kinder, more ethical and sustainable food choices is one of the best and simplest ways to go about this.
However, adopting new food habits and choices does require some re-education. Keeping our diets varied and nutritionally supportive means we might sometimes need to engage expert help.
This really rings true when we are talking about pregnancy. Optimising nutrition for Mama, and ultimately baby, is imperative. You only get one chance for brain development and laying the foundations for a healthy life. We would always strongly encourage anyone considering a vegan pregnancy to take that journey with plenty of support.
This means engaging a supportive GP and obstetrician, ensuring regular blood tests to check for any possible deficiencies and bringing on a certified nutritionist to ensure both you and your baby are having all your nutritional needs met.
Candy Marx is one such nutritionist. A mother of two, she has navigated the waters of pregnancy and diet and has done her due diligence. Candy’s new book, Plantfed Mama’s Holistic Guide to a vegan pregnancy, now available online and at all good book stores.
Here, Gently Vegan’s Catherine Carr chats with Candy about her pregnancies and things we should be mindful of with our diets – both when pregnant and throughout other times in our lives.
Catherine Carr: Candy you have two beautiful children … Were both your pregnancies vegan?
Candy Marx: No, they weren’t. I was vegetarian during my first pregnancy, when I was pregnant with my daughter. I wasn’t at all confident. I wasn’t educated in nutrition and I eventually followed my doctor’s orders to add seafood back to my diet. However, I was more than confident during my second pregnancy and I was vegan throughout its entirety. My baby and I absolutely thrived.
CC: Did the simplicity of your rural childhood influence your desire to be vegan?
CM: Absolutely! I grew up with animals and I made the connection between animals and our food quite early on. Like our dogs, our pigs came to us when called. They loved having their bellies rubbed, and they even kicked their back legs when we scratched their bellies and above their tails. It was hard not to make the connection, so I took meat off my plate when I was a kid. Animals are so incredibly special.
CC: Pregnancy is often a time when the household budget is stretched. There is a perception that it’s expensive to eat vegan. How do you balance your budget?
CM: My household budget was only stretched during pregnancy because I was perfecting the recipes in my book, and some required several attempts [laughs]!
Veganism can be expensive if you buy premium products, but quite often, those products are more of a luxury rather than a necessity. If you keep it simple – fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, some wholegrains, and nutritional powders or herbs – you can definitely eat vegan without stretching the budget. I keep our costs down by shopping at our local grower’s market – their produce is super fresh, organic, and quite often cheaper than conventional food at the supermarket. I also shop at my local bulk foods store, and I have a well-priced health shop nearby too.
And of course, growing your own food helps keep the food bill down. I have a small vegetable and herb garden, and my hubby and I planted several fruit trees when we moved into our home. We’ve just started growing our own mushrooms. They’re so easy and they grow so quickly too!
CC: How do you think vegans can best use their GP to ensure healthy vitamin levels throughout their pregnancy? What was your approach in this area?
CM: To be honest, the majority of GPs aren’t trained in nutrition, especially plant-based nutrition, so it’d be best to seek out someone who is. Otherwise, getting your blood tested regularly will help. I had my bloods checked in my first and third trimesters. I knew my nutrient levels were fine, but I wanted it confirmed. As your baby grows, baby begins to store iron in his/her liver, so all expectant mamas need to increase their iron intake as pregnancy progresses. Having your bloods checked definitely helps keep you on track.
CC: Do you believe in herbal remedies and supplements?
CM: Absolutely. As an herbalist, I use and make herbal blends all the time for my clients. I have also recently launched my herbal supplement range, Plantfed Mama, which uses only organic and wildcrafted herbs. Most of my blends have been formulated especially so pregnant and breastfeeding mamas, infants and children can take them too. Naturally I use this range with my own children.
The best-seller has been my IRON BLEND+, which uses herbs that are high in iron and have been used by herbalists to treat iron deficiency. I don’t recommend any supplements unless they’re made from organic and/or wildcrafted and ethically sourced ingredients and plant-based wholefoods, which are better digested and absorbed by the body.
High quality ingredients make a huge difference. Loads of brands use cheap ingredients and hide the quality of them behind clever marketing. Always do your research and aim for brands that are transparent about their products and their ethos.
CC: Can a vegan pregnancy help guard against gestational diabetes, stretch marks, edema and cramps?
CM: It definitely can, so long as mama is eating an array of wholefoods and not vegan junk food.
I also believe that mama should be eating vegan wholefoods before getting pregnant. Being healthy going into pregnancy is just as important to safeguard against typical pregnancy ailments. Many ailments and illnesses stem from nutritional deficiencies, so getting plenty of bioavailable nutrients is key.
CC: How important is gut health? Can a vegan diet influence this?
CM: Gut health is the key to a strong immune system, nutrient absorption, mental and physical wellness, amongst many other factors.
I do notice that many people forget about baby’s gut health. What mama ate during pregnancy, how baby is born, and what baby is fed definitely impacts baby’s gut health.
I definitely believe a vegan wholefoods diet positively influences both mama’s and baby’s gut health because the food that they eat is nutrient-dense, easier to digest (unlike meat, dairy, refined sugars and processed food etc), and hopefully organic (pesticides have been proven to kill good gut bacteria).
CC: What about inflammation? This is a growing health issue for women even if they are not pregnant, what diet tips do you have in this area?
CM: Animal-based foods are notorious for causing inflammation. I’ve actually had quite a few clients with inflammation complaints. These can manifest as arthritis, headaches, abdominal pain … basically, wherever there is pain in the body there is typically inflammation. A change of diet that includes removing meat, dairy, eggs, refined sugar, processed foods, and gluten, while at the same time working on their gut health, have been key.
I’ve also noticed that my clients with inflammatory ailments have a lack of omega-3 in their diets. We all need to make sure we’re eating enough omega 3. My favourite omega-3 sources come from hemp seeds, avocado, activated nuts, and sea moss. Once my clients follow my advice, change their diets and eat more omega-3s, they see quite dramatic results. Eating anti-inflammatory foods will also help, but without removing the cause (inflammatory foods) it’s really only putting a band aid on it.
CC: You talk about spiritual connection with your unborn child, do you believe that vegan living has enhanced that spiritual connection? If so, how?
CM: Absolutely! What we eat either enhances our vibration or lowers it and food is lifeforce and vibration. It is either high vibration and full of lifeforce, or low vibration and basically dead food.
Spiritual health, and our mental and physical wellbeing, increase when our vibration and lifeforce increases. On the other hand, if we’re low vibrational then we’d be tired and sickly.
Meat, dairy, eggs, processed food, refined sugar, fried and overcooked food and alcohol are all low vibration, dead foods. Naturally, when you take dead, low/no lifeforce food off of your plate, you can’t help but spiritually evolve.
CC: Your recipes are delicious, also really easy to follow. Is this deliberate? You are obviously a busy Mama?
CM: I guess it is deliberate, but without trying [laughs]. I prefer to eat food that is closest to its natural form – unprocessed or minimally processed, not overcooked or fried, which is the healthiest and tastiest way to eat.
I also dislike it when there is too much going on in a recipe. I like to hero particular ingredients in my dishes, rather than have too many flavours competing with each other.
Having this mindset keeps it simple and practical, so I’m never in the kitchen for hours at a time. It’s healthier, practical and a massive time saver. I’m the first to admit that I’ll never make a recipe that has a whole bunch of ingredients and expects me to be in the kitchen for hours.
When I make baby’s food, I usually make two days’ worth at a time. This is a small time saver but it’s great for when he’s really hungry, or hangry [laughs].
Candy’s new book, Plantfed Mama’s Holistic Guide to a vegan pregnancy, is available from all good bookstores. It can also be ordered from plantfedmama.com . This is a book worth including in your pregnancy reading – whether you’re vegan or not!
In the photo’s above we have featured Candy and her lovely family. Husband Michael, daughter Keilana, and Kaimana, her beautiful baby boy who shared her plant-based pregnancy journey.
Ultimately pregnancy is a very personal journey. At Gently Vegan our goal is to present the choices without pressure. Every small vegan step is a win for your health and our planet. Hopefully we are heading towards a kinder world. We invite you to join that journey.
Your feedback is always welcome, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publisher Catherine Carr