Well, if you read my last article, you know that I’m now well into my second trimester (26 weeks total to be exact). And contrary to what a lot of women have said to me, “The second trimester’s a breeze compared to the first,” up until a couple of weeks ago, I have continued to experience a poor appetite, insomnia, indigestion, headaches, diarrhea, back pain and nausea. So, I guess the lesson I learned is not to necessarily believe everything I hear, and that every woman is different.
And I got to tell you, since I got pregnant, it seems everyone I talk to is an expert on pregnancy. Doesn’t anyone respect a person’s space anymore? People tell me how I should feel, how I should eat, what I should wear, even what kind of doctor should deliver my baby. Guys, give me a break! I’m a well-educated free spirit that does her homework, and I’m more than capable of making my own decisions in life. I don’t mind someone’s opinion if I ask for it, but just to force it down my throat when I’m obviously not interested, to me, is a sign of self-indulgence. And believe me, when these same people quiet down long enough to hear what I have to say, they totally freak out, “Oh, my god, you’re not eating any meat or dairy?!” “You’re still kick boxing, lifting weights and walking 30 minutes a day?!” “What do you mean you don’t have a doctor?” “You can’t have a baby in a birthing center — what if you need a C-section?!” The prehistoric babble goes on and on.
Well, my dear skeptics, if any one of you happen to be reading this article, let it be known that I’m now feeling better than ever, the baby’s as healthy as can be, and my blood work shows that my protein count is equal to or greater than those who eat meat. The key is not to allow antiquated thinking to dictate your life. If it feels right for you to remain or become a vegetarian during pregnancy, then do it. It’s your choice, and it doesn’t matter what other people think. If it did, adventurers like Christopher Columbus would have never ventured out and discovered America for fear of falling off the edge of the Earth. Don’t be pressured by well-intentioned but ignorant family and friends who try to talk you out of your vegetarian convictions. If they’re eating right and properly supplementing their diet with high grade vitamins and IV pharmaceutical grade “free-form” amino acids, pregnant vegetarians can get more than enough protein in their diet, and mommy and baby will be as healthy as humanly possible. In fact, a 1990 report by the Institute of Medicine (part of the National Academy of Sciences that determines the government’s Recommended Dietary Allowances, or RDA’s) concluded that vegetarians are more likely to have adequate intakes of vitamin A during pregnancy than meat-eating women — an important point when you consider that Vitamin A deficiencies have been linked to a large number of miscarriages, not to mention that birth defects are commonly linked to a lack of folic acid which is commonly found in raw green vegetables, legumes, whole grain breads and cereals. Many meat-based diets lack these essential vegetables and whole grains in order to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Your family and friends may not perceive protein deficiency to be really that big of a deal during the first trimester when you’re eating a lot of complex carbohydrates to build a fat and healthy placenta, but during the second trimester, when the fetus is busy growing its vital organs such as the brain and heart, believe me, you’re going to be bombarded with ill-informed people who will become extremely concerned about whether or not your baby is receiving enough protein to grow. This is simply hogwash (no pun intended), and anyone questioning you about your protein intake because you’re a vegetarian is simply not up to date on the latest vegetarian research. All you have to do is check the facts and you’ll clearly see that many doctors are now warning their patients to cut back on meat because of its tendency to deplete calcium from the body, resulting in osteoporosis. And we all know how important calcium levels are to the skeletal development of the fetus.
As for me, I’m what is known in the nutritional world as a “vegan” — someone who refuses to eat anything that comes from an animal, including fish. In other words, I never eat anything that had a mommy! There are, however, several other types of vegetarians (the word vegetarian, by the way, is not derived from the word vegetable, but rather from the Latin term “vegetus” which means whole, sound, fresh or lively): There are semi-vegetarians that consume dairy foods, eggs, chicken and fish, but no red meat; pesco-vegetarians that consume dairy foods, eggs and fish, but no other animal foods; lacto-ovo vegetarians that consume dairy foods and eggs, but no animal flesh; lacto-vegetarians that consume dairy foods, but no eggs or animal foods; ovo-vegetarians that consume eggs, but no other animal food; and fruitarians that consume only fruit, nuts, seeds, olive oil, honey and occasionally whole grains.
It’s my personal belief, however, that the consumption of meat and poultry are potentially very dangerous during pregnancy — especially if you think about the amount of chemical toxins that bio-accumulate in the bodies of North American animals year after year until they’re digested by humans. Unlike the pesticides on many plant foods, these chemicals unfortunately cannot be washed off. And what about the incredible amount of antibiotics and sulphur drugs that are given to these animals, not to mention the hormones that are regularly added to their feed in order to accelerate their growth? Where do you think these poisons go? I’ll tell you where they go: into the bloodstream of the unsuspecting mother and her fetus.
And when it comes to fish, you can’t believe how contaminated United States waters are. Swordfish, marlin and bluefish are exceptionally dangerous, and any fish from the Great Lakes or the Hudson River should be completely avoided during pregnancy (and in general). Freshwater carp, wild catfish, lake trout, mackerel, striped bass and whitefish are likely to contain high levels of PCBs and also should not be eaten.
Then, of course, there’s “good old dairy products” (what a joke) which are linked to allergies, systemic candida albicans, yeast infections, and gut-lining bacteria overgrowth. Stay away from them. They coat the stomach lining and intestines, inhibit digestion, and cause most of the food you eat to rot and putrefy. Bear in mind that most people that eat meat and dairy products only absorb between 20% to 30% of their daily calcium intake, or about 240 mg’s per day, in comparison to those that get their calcium from the likes of broccoli and leafy vegetables. Think about it. Four ounces of tofu processed with calcium sulfate has 250 to 765 mg’s of totally digestible calcium, and a cup of cooked collard greens, spinach or turnip greens has over 350 mg’s of calcium. There’s also many legumes to consider, including pinto beans, black beans and soybeans which have at least 100 mg’s of calcium in a half-cup serving, not to mention the wellspring of calcium found in sesame seeds, fortified soymilks and blackstrap molasses.
If it’s protein you’re after, there’s plenty of meat alternatives to choose from. Not only do they taste like the so-called “real thing,” they’re complete proteins free from carcinogens, hormones and saturated fats. All you have to do, if you haven’t already, is take a trip to your local health food store and look around. You’ll be amazed at what’s out there and how good everything tastes. There’s soy burgers and cheeses, tofu hot dogs, seitan, tempeh burgers, even my own product line of textured vegetable protein (TVP) called “Spice of Life Meatless Meats.”
In closing, as a pregnant vegan, I must say I have noticed a tremendous change in my muscle density. And yes, I’m not quite as strong as I was before, and no, I’m not 9% body fat right now. But you know what, who cares? It’s only a nine month process. At least I’m healthy — my hair, nails and skin getting thicker, stronger and more beautiful by the minute. I truly have that “prego glow,” and I know as I continue to train during my pregnancy (with modifications of course), I will come out of it all with leaner, denser and thicker muscle tissue than ever before. So, don’t think pregnancy is going to ruin your body forever. Sure, it will slow you down for a while, but if you do your work, I think you’ll be very surprised in the end. Not only will you have created the miracle of life, you will have created the miracle of a beautiful body.
The following chart shows a cross-section of healthy foods, including whole grains, vegetables and fruits, designed to show you that you don’t have to necessarily eat meat to get adequate protein.
|Food||Protein Count||Carb Count||Fat Count|
per 1 tofu hot dog
|8 grams||1 gram||0 grams|
|15 grams||10 grams||3 grams|
|17 grams||16 grams||6 grams|
|21 grams||14 grams||1 gram|
|7 grams||43 grams||0 grams|
|Fat Free Soy Cheese
|7 grams||2 grams||0 grams|
|6 grams||6 grams||16 grams|
1 cup cooked
|14.8 grams||42 grams||1 gram|
1/2 cup raw
|20.5 grams||61.0 grams||4.8 grams|
1 cup cooked
|3.8 grams||37 grams||0.9 grams|
1 cup cooked
|6.6 grams||37 grams||0.9 grams|
8.45 fl oz
|8 grams||25 grams||3 grams|
|7 grams||32 grams||4 grams|
|Whole Grain Bread
|3.7 grams||14 grams||0.1 grams|
|15.2 grams||4.5 grams||6 grams|
1 cup cooked
|4.6 grams||6.7 grams||0.4 grams|
1 cup cooked
|5.5 grams||8.3 grams||0.5 grams|
|2.4 grams||40 grams||0 grams|
1 cup dried
|4 grams||111 grams||0 grams|
|“Spice of Life”
2 oz (reconstituted)
|10 grams||4 grams||3 grams|