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Halo, sweet viewers, and welcome to Healthy Living! Perhaps one of most tender and lovely times in a mother's life is during her pregnancy. While she patiently awaits the arrival of a precious new baby, the concerned mother might begin to ask questions such as, “What is the healthiest diet I can have during my pregnancy?”

And “What should I feed my baby when he or she is born?” According to the American Dietetic Association, the world's largest association of food and nutrition professionals, “Well-planned vegetarian (or vegan) diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”

On today's program, the first in a two-part series, several health care professionals will discuss the benefits of the vegan diet during pregnancy.

Dr. Eric Slywitch(m): What we observe in a vegan diet is that there is a greater concern with the nutrients, and the pregnant woman ends up seeking more information about these foods and ends up greatly improving her diet.

She usually uses more whole foods, the more natural foods, and often looks for organic food. Then it brings benefit in bringing a better wellbeing for the pregnant woman and avoids a series of disturbances that may occur during pregnancy that may affect the baby.  So when there is this care that usually happens in a vegan pregnancy, the pregnancy tends to progress in a tranquil way.

HOST: Doctors say that having a healthy baby requires a healthy mother, so managing pregnancy to ensure a baby's good health is important for every expectant mom. Marina Barone is a vegan naturopath from Geneva, Switzerland who has worked with her husband in the field of alternative medicine for 25 years. Ms. Barone will now explain the importance of choosing the right foods for both an expectant mother and her baby.

Mrs Marina Barone(f): Vegan food is the foundation if you decide to plan a pregnancy. You can say, “Okay, I will give to my body and to the baby's body the best tools.” We as parents become responsible for what we'll transmit to the child.

There is a genetic heritage that we ourselves have received and that we cannot control, at least not totally, but there is a metabolic heritage related to what we do with our body. It's not enough not to smoke and not to drink; the child will develop on what we eat.

HOST: The health of a mother before and during pregnancy determines the health of her child throughout his or her lifetime. Vegan nutritionist Astrid Pfeiffer of Brazil will next discuss commonly available fruits and vegetables that can help provide the nutrition needed to deliver a healthy, intelligent baby with a good constitution.

Ms. Astrid Pfeiffer(f): The best source of Omega-3 we have to eat is linseed or flaxseed oil. Then during the pregnancy and also for the infant until the age of two, Omega-3 is an anti-inflammatory; it also helps the immune system and the development of the central nervous system. 

So both for the mother afterward and the baby it is essential to take Omega-3. You can get the whole flaxseed, grind it in a blender, and put it on top of beans, put it on top of (vegan) mousse, put it in a smoothie, or you can leave it in grain, soaked in water for about 40-50 minutes and take it with water, both linseed and grain.

You may do it both ways. Or linseed oil, usually the oil has a bit stronger flavor, so many people dislike the taste.  But it should be consumed cold not warm.  It can also be eaten either on top of salad, on top of rice, or sometimes over whole-grain bread.

Ms. Astrid Pfeiffer(f): Iron, we find it a lot in legumes.  For a person who is a vegetarian, the best sources of iron that we have are legumes, salads, and dark-green leafy veggies.  But this time the iron should be supplemented because with food we cannot get the daily amount needed.

Calcium, we have it in tofu.  Each 100 grams, a big slice, for example, of tofu has about 250 to 300 milligrams of calcium.  So it's very rich, an excellent source of calcium. The vegetables that contain the most calcium are kale, arugula, watercress, and mustard. You can also make a green juice, for example. Then we can eat either the salad for lunch, like a green juice, or in the morning or afternoon. 

You can blend these vegetables in a blender with fruit, for example, and put a little mint and ginger. So, you are further optimizing calcium intake. Oils also have it, such as peanuts, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, preferably unsalted.  We may also have tahini, molasses ...  both are excellent sources of calcium.

Another nutrient that we also need to give a little more attention to is B9, folic acid.  Then fruits and vegetables would come in,  apple, orange, which also have vitamin C, which helps in iron absorption. 

Usually citrus, guava, strawberry, kiwi, and acerola contain the most vitamin C.  And other fruits also, for example, papaya, and banana are excellent sources of folic acid, as well as cooked vegetables. Prebiotics are food for our intestinal bacteria that we call probiotics, which are leek, onion, banana, and artichoke. They help in bowel function; they also help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

A recipe that is also very nice for the mothers, for the pregnant women to be doing is a flaxseed shake where you can use either golden or brown linseed and blend it with some fruit.  You can put açaí; açaí is the most antioxidant rich fruit that exists. You may put melon, watermelon, some spice she prefers. Green banana is an excellent prebiotic.  So you may buy any banana as long as it is green, so it has grown, but it has not matured.

  You get that banana and cook it in a pressure cooker for about 15 minutes, turn off the heat, and when it is warm you peel it and you eat this banana, blend with this shake, too. It is excellent for the bowels!

HOST: Raw vegan physician Dr. Eric Slywitch from Brazil is the author of “Nourishment without Meat,” in which he discusses nutritious, healthy eating. In opposing the myth that the vegan diet is inadequate for pregnant women, he encourages expectant mothers to follow the best vegan diet plan possible for themselves and their babies.

Dr. Eric Slywitch(m): It sometimes happens that a pregnant woman during the course of pregnancy decides to adopt a vegan diet. This is not a problem.  But it is important that she is monitored because she will be faced with new ways of feeding herself with new foods. So it is important that pregnant women know there is a substitute for any plant-based food she uses and she can be vegan, absolutely, before, during and after pregnancy.

It is very common that a vegan mother, or a vegan pregnant woman, during pregnancy, is persuaded to return to eating meat or even dairy products for fear of deficiencies. This fear is unfounded. We have replacements for all the elements present in these foods, for those who consider these as food, meat, eggs, and dairy products, because all of these nutrients can be found in plant-based foods, except vitamin B12, which it's supplemented and ends up being very important.

(A lack of) protein is a fear that many people bring to (a vegan) pregnancy, also completely unfounded because a mixture of legumes (which are beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils), with grains (which are rice, corn, wheat, rye) bring a combination of amino acids, a combination of proteins, similar to animal protein. Then, this supply of protein, it is easily obtained with this combination of rice and beans, lentils and pasta, and so on.

And there is also a lot of emphasis put on zinc, because we know that in the flesh zinc absorption is theoretically better than in the vegetable kingdom. So in order for us to be able to improve the assimilation of zinc in our body, it is better that you get the beans and soak them in water overnight, because this process creates an acid called phytic acid, which increases zinc absorption.  So, with this increase you eat beans and have a better absorption of zinc.

HOST: What role should a physician or nutritionist play in making dietary decisions during pregnancy?

Dr. Eric Slywitch(m): It is important when pregnant she knows that the choice of diet is hers. The professional who follows this pregnant woman, of course he may refuse to take care of a pregnant woman if he does not accept the diet she has chosen to follow.

But no professional has the right to discourage this diet if we have all the elements to lead a vegan pregnancy easily. There is no need at all for a vegan pregnant woman to be evaluated more frequently on account of pregnancy.

HOST: Supreme Master Ching Hai has also spoken about the advantages of a vegan diet for pregnant women, as in this May 2009 videoconference in Togo.

Supreme Master Ching Hai: The benefits of a vegan diet are evident even before the child is born. Studies in both the United States and the United Kingdom found that expectant mothers who were vegan basically have no morning sickness. This is because their bodies did not have to protect itself from the toxic effect of substances such as meat, which researchers discovered is one of the causes for morning sickness, as the body is trying to ward off their harmful effects.

HOST: Thank you Marina Barone, Astrid Pfeiffer, and Dr. Eric Slywitch for sharing your insights on wholesome, plant-based eating during pregnancy. May all mothers and children around the world enjoy happy vegan living.

For more information on today's experts, please visit the following websites: Marina Barone Dr. Eric Slywitch and Astrid Pfeiffer

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