The breastfeeding vegetarian diet doesn’t vary all that much from the pregnancy vegetarian diet. Protein recommendations are the same, vitamin B-12 recommendations are higher, and the recommendations for iron and calories are lower than during pregnancy. But the key in ensuring your healthy vegetarian diet is also helping you recover from the stresses of giving birth and taking care of your newborn is healthy fats. Healthy fats and oils play active roles in every stage of the body’s healing, building, and maintenance processes. In fact, they are as important to an active individual’s body as amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. Healthy fats and oils help convert light and sound into electrical nerve impulses, remove potentially toxic substances from sensitive tissue, and provide strength to cell membranes.
The key is in balancing fats from a variety of foods. All foods that contain dietary fat contain a combination of fatty acids-the chemical building blocks of fat. Learning about the mixture of fatty acids in your diet will help you figure out how to choose foods with the good fats and avoid those foods that contain the bad fats.
For healthy fats, look to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These can readily be found in a variety of vegetables, oils, and nuts, such as avocados, almonds, and olive oil. These help your body to resist attack from free radicals, which are specially formed types of atoms that can damage your body’s cells when they react with DNA or cell membranes-better than other fats and thus are less prone to stick to your arteries.
Polyunsaturated fats occur in food either as omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids. The key to eating healthy polyunsaturated fats is to maintain the right balance of omega-3 acids-found abundantly in flax, walnuts and canola oil-with omega-6 acids, found in vegetable oils such as corn, safflower and sesame.