At around 2 pm this afternoon, I heard a collective intake of breath in the office where I work. My coworker, eyes wide, whispered in shock, Beyoncé is pregnant with twins! After the initial round of “awww’s” that follow every pregnancy announcement, the questions began.

Do you think twins run in her family? How far along do you think she is? What will she name her kids? Wait, isn’t she vegan? How will being vegan affect her pregnancy?

Is Beyoncé vegan? Though she promotes her 22-day vegan diet plan, no one really seems to know whether or not she actually follows a plant-based diet.

After chatting about it for a few minutes, I started wondering why it’s such a big deal whether or not Beyoncé will follow a vegan diet while pregnant. Or really, is it a big deal for any expectant mother to be vegan?

In a society that emphasizes the consumption of protein, our initial thoughts when we hear that someone has chosen to become vegan are usually along the lines of, how will they get enough protein? Visions of loved ones fainting in the middle of the day due to low protein intake or of them whittling away to nothing after days of nibbling on lettuce leaves usually spring to mind. 

As a woman who is neither vegan nor has experienced a pregnancy, I can honestly say I didn’t have the answer to this question. Nor do I fully understand why veganism in general is such a hotly debated topic. I have many friends who follow plant-based diets, and they’re still as healthy as they’ve ever been

Hearing From a Vegan Mother

vegetable, pasture, carrot
Christin Urso

I called my cousin Heather first to hear her thoughts on the matter. Heather is now a mother to two healthy children, and maintained her vegan diet throughout her second pregnancy.

When I first asked Heather about the safety of being vegan while pregnant, she responded exactly as I thought she would—she laughed, then said how ridiculous it is that people are so worried about pregnant women being vegan.

She went on to say that almost every food you’re supposed to avoid while pregnant is an animal byproduct. Foodborne illnesses are more likely to affect the elderly, children, and pregnant women, and many foodborne illnesses are in animal products like meats and cheeses.

Moreover, she said concerns about vegan pregnant women not getting enough protein, vitamin B12, or any number of other vitamins and minerals shouldn’t be a major concern. As long as women are following a healthy diet—whatever diet that may be—they should be fine.

The Recommended Diet for a Pregnant Woman

fish, meat, seafood, vegetable, sauce
Jocelyn Hsu

Although I had witnessed my cousin's pregnancies firsthand, I wasn't convinced whether or not vegan pregnancies are completely safe.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women should avoid raw meat, deli meat (because of possible listeria contamination), fish that are high in mercury (like tuna and swordfish), smoked seafood, raw eggs, soft cheeses (because of our pal listeria again), unpasteurized milk, alcohol, and caffeine.

With the exception of alcohol and caffeine, every single one of these foods is an animal byproduct. From this list, I gathered that pregnant women should eat fully-cooked meats and pasteurized dairy products and should consider going light on the partying so they can fit in a solid 8+ hours of sleep. Am I missing something?

After a bit more searching, I found that the American Pregnancy Association has written extensively about the recommended diet a pregnant woman should follow. Finally, some answers (or so I thought).

Right off the bat, they recommend avoiding popular diets like Atkins, South Beach, and The Zone. Their reasoning for this is that restrictive diets like these may result in low levels of iron or folic acid, among other important vitamins and minerals.

The American Pregnancy Association explicitly states that “In order to get the nutrients you need, you must eat from a variety of food groups, including fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, protein sources and dairy products.” As we all know, “protein sources” don't necessarily mean meat.

The Necessary Vitamins and Minerals for a Healthy Pregnancy

vegetable, cabbage, salad, lettuce, kale, broccoli
Jocelyn Hsu

The importance of getting enough vitamins and minerals into your diet was thrown around a lot in many articles about pregnancy. Of particular importance were iron, protein, folic acid, and calcium. It’s been drilled into me since the day I was born that meat is a great source of iron and protein, but that doesn't work for vegans.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, foods high in nonheme iron are oatmeal, beans, tofu, lentils, spinach, whole wheat bread, and brown rice. Because nonheme iron isn’t as easily absorbed by the body as heme iron (which is found in meat), it’s recommended that foods high in nonheme iron be combined with foods rich in vitamin C to increase the absorption of iron.

Taking that a step further, studies have found that foods high in heme iron (i.e. those from animal sources) may increase the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Plant-based foods also don’t contain cholesterol, which is something else pregnant women need to be careful of.

After completing this bit of research, my gut instinct was to assume that if there are plenty of vegan-approved sources of iron, there are probably plant-based foods high in protein, folic acid, and calcium as well. Spoiler alert: there are.

cereal, quinoa, corn, condiment, millet
Christin Urso

Plant-based foods high in protein include lentils, wild rice, tofu, and almonds, to name a few. Calcium-rich foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and fortified orange juice are also readily available and approved for pregnant women to eat. Folate-packed foods are also easily accessible and encouraged for consumption and include foods like fortified cereals, lentils, beans, and asparagus.

Notice any trends here? Yeah, all those foods are plant-based.

An article published by NPR very astutely notes that there’s a lack in quantitative data on vegan pregnancies. What little research exists is correlational, meaning there are no sweeping conclusions that can be made about the pros or cons of maintaining a vegan diet while pregnant.

Are Vegan Pregnancies Safe?

pasta, vegetable, spaghetti
Alex Frank

After an intense round of research and a few phone calls to nutritionist and vegan friends, I can now weigh in on whether or not we should be worried about Beyoncé—or any other woman—having a vegan pregnancy. In short, it’s a nonissue.

At the end of the day, every article I read and every person I talked to said the same thing: maintain a well-rounded, healthy diet while pregnant, and talk to your OB/GYN if you have any concerns. Open communication with your doctor is important, and so is keeping a tab on how you’re feeling. If you decide to be vegan while pregnant, you’ll probably be fine as long as you’re smart about it. If you ever feel adverse side effects, call your doc.

I’m a firm believer in your body, your choice, and I think women should be able to choose what’s right for them. It’s been drilled into our minds that choosing to become vegan is “weird” or “crazy,” but it’s really not, and vegan pregnancies are no different.

Hopefully this article has shed some light on the issue of vegan pregnancies and you have a better understanding of the foods available to maintain a healthy, balanced vegan diet.

Oh, and congrats on the twins Queen Bey. I’m sure they’ll be just fine, whether you follow a vegan diet or not.