Why is protein important during pregnancy?


Most women understand the importance of maintaining a complete diet during pregnancy. Since your baby’s development is completely dependent on your health, it’s essential you fill your body with the proper nutrients you need to support your growing baby; one of the most important nutrients you need is protein. According to Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, protein is necessary because “it has its hands in every critical function of the body.”  You need to get about 25 grams of protein in addition to what you were taking before.

How much protein do I need?

So how much protein do you need? Daily protein requirements vary by ideal weight and physical activity. For example, a woman whose ideal weight is 140 pounds and engages in moderate physical activity would need 89 grams of protein when not pregnant and 114 grams of protein when pregnant.  Use the Mommi protein calculator to determine how much protein you need based on your weight and activity level.

Why is protein so important?

On the surface, protein can help keep you lean. While you are expected and even encouraged to gain weight during pregnancy, gaining too much weight may cause serious health risks. Good sources of protein will keep you feeling fuller longer, lessening the need to eat extra, empty calories.  It will also help you gain weight in the form of lean muscle rather than just fat. It’s also common for women to develop gestational diabetes. Eating a diet rich in protein helps to stabilize blood sugar levels.

Most importantly, the amino acids in protein are quite literally the building blocks of the human body. Proteins not only repair muscle tissue but also red blood cells. They transport nutrients and oxygen to and from those cells and also control blood clotting, particularly those in and around the uterus and placenta.

Proteins also play a huge roll in hair and fingernail growth along with the regulation of hormone secretion and digestion. And during pregnancy, proteins are providing the very same cell-building tasks for your growing baby.

The third trimester of your pregnancy is when your baby’s brain will be developing. Proteins high in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA provide the nutrients necessary for proper cognitive activity and growth.  Therefore, it’s more important than ever to get an adequate amount of protein during those last few months of pregnancy.

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