Protein plays a vital role in pregnancy as it helps your baby to grow. It does this by growth and repair of new and damaged tissue cells. Protein is needed to build every cell in the human body and plays amazing important role in your red blood cells and placenta.
Protein is an important nutrient and should be part of a healthy balanced diet during pregnancy. Studies have shown that mothers who take the recommend amount of protein during pregnancy have a higher birth weight, which means decreasing the risk of a variety of problems associated with low birth weight.
Pregnancy can drain you of energy so again protein is key and becomes more important in the second and third trimesters. It helps to stable blood sugar levels and plus a key role in hormone function.
There is a difference between meat and plant based protein. Unfortunately many plant proteins don’t have the all needed amino acids which is classed as quality protein so if you are vegan or vegetarian then you will need to ensure you are getting a balance of these good proteins from grains and legumes.
Role of protein in pregnancy
Growth & repair of damaged tissues
Making antibodies for immune system
Making hormones & enzymes
Helping muscles function
Transporting oxygen through the blood
The recomended amount of daily protein in pregnancy is 60-75 grams which should be spread throughout the day.
Aim for 20 grams of protein in each meal, see some examples below
6g - per egg
12g - 8 ounces of low fat cottage cheese
7g - 1 ounce cheddar
8g - 1 cup low fat milk
18g - 1 cup lentils
15g - 1 cup black beans
27g - 1/2 chicken breast
23g - 3 ounces salmon
Sources of protein
Meat & poultry - Turkey, chicken, mince meat, steak.
Fish - Salmon, sardines, mackerel.
Diary - Cheese, milk, yogurt
Beans & pulses - Chickpeas, lentils, baked beans, kidney beans.
Seeds & nuts - Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds
Grains - Oats, quinoa, wheat.
Ideas to add protein to meals
Add seeds & nuts to salads
Add oats to smoothies
Peanut butter on toast or rice cakes
Pancakes with added nuts & seeds
Creamy soups & pasta sauces (homemade)
Grate cheese over your potato, salad, soup, chilli, eggs
Yogurt & grains for snacking
Its key to eat a healthy balanced diet whilst pregnant and if you are unsure about any foods to avoid then always consult your doctor or health advisor to be sure.