Friday, September 14, 2012
Protein needs in pregnancy
Mothers who eat organic foods, raw vegetables, and high quality protein during pregnancy and breastfeeding look and feel better than those subsisting on processed or fast food. The quality of food, especially the types of proteins eaten while pregnant improves the health and well-being of growing baby, and keeps mom fit as well.
Think of protein as building blocks. The body utilizes 50,000 different proteins to form organs in the body. The proteins are assembled from only 22 amino acids, eight of which are considered essential and unable to be manufactured by the body. During pregnancy, especially early pregnancy when major organs are rapidly developing, high quality and quantities of protein are especially essential. In the first few weeks of pregnancy, the neurological system, including brain and spinal cord forms. Protein deficiencies during this critical time can create developmental difficulties later in life. Folic acid, a mineral critical to brain development is found in highest quantities in meats, another reason to bulk up on high quality protein before you even get that positive pregnancy sign
While there is much talk about North Americans eating too much protein in the recent years, that does not apply to pregnant women. Because the nutrient needs for pregnancy are so unique and the demands of tissue building for the growing fetus is so high, this can only be met with high quality protein in amounts of 80 to 100 grams daily, as recommended by Dr. Brewer, author of The Brewer Medical Diet for Normal and High Risk Pregnancy. While this seems like an enormous amount, these increased amounts are necessary during pregnancy in order to provide amino acids (those building blocks) for fetal development, blood volume expansion in mother, along with the growth of maternal tissues such as the uterus and breasts.
While 80 to 100 grams of protein can seem like an awful lot, it is really fairly simple to accomplish. Dr. Brewer recommended four servings of dairy along with two eggs daily, which would account for about 50 grams of protein. This is half of the required amount. Eating two meat servings, or three vegetarian/legume servings will result in meeting the other half of your daily protein needs.
Research done by Dr. Brewer, and which has been replicated among other individuals/groups, has shown that babies born to mothers who do not consume enough protein have higher probabilities of being small for gestational age, developing intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). Mothers have higher incidences of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (leading to seizures and possibly death to mother and infant), low levels of amniotic fluid, pre-term labor, and even stillbirth. Symptoms of protein deficiencies can result in fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, headaches, along with swelling (edema).
Good sources of protein include the following:
Hard Cheeses (be wary of soft cheeses like Brie, roquefort and feta during pregnancy as they have the potential to harbor the bacteria listeria which can be harmful to the developing baby)
Meats (such as):
Fish (especially salmon for brain-building omega-3's.)
(Steer clear of most canned tuna and swordfish along with others containing high amounts of mercury which is especially harmful to baby's growing neurological system.)
Legumes (such as):
Beans (all types)
(Steer clear of unfermented soy as it contains large amounts of phytic acids and phytoestrogens which can diminish how well your vitamins and minerals are assimilated in baby, and cause problems with hormonal balance in your developing baby.)
Tempeh (fermented soy)
Not all sources of protein are created equal; however. When you are purchasing your meats, look for organic, free range sources. Meats coming from organic farms with animals fed natural grasses, and spend most of their time out of doors produce meat and dairy products of higher vitamin and mineral content, and unlikely to be laden with hormones and antibiotics. Meat from factory farms are given antibiotics and hormones to keep them "healthy" and fat, and when you eat meat from these farms, you are consuming those same antibiotics and hormones. The term, you are what you eat is never more apparent than here, as you are eating what your food has been receiving. Would you prefer to eat meat raised on natural grasses or meat raised with hormones, antibiotics, and soy-laden grain?
Notes to remember:
1. Protein builds your baby. Eat 80 to 100 grams daily.
2. Protein quality is extremely important, especially during pregnancy.
3. Free range/grass fed is best.
4. Stay away from factory farmed meats and dairy products if possible.
5. Steer clear of processed proteins and "fast food."