During pregnancy your protein requirements are significantly higher than they were before you got pregnant. Not consuming enough protein during pregnancy can cause problems for both you and your baby. Most importantly, insufficient protein and other nutrients during pregnancy can impair your baby’s growth and development.
According to a 2004 animal study published in the "American Journal of Physiology," a low-protein diet during pregnancy impaired reproductive development in male rats. The study found that a low-protein maternal diet affected the baby male rats’ fertility rate, body weight, testicular descent and testes weight. The diets fed to pregnant rats in this study consisted of either a control 20 percent casein protein diet or a restricted protein 10 percent casein protein diet. Although this is an animal study, similar results may occur in people.
The “American Journal of Physiology” study also found that a low-protein diet during pregnancy affected rat offspring's brain metabolism development. The study found that in utero protein restriction resulted in reduced fetal cerebral activity. In this study, diets consumed by rats were either a control diet consisting of 18 percent casein protein or a reduced-protein diet containing 9 percent casein protein.
When you’re pregnant, increased protein increases your chances of delivering a healthy baby. The Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board has established recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for pregnant and nursing women of 71 grams protein per day, while non-pregnant non-nursing women have a protein RDA of 46 grams per day.
Sources of complete proteins that are most easily used by your body include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and other milk products such as yogurt and cheese. When you’re pregnant or nursing you should avoid high-mercury fish and limit lower mercury fish to 12 ounces per week. Soy proteins are also considered complete proteins because they provide you with all of the essential amino acids. Other sources of dietary protein, which when combined with certain other incomplete proteins may form complete proteins, include nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.
- “American Journal of Physiology”; A Maternal Low Protein Diet During Pregnancy and Lactation in the Rat Impairs Male Reproductive Development; E Zambrano et al.; Dec. 2004
- “American Journal of Physiology”; The Effect of Low Protein Diet in Pregnancy on the Development of Brain Metabolism in Rat Offspring; EAL Gallagher et al.; Aug. 2005
- Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board; Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients; Jan 2011
- Pregnant woman image by Alexey Arkhipov from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.