Protein plays a vital role in the growth and development of the baby. There is plenty of protein-rich food available for pregnant women. However, some of you might be looking for protein powders to fulfill additional protein requirements. But are protein powders necessary, or even safe during pregnancy? What are the recommended levels of protein intake for pregnant women?
Read this MomJunction post for answers about the protein requirements during pregnancy, safe usage of protein powders and alternatives to increase protein intake naturally.
Why Do You Need Protein During Pregnancy?
Protein is considered highly important for expecting moms as it aids in building tissues for both the mother and the baby. Adequate protein helps in general growth and development through all the stages of pregnancy, and more so during the third trimester (1).
Protein also builds other tissues, muscles, antibodies, hormones, and enzymes in the baby and mother. Moreover, extra protein helps in amniotic fluid production and improves blood volume as well (2).
Pregnant women should make sure they are consuming adequate protein for a healthy outcome, as too low or too high quantity might lead to certain complications.
How Much Protein is Required When Pregnant?
Doctors recommend a daily intake of approximately 71 grams of protein during pregnancy. The limits can go up to 90 grams a day during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. In all, the protein requirement increases by around 25 grams per day for pregnant women (3) (4).
A few good sources of protein include nuts, beans, soy, chia seeds, peas, eggs, poultry, fish, and lean meat. Vegetarians and others who are lactose intolerant may not get enough protein from these sources and may have to rely on protein powders to meet the recommended daily intake of protein during pregnancy.
Are Protein Powders Safe During Pregnancy?
No. Protein powders are usually not recommended for pregnant women because they contain several ingredients that might be harmful to the baby’s health. Protein powders come under the supplements category, and the FDA has left the evaluation of the product’s safety and labeling at the discretion of the manufacturers (5).
For instance, certain ingredients that are generally considered safe during pregnancy might not be safe when they are mixed with other compounds in the supplement. Protein powders are also not considered safe during pregnancy for other reasons that we discuss next.
[ Read: Foods To Include In Third Trimester Diet ]
Why Are Protein Powders Not Recommended During Pregnancy?
Here are some reasons why protein powders are not good for pregnant women.
- Protein powders may contain certain additives such as extra vitamins, caffeine, creatine, and fillers/flavoring agents that may not be good for pregnant women. For a safe pregnancy, you should avoid these powders.
- Most of the protein powders available in the market are milk-based and may cause gastrointestinal problems for women who are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies (5).
- A lot of artificial sweeteners are added to protein powders. Although there is no proper evidence showing any adverse effects of sugar substitutes during pregnancy, they should be consumed in moderation. Some sweeteners you need to avoid are acesulfame potassium and thaumatin. Also, additional sugar content in protein powder may result in weight gain and increased blood sugar levels (5).(6).
- Some ingredients used in protein powders do fall under the GRAS or generally recognized as a safe category. However, when used in high amounts, these ingredients can have certain adverse effects during pregnancy (7). Hence, make sure you do your research before buying any protein powders from the market.
- Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and cadmium are also found in some protein powders that are available in the market. These might increase certain health risks for the baby and mother and should be avoided (8).
Before picking up protein powder that you think is safe for you, talk to your doctor and get their opinion. If the doctor thinks it is a bad idea, you can look at other sources of protein that are safer for you and the baby.
What Are The Other Ways To Get Protein During Pregnancy?
According to the USDA Food Composition Databases for Standard Reference, the following are good sources of protein (9).
|Food||Protein value per 100g|
|Peanut butter||24g (10)|
|Milk (dry, nonfat, regular)||36.16|
|Yogurt (plain/low fat)||5.25g|
All types of nuts including almonds, peanuts, chestnuts and butternuts among others are also rich in protein. You can have any of these foods during pregnancy to meet the requirements of protein. Such natural protein-rich food options are always better than protein powders. Nonetheless, not all protein powders are unsafe, so you can discuss with your doctor and know which one can be safe to use during pregnancy.
[ Read: Healthy Recipes For Pregnant Women ]
Did you have any protein powders while you were pregnant? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.
2. Pregnancy: Human Nutrition (Chapter 13); University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Food Science and Human Nutrition Program
3. M. Wyatt and V. Silva; Eating for Two – A Healthy Pregnancy Starts with a Healthy Diet; The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (2017)
4. Should Women Eat Red Meat During Pregnancy?; Peconic Bay Medical Center Northwell Health (2016)
5. The hidden dangers of protein powders; Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (2018)
6. E. Pope, G. Koren, and P. Bozzo; Sugar substitutes during pregnancy; Official Publication of The College of Family Physicians of Canada (2014)
7. Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay; Shake it Up, Baby? Maybe Not. Considering Nutritional Shakes in Pregnancy; Mother to Baby: Medications & More During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Ask The Experts; OTIS (2017)
8. C. Holman, N, Kathuria, Y. Chen, and A. Singh; The Dangers of Protein Drink Supplements; Rutgers University (2010)
9. Nutrients Lists: Protein; USDA Food Composition Databases
10. Peanut butter; USDA
11. Eggs whole; USDA
- Sample Diet Chart For Pregnant Women
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