Pregnancy and Diet: The Macronutrients

What should I eat when I'm pregnant?

Calories

Why are pregnant women always so hungry? Energy requirements go up when you're eating for two! Your body requires an at least an additional 300cal/day during pregnancy (340cal/day during 2nd trimester and 452cal/day during 3rd trimester). 

Protein

It is estimated that about 925g of protein is accumulated during pregnancy. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks for your cells. It is very important for the growth of the fetus, specifically the brain, and also for breast and uterine growth. It is even more important to get enough protein during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, as this is when the fetus is growing the fastest. These increased demands must be met by the maternal diet. Pregnant women should be consuming 75-100g/day of protein (about 20% of your calories) or 2-3 servings. 

How much is 75-100g of protein?
Meat: 2-3 servings of meat (30 oz/serving)
Legumes: 2-3 servings of legumes (1/2 cup/serving)
Nuts: 1/3 cup of nuts will give you one serving of protein

Fat

Pregnant women should consume about 33% of their calories from healthy fats (about 40-60g/day). This energy from fat is used for fetal growth and development, specifically brain and vision. It also serves as a source of fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: DHA and EPA

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for development and growth. Since our bodies can't synthesize these fatty acids, we must get them through diet. EPA and DHA occur naturally together in foods. During pregnancy, DHA is extremely important for fetal nervous system development. Consuming adequate DHA and EPA during pregnancy is linked to higher intelligence, better vision, and a more mature CNS. Also, inadequate DHA during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk for maternal depression

How much DHA do you need?
DHA: minimum of 300mg/day
Sources: cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, anchovies, herring). With the concern of heavy metals in these sources, many people opt for fish oil supplementation from reliable source that is free of heavy metals. 

Carbohydrates

It's recommended that 45-65% of your calories should come from carbohydrates, a minimum of 175g/day. These sources should be coming from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains that are high in fiber. 

Hormones: the basics

What are hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers that are released from endocrine glands to a target organ. They work throughout your entire body to make sure all of your organs and body systems are communicating well in order to work properly. They are released in response to a signal from your brain directly into your blood. Hormone secretion fluctuates over time and is dependent on many internal and external factors. Some common hormones include insulin, estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, melatonin, and vitamin D (yes, this is a hormone!).

Your hormone balance is regulated by the communication between your brain and your ovaries. Many factors interfere with your hormone balance, such as stress, diet, sleep, environment, and the natural aging process. 

3 Hormones You Should Know About

Estrogen

Estrogen is produced mainly in your ovaries and is responsible for the tissue development and maintenance of your reproductive system. It also increases the amount of neurotransmitters in your brain that play a role in mood, memory, libido, and sleep. It improves bone density, increases good cholesterol (HDL), and keeps your skin moist and elastic. 

progesterone

Progesterone, also produced mainly in your ovaries, balances the effects of estrogen and is responsible for the function and growth of your reproductive system. It is very important for fertility -- it increases after ovulation to prepare and thicken your uterine wall for implantation (pregnancy). Also, it has a relaxing, calming effect in your brain, resulting in better sleep and reduced levels of stress. Like estrogen, it is important for bone health and cardiovascular health. 

Testosterone

Testosterone is a hormone that most people associate with men. However, it is important for women as well. It is produced in your ovaries and adrenal glands and is responsible for libido and sex drive. It is needed for muscle growth, bone strength and growth, cognitive function, and supports cardiovascular health. 

Hormones and your cycle

To understand hormones, it's important to know about the roles they play in during your menstrual cycle, which is the number of days between your first and last period and typically lasts about 28 days. 

Progesterone and estrogen are low at the start of your menstrual cycle (first day of bleeding). This tells your pituitary gland to produce follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) , which stimulates the growth and maturation of a follicle in your ovary containing an egg. This will increase estrogen to prepare your uterus for implantation. Estrogen spikes right before ovulation which triggers an increase in your luteinizing hormone (LH) -- marking the beginning of ovulation (egg is released from the follicle) around day 12-14. After ovulation, progesterone increases to prepare and thicken your uterine wall for implantation. If fertilization doesn't occur, progesterone and estrogen decrease and you start to shed your lining resulting in your period (day 1). And the cycle repeats itself again.

 

Don't Fear The Fat

The history behind our fear

Fat is a word that most people fear. It brings on thoughts of greasy food and bulging bellies.

No one ever told us how important fat is for brain health, hormone production, joint health, digestion, energy production, and much more. Why did such a wonderful, natural, and delicious thing get such a bad rep?

In the 80’s, flawed science caused the government to urge us to avoid fats because it was thought to cause high cholesterol levels, heart disease, and weight gain. However, there was a huge lack of data and other complexities that scientists had not yet discovered. Saturated fats found in eggs and animal products were seen as the enemy. Butter was replaced with margarine, whole milk replaced with skim milk, sugar-laden non-fat yogurt...This is also when convenience foods started to become popular. We started to eat meals from a box, pre-packaged bread full of  additives and stabilizers, processed cereals for breakfast...Eating and cooking became more of a burden than the social and enjoyable part of our day.

We all thought we were being so healthy by replacing these natural fats with a more carbohydrate-centric diet. If we were cutting out fat, then why did Americans start to get heavier and heavier? Because the real culprit was the sugar -- the carbohydrates found in all of the bread, cereal, and processed foods we thought were healthy. Contrary to our belief, this sugar is readily converted into fat in the body, often in the midsection area, and causes spikes in blood sugar which is one of the major factors that has lead to the huge increase in diabetes.

I’m not advising you to start slathering your bread with butter and chugging whole milk from the carton. Healthy fats are something that should be included in your daily diet, in moderation of course. Let’s look at some of the benefits of healthy fats:

THE BENEFITS OF HEALTHY FATS

BRAIN FOOD

Did you know that your brain is made of at least 60% fat? Every single neuron in your body is surrounded by something called a myelin sheath, which protects the neuron and is responsible for the fast speed of messages sent from one neuron to another. Omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA) are particularly important for brain health.

HORMONE BALANCE

Fats are essential for hormone production. Cholesterol is a type of fat that is an essential precursor for hormone production. Don’t fear the egg yolks!

DIGESTION

Fat’s have to go through a lot more processes before they can be broken down, which results in you feeling satisfied for longer. Fat is also essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. When you eat a salad with a fat-free dressing, you are negating so much of the nutrition in the salad and are probably also consuming large amounts of sugar. Eat healthy fats with every meal to keep you fuller longer and to increase your nutrient absorption.

ENERGY

Every cell in your body has an outer layer composed of fat. Fat allows our cells to work efficiently and communicate well with each other. Fat is also an excellent source of energy because it’s effects are long-lasting, unlike sugar and carbohydrates which cause blood sugar spikes and crashes. Including healthy fats in your meals will keep you fuller longer.

FAVORITE SOURCES

  1. Avocados
  2. Olive/coconut/avocado oil
  3. Full-fat coconut milk
  4. Whole milk yogurt
  5. Nuts and seeds
  6. Fatty fish
  7. Egg yolks