Good nutrition is essential during pregnancy. In many cultures, pregnant women depend on soyfoods for protein, fiber, and other important nutrients they need to nourish their developing baby. For centuries, people have shown normal growth and development while consuming soy foods as a part of their diet throughout their lifespan, including pregnancy and lactation.
Soyfoods provide a complete source of protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. The protein in soybeans is the only plant protein that is equivalent to animal protein, but with fewer calories, saturated fat, and no cholesterol. High quality protein provides the building blocks for all tissue and organ development and the growth and repair of cells. Soyfoods also help pregnant women better manage their weight gain and maintain low cholesterol levels. Soyfoods also help prevent the development of diabetes during pregnancy by controlling blood glucose levels.
The vitamins and nutrients contained in soyfoods can also benefit pregnant women. Fortified soymilk, soy yogurt, soy cheese, nondairy frozen desserts, tofu, and soybeans—cooked, roasted, and canned—contain calcium, iron and zinc. For the pregnant woman and developing fetus, calcium helps build strong bones and teeth, iron helps prevent low birth weight and premature delivery, while zinc helps cell reproduction, promotes tissue growth, and regulates enzymes and hormones like insulin. Iron and zinc rich soyfoods—particularly tofu, soy nuts, edamame, cooked soybeans, and soymilk from whole soybeans—are an excellent way to ensure both healthy fetal growth and development and the health of the mother. Many soyfoods are fortified with vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12.
The vast array of soy products—everything from hardy soy burgers to rich soy frozen yogurt to creamy soy nut butter—makes it easy to find a soyfood that fits your cravings. It is important to remember to eat a wide variety of foods while you are pregnant to help ensure you receive a plethora of essential nutrients. Soy foods help add nutrition to your diet without adding cholesterol or saturated fat. Make sure you consult your physician or dietitian about what foods to eat while pregnant to boost your health and the health of your developing child.