Chai tea can be a warm, comforting drink during pregnancy. You’ll need to check the caffeine content, as well as any other herbs or spices that are in your chai, some of which are safer than others.
Drinking chai tea during pregnancy is considered to be safe, but only in moderation because chai tea contains caffeine. You can opt for decaf versions during pregnancy, but there are also other ingredients in chai tea that you need to be aware of.
There are some spices contained in chai tea that can affect you during pregnancy, and not all brands are equal either, so we’ll investigate those here.
Is Chai Tea (Masala Chai) Safe During Pregnancy?
Chai tea – also known as Masala chai – is usually made with black tea, which contains caffeine.
The American Pregnancy Organization suggests that you avoid caffeine as much as possible during pregnancy and while breastfeeding (Source: APA).
The World Health Organization Guidelines also say that pregnant women should try to limit caffeine intake to around 200 – 300mg per day, maximum (source: WHO).
The average 8-ounce cup of black chai tea that has brewed for 3 minutes contains between 30 to 80mg of caffeine (Source: CSPI).
Therefore, you could conceivably drink 2 cups of chai tea daily and be under the limit.
However, given the proven adverse effects of caffeine upon the fetus in terms of lower birth weight, you want to err on the side of caution if you’re getting extra caffeine elsewhere in your diet, such as energy drinks or chocolate (Source: BMC). We have a guide to caffeine in chocolate here, for example. We also cover decaf chai below.
Spices in Chai Tea and Pregnancy Safety
The most common herbs used to flavor chai tea are cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, coriander, ginger, fennel seed, star anise, and sometimes a bit of pepper and salt.
None of these herbs is on the APA’s list of herbs to avoid while pregnant, and ginger is considered beneficial as it can help relieve nausea and vomiting (Source: APA).
We have a separate article all about cinnamon and its pregnancy benefits, and you can check that out here.
One thing to be aware of, though, is that while star anise is considered safe for pregnant women if taken in normal doses, if you are taking warfarin (an anti-coagulant, or blood thinner), you are better off avoiding star anise.
Star anise enhances warfarin’s effects and is therefore potentially unsafe during pregnancy (Source: BMC).
Fennel, peppermint, and turmeric are herbs and flavorings to be careful with, as consumption of these herbs as medicines have been linked with extra bleeding in the uterus and pelvis areas with possible stimulus of menstruation (Source: OBGYN).
We have a separate guide to fennel – including its use in tea, here for you to take a look at if you tend to drink Chai that contains fennel or fennel seeds.
Raspberry leaf is another flavoring in some brands which you will want to avoid, as raspberry has been known to act as a uterine stimulant (Source: OBGYN). Our complete guide to raspberry leaf during pregnancy can be found here.
In terms of benefits to drinking chai tea, some studies using animals have shown that black tea may support weight loss, but these results were shown only in mice and therefore does not necessarily mean you would reap the same rewards (Source: PLOS ONE).
Can I Have Chai Tea in Every Trimester?
You can drink chai tea in every trimester – however, the effects of caffeine consumption can be more harmful during the first trimester due to caffeine’s links with birth defects (Source: Epub).
As we mentioned earlier, keeping your caffeine intake below 200-300mg is safest (source: NHS).
There have been some concerns over caffeine consumption causing preterm birth, but caffeine consumption has not been proven to have a direct relationship with early delivery (Source: AJCN).
One easier solution, if you like the taste of chai tea but don’t want the caffeine, is to opt for decaf or caffeine-free chai – covered below.
Can I Drink Caffeine-Free (Decaf) Chai Tea When Pregnant?
Decaffeinated tea (and coffee) still contain traces of caffeine, so bear that in mind if you choose decaf.
One cup of decaf black tea (including chai) averages 2-6mg of caffeine (Source: FDA).
You can drink teas that are naturally without caffeine, such as Rooibos, and even make your own chai with them.
Rooibos is rich in antioxidants, is safe for pregnant women and children, and has been shown to help lower the oxidation caused by free radicals, though this study was done on animals (Source: PLOS ONE).
You can read more about drinking decaf tea and coffee while pregnant here.
Popular Chai Tea (Chai Masala) Brands and Pregnancy Safety
There are a variety of popular chai masala brands, so let’s look at which brands are safest to consume while pregnant.
The main things to look for in chai brands are those which are lowest in caffeine and have no to little added sugar.
Starbucks Chai Latte – One iced or regular Starbucks Chai Latte, in a 16-ounce grande size, has 95mg of caffeine (Source: CSPI).
Be aware, though, that this serving also contains 270 calories, 7g of fat, 45g of carbohydrates and 42g of sugars (Source: Starbucks).
Tazo Organic Iced Black Tea – just the pure black tea without chai spices – has much less caffeine: 46-60mg per 13.8-ounce bottle (Source: CSPI).
One serving also contains 60 calories, 15g carbohydrates, and 15g of sugars (Source: NutritionDataList).
An Odwalla Chai Vanilla Protein Shake is also a better choice, although it isn’t hot and does contain sugar.
Here are some popular caffeine-free chai tea brands that are purely tea and therefore contain no sugar (you can add your own preferred hot milk and healthy sweetener):
- Numi Organic Rooibos Chai
- Twinings of London Decaffeinated Chai Tea
- Yogi Chai Rooibos
- Stash Decaf Vanilla Chai
- Bigelow Tea Decaf Chai Spiced
- Pride of India Organic Herbal Tulsi Chai
- Celestial Seasonings Herbal Tea, Bengal Spice
- Tazo Black Tea Concentrate, Decaf Chai Latte
Overall, there are many ways you can enjoy a delicious chai tea with very little caffeine for maximum safety.
Check the labels of products that you purchase to see what spices they contain, and enjoy your chai with your own favorite milk and/or sweeteners.
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