Are Chestnuts and Water Chestnuts Safe in Pregnancy?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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There are a lot of concerns about which foods are safe during pregnancy, which is why expectant mothers find themselves double-checking if chestnuts or water chestnuts are safe during pregnancy.

Both chestnuts and water chestnuts are generally safe during pregnancy. Canned chestnuts are sterile, as they’ve been heat-treated during the canning process. Sweet chestnuts are safer if they’re cooked, but horse chestnuts are toxic and need to be avoided.

It’s easy to get confused between sweet chestnuts, water chestnuts, and horse chestnuts. I’ll explain what you should know about consuming chestnuts, water chestnuts during pregnancy as well as why horse chestnuts should be avoided.

Are Water Chestnuts Safe During Pregnancy?

Water chestnuts are considered safe during pregnancy.

Water chestnuts (also called singhara in many countries) are not chestnuts or even nuts at all! They’re actually aquatic vegetables that grow in underwater marches. They’re sweet and nutty with a crunchy texture. They resemble sweet chestnuts which is where they get their name from. 

During the canning process, all food is heated to very high temperatures, which kills bacteria. Therefore canned water chestnuts should be safe, straight out of the can (even if they’re cold). Typically, water chestnuts are found canned in the US and Europe, rather than fresh.

If storing water chestnuts after opening, keep them in a sealed refrigerated container and eat them within a couple of days. If you often like to eat Chinese dishes, then you should also check out our guide to Chinese food when pregnant.

In other countries, water chestnuts can be found in their fresh form. They are typically found fresh in China and other Asian countries. They are safe raw, but during pregnancy, make sure they have been washed thoroughly beforehand. Run them under water for at least thirty seconds and cut away any damaged or bruised bits.

Water chestnuts can be known by other names such as caltrop or Singhara.

pile of water chestnut

Are there Benefits of Eating Water Chestnuts When Pregnant?

Water chestnuts are loaded with nutritional benefits.

100 grams of water chestnuts contains 224 calories, 4.2 grams of protein and 1.11 grams of fat (source: USDA). 

44 grams of a serving of this size will be made up of water (source: USDA). While expecting, you need more fluid than normal to help support your growing baby’s blood circulation (source: Journal of Perinatal Education). While drinking extra water may be difficult, water-dense foods like water chestnuts are a great way to get extra liquids into your diet. 

A serving of this size contains 1.41 mg of iron per day, while it is recommended that pregnant women consume 27 mg per day. Pregnant women need more iron to supply the baby and placenta with oxygen-rich blood. This can also be to compensate for blood loss during delivery (source: Nutrition During Pregnancy). 

If you’re struggling to get enough iron during your pregnancy, then you should check out our list of high-iron foods.

Water chestnuts also provide 84mg of the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which is 400mg during pregnancy (source: USDA).  During pregnancy, magnesium may reduce fetal growth restriction, risk of preeclampsia, and increase birth weight.

It has also been linked with regulating body temperature and plays a role in maintaining nerve and muscle cell electrical signals (source: Advanced Biomedical Research). 

You can read more about magnesium and pregnancy here.

A serving of this size contains 447g of potassium which is 11.17% of the recommended daily amount (source: USDA). While you’re pregnant, maintaining adequate levels of potassium can help protect against bone loss and lower the risk of cardiovascular issues (source: Oxford Medicine).

Potassium is also key in maintaining a regular heartbeat, moving nutrients in and out of cells, and maintaining nerve and muscle function (source: Medline). 

roasted chestnuts on a wooden table

Can I eat Roasted Chestnuts (Sweet Chestnuts) When Pregnant?

You can safely eat roasted chestnuts during pregnancy. Ensure they’re fully cooked, as most American chestnuts contain high amounts of tannic acid, which can cause illness if you eat them raw or undercooked. In Europe, sometimes chestnuts are eaten raw as they’re lower in tannic acid, but this isn’t common.

Also, make sure that the ones you’re eating are sweet chestnuts, if you’re harvesting your own to roast them. This is because they look very similar to horse chestnuts, which are toxic (more on these later in this article).

Some pregnant women worry about the “burned” parts, but this is mostly on the shell, which isn’t eaten. Eating small amounts of burnt foods should be safe enough but is not advised to eat burnt foods regularly due to it being linked with cancer-causing compounds – regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not (source: Better Health).

Chestnut Products when Pregnant: Are They Safe?

Chestnut Flour: Chestnut flour is made from finely ground chestnuts and is popular in gluten-free cooking. It should be safe to eat when you’re pregnant. The main concern with baking with chestnut flour during pregnancy is other ingredients. Recipes requiring eggs should be fully cooked and dairy products such as milk and butter should be pasteurized. 

Chestnut Cream and puree: Chestnut cream and puree typically do not contain dairy. It is made from ground chestnuts, sugar, water, vanilla extract and salt. If making it at home, be sure to practice good food hygiene.

Canned store-bought chestnut cream or puree will have been pasteurized by default during the canning process. The chestnuts used have been cooked, so you can also safely eat them when pregnant. This also applies to puree available in a pouch, or cooked whole chestnuts.

Candied chestnuts, also called marron glacé in French, are safe to eat as they’re cooked – though they’re high in sugar, so best eaten in moderation.

horse chestnuts on table

Is Horse Chestnut Safe for Pregnant Women?

Horse chestnuts should be avoided during pregnancy, as they contain poisonous toxins.

Horse chestnut is a plant with seeds that resemble sweet chestnuts but are bitter. Raw horse chestnut seeds as well as the bark, flowers and leaves of the plant are toxic and not safe for consumption.  

Horse chestnuts contain a type of poison called esculin, which can cause severe illness or, in large amounts, death (source: WebMD).

The seed extract is used to help aid chronic venous insufficiency, irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions (source: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health) however such extracts have not been tested in pregnancy, and are not recommended. You cannot be sure that the esculin has been removed.

Overall, I hope this helps you feel more comfortable consuming chestnuts and water chestnuts during pregnancy. So long as you know the species you’re eating, and it’s cooked thoroughly, you can enjoy this popular autumnal and winter treat.