Chia seeds have many health benefits both for you and for your unborn child. There are also some unexpected bonuses to eating chia seeds, as well as some possible drawbacks.
Generally speaking, chia seeds are safe to eat during pregnancy and can provide a number of nutritional benefits. Chia Seeds can also help with pregnancy-related ailments such as constipation. They can be added to many foods to increase nutritional value.
There are some moments in pregnancy when chia seeds are not only safe, but highly recommended for the development of your unborn child, and we’ll look at those in this article, too.
Are Chia Seeds Safe During Pregnancy?
Chia seeds are safe to eat during pregnancy, and there are many ways to consume them:
- Whole or ground, sprinkled over salads or stirred into smoothies or puddings
- In oil form, for salad dressings or added to smoothies and soups
- As a gel
Chia seeds come in both black and white varieties, and there is no difference in nutritional content between the two.
Tip: If you decide to use chia oil, avoid putting it in the microwave. Microwaving chia seed oil changes the chemical composition of some of its antioxidants (Source: Molecules Journal).
The only thing to watch out for when eating chia seeds is to avoid eating dry seeds by themselves.
A scientific report presented at the American College of Gastroenterology described a patient who ate dry chia seeds and then drank a glass of water.
Because chia seeds absorb quite a lot of water very quickly, the seeds expanded in his throat and caused a blockage.
This particular patient had dysphagia (a condition that causes difficulty in swallowing), so if you have this or other digestive issues, be careful when eating chia seeds dry (Source: HSPH).
If you do want to eat them dry, add them to foods that are already moist such as oatmeal or yogurt. Ideally, you’ll want to give them a few minutes to absorb some of the liquid before eating.
You can also grind your chia seeds, which will make them easier to use dry if you don’t want to wait till they absorb some liquid – although they do this rather quickly!
Are Chia Seeds OK In Early Pregnancy?
Chia seeds are not only safe to eat in early pregnancy, but they are sometimes recommended.
Consuming chia seeds while pregnant has been proven to help develop the retina and brain of the fetus (Source: PMC).
You can increase your consumption of chia seeds by adding them to your prenatal meals and recipes – some suggestions for this are at the end of this article.
Can I Drink Chia Seeds When Pregnant (Chia Water)?
Chia seeds are often added to drinks to increase their protein and antioxidant content and therefore their satiety (making you feel more full).
Chia water is a popular energy drink and is fine to drink when pregnant. In fact, some sports enthusiasts make sports gels using chia to give them energy.
Because chia seeds have been shown to release glucose over a long period of time, they are an ideal food for anyone seeking more energy or endurance (Source: MDPI).
If you find that you’re easily fatigued or lacking energy in pregnancy, you could try topping up your energy levels with chia gel or chia water.
The Nutritional Benefits of Chia Seeds For Pregnant Women
Chia seeds have quite a powerful nutritional profile. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, a wide variety of vitamins, and are an excellent source of antioxidants (Source: USDA).
Omega-3 fatty acids are super important in pregnancy, and chia seeds are one of the richest plant sources of them (source: WebMD).
This is particularly important if you’re following a plant-based or vegetarian diet during pregnancy.
The antioxidants in chia seeds are believed to have anti-aging and anti-carcinogenic characteristics, and if you suffer from diabetes, chia seeds can help you control your blood sugar.
If you have any inflammation, chia seeds can help there too, as they can act as an anti-inflammatory. If you suffer from heightened anxiety or depression, chia seeds can help stabilize your mood.
They even act as an overall booster for the immune system, which is somewhat weakened during pregnancy (Source: Journal of Food Science and Technology).
Chia seeds have also been shown to help lower blood pressure in those with hypertension (Source: PMC).
Another handy fact about chia seeds is that they are very satisfying. They have 17% more protein than all other cereals, while not containing any gluten.
Chia seeds have been found to have 20 different proteins, as well as more calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus than in other cereals (Source: Molecules Journal).
One little-known fact about chia seeds is that because they are so nutritious, they are added to a wide variety of foods to increase the nutritional value of those foods.
Chia seeds in tortillas, for example, lowers their glycemic index. In wheat bread, chia increases the antioxidant activity and moisture levels.
When used in gluten-free noodles, chia seed flour raises the protein, fat and antioxidant levels (Source: WileyLibrary).
It is therefore worth checking the labels of some common foods that you buy such as bread, baked goods and pasta, to see if there are brands with chia added. It’s an easy, no-fuss way to get more nutrients in your pregnancy diet.
Using Chia Seeds for Pregnancy Constipation
If you are experiencing pregnancy-related constipation, you should consider using chia seeds to help.
Chia seeds are high in fiber while being gentle on the digestive tract. Unlike other high-fiber foods, chia seeds when moist take on a mucus-like texture that massages the digestive tract as they pass through the system.
This is because chia seeds can absorb quantities of water up to 15 times their own weight, and they improve the muscular contractions of the intestine when it passes food through (Source: PMC).
In fact, some studies have shown that consumption of whole and ground chia seeds along with chia oil can decrease the appearance not only of constipation but of the appearance of celiac disease and the risk of kidney disorders (Source: Molecules Journal).
Chia Recipes for Pregnancy
There are many ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet by adding them to foods that you are already eating.
Here are some tips on ways you can easily incorporate chia seeds into your pregnancy diet:
In Baking: Soak 1 tablespoon of chia seeds in 3-4 tablespoons of water for a chia gel that is the equivalent of one egg.
Add your ‘chia egg’ to your cake, brownie, pancake, or other recipe and cook as normal. You can also use chia gel in place of oil when baking for low-fat dishes that are still moist and delicious.
In Oatmeal: Add a tablespoon of chia seeds to your oatmeal, either before or after cooking.
Just be sure to add extra liquid – 4 times the amount of chia seeds – so that the chia seeds have something to absorb.
In (Flavored) Water: Add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to a glass of water and then add a squeeze of lemon, or a bit of your favorite fruit juice.
You’ll have a satisfying drink that will provide you with protein and will taste great!
In Soups or Smoothies: Add 1 tablespoon of chia per serving of liquid food, either before or after cooking.
Wait for at least 2-3 minutes before eating so that the chia has soaked up some liquid, and enjoy!
In Homemade Salad Dressings: Add a small amount of chia seeds to your salad dressings for added protein and vitamins.
In Stir-Fries: Soak a spoonful of chia seeds in twice the amount of water, then add to your favorite stir fry when it’s almost done cooking.
In Puddings: Make yourself some delicious chia puddings by putting ¼ cup chia seeds in 2 cups of your favorite milk (non-dairy milks like coconut also work really well).
Whisk a bit till the seeds start to absorb some milk so that they don’t clump. Add some dried raisins, cinnamon, and your favorite sweetener or a mashed banana. Done!
Hopefully you have now seen that not only are chia seeds safe to eat in pregnancy, but they can be extremely beneficial, and there are lots of fun ways to incorporate these nutritional powerhouses into your diet.
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