Is Lychee (Litchi) Safe In Pregnancy? Risks + Benefits

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Lychee seems to boast quite the list of health benefits in pregnancy, while also raising some questions. Should you take a chance in eating this sweet fruit?

Lychee is safe to eat during pregnancy in moderation as long as you don’t have low blood sugar levels. Lychee (or Litchi, as it is sometimes known) contains sugar that can increase the risk of gestational weight gain and diabetes. It also has compounds found to lower blood glucose. 

So, what are the health benefits or risks of eating lychee when you’re pregnant? Keep on reading to learn more!

Is it Safe to Eat Lychee When Pregnant?

Lychee is safe to consume during pregnancy. However, it’s probably best to eat lychee in moderation to avoid an increased risk of gestational diabetes, gestational weight gain, and hypoglycemia.

Raw lychee or litchi contains 15.2 g of sugars (source: USDA), while dried lychee is more than quadruple at 66.1 g (source: USDA), per 100 g serving.

Consuming foods with considerable amounts of sugar content can increase your risk of gestational diabetes as well as gestational weight gain. 

Excessive weight gain during pregnancy is linked to side effects such as small or large fetuses for gestational age, preeclampsia, macrosomia, gestational hypertension, preterm birth, cesarean delivery, and others (source: NIH). 

fresh organic lychee fruit

Another possible risk is hypoglycemia. 

I know what you’re thinking. One fruit can add to the risk of both increasing and decreasing blood sugar levels?

In a way, yes. Lychee contains methylene cyclopropyl glycine. This chemical can cause hypoglycemia and is linked to encephalopathy, specifically acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Northern India. India is the second-biggest lychee producer in the world after China.

Encephalopathy is a brain disorder that changes the normal functions and structures of the brain. It can be caused by microorganisms, metabolic issues, trauma, lack of oxygen to the brain, chemicals, or toxins (source: NIH).

The deaths associated with this were children aged 10 years and below. Anaphylaxis, a critical allergic reaction that could even lead to death, was also reported. 

Authorities stated that the toxins causing this came from the consumption of unripe lychee.

The study further concluded that the hypoglycemic effect of lychee only poses serious threats to those with hypoglycemia or people with low sugar reserves in the body (source: Science Reporter).

So, if you happen to buy lychee, make sure they are ripe. 

Benefits of Lychee During Pregnancy: Is it Good for Me?

Lychee is a rich source of potent polyphenolic compounds and flavonoids which are antioxidants (source: ScienceDirect). Oligonol, a polyphenol, works as an antioxidant and has been linked as an anti-influenza compound (source: Science Reporter).

Litchitannin, a proanthocyanidin present in lychee has more antioxidant potency compared to L-ascorbic acid or vitamin C which is also present in high amounts in lychee (source:  ACS Publications). 

lychee juice in a glass and peeled lychees

Oxidative stress takes place when the placenta starts to develop. Too much oxidative stress can lead to pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and even miscarriage (source: PubMed). Antioxidants work by fighting oxidative stress. 

Vitamin C, another antioxidant, is also essential in the production of collagen which is needed in tendons, blood vessels, and bones. It also helps produce neurotransmitters (Source: Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute). 

Lychee seeds have also been shown to have anti-diabetic effects. It has been shown to help lower blood sugar and decrease diabetic complications (NIH). 

Its peel, along with the seeds, has been reported to show antimicrobial, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties on top of its antioxidant effects (source: Science Reporter).

According to some researchers, lychee has shown to also have hepatoprotective activity (liver protection property) against toxins (source: Pharmacognosy Communications). 

Are There Risks or Side Effects of Lychee in Pregnancy? 

Lychee can either increase or decrease blood sugar levels because of some of its compounds present and the fact that the fruit itself has sugars.

While there is research about eating too much fruit during the second trimester of pregnancy and its increase in the risk of gestational diabetes (source: NIH), we recommend talking to your doctor about how much you can consume based on your current health conditions. 

lychee tea in a cup and fresh lychees

Can I Drink Lychee Tea When Pregnant?

There isn’t much research about lychee tea and its safety. However, the most common lychee tea we have in the market is green or black tea added with the aroma of lychee fruit.

This lychee tea is safe for pregnant women, since the lychee is a flavoring. However, it is recommended not to drink too much of it during pregnancy. Caffeine intake should be limited to less than 200 mg per day (source: APA).  

In China, people use dried lychee instead of sugar to sweeten their teas (source: Fruits of warm climates). 

There are a lot of pros and cons to consuming lychees. We do recommend consulting your doctor about its effects as well as how much you can safely consume in a day, while pregnant.