“Things from the sea” are often cautioned during pregnancy, lactation, and in your children due to concerns for heavy metals (mercury) and excessive iodine. Does this apply to sea moss, or is this plant a safer alternative to keep up your intake of important nutrients?
Though they come from several different plant species, all varieties of sea moss are safe to consume while pregnant. These plants can help you meet your daily requirements for many nutrients, but should not replace a well-rounded and quality prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement.
Not to be confused with the moss growing in shady parts of your backyard, sea moss actually refers to several species of seaweed or algae. Already starting off on the confusing side, I’ll break down the different types of sea moss, their safety and nutrition during pregnancy, and what (if anything) to look out for if you decide to purchase.
Note: This article will focus specifically on sea moss. If your pregnancy diet frequently includes other aquatic plants and seaweeds, you might be interested in our guide to seaweed.
Is Irish Sea Moss Safe During Pregnancy?
As I already mentioned, sea moss is not even moss- if we’re talking botanically, that is! These sea plants do cover underwater rocks and look a lot like moss, hence their name.
Irish sea moss, otherwise known as Chondrus Crispus, is one of the most popular species of sea moss. It is considered to be a type of red seaweed. They contain lower amounts of iodine and mercury than brown seaweed and are safe to enjoy while pregnant (sources: USDA, Nature).
Do keep in mind that because Irish moss is expensive to produce, it is possible that cheaper and nearly identical-looking alternatives, like purple moss, are being sold as Irish moss.
While purple sea moss looks nearly identical to Irish Sea Moss, it is actually an entirely different species of plant! Purple seaweed is also known as genus Gracilaria, and is simply a purple-housed version of basic sea moss, yet is still considered part of the red seaweed family.
The biggest advantage of purple moss is that is produced in warmer climates and grows readily year-round, making it a more accessible and economical option (source: Bey Moss).
As red seaweeds, both Irish sea moss and purple moss are safe to eat while pregnant.
Is Sea Moss Good for Pregnant Women? The Benefits
Similar to other more mainstream seaweeds, such as nori and dulse, sea mosses are rich in many nutrients, thanks to being grown in an aquatic environment.
Sea mosses are a good source of vitamin B12- important for vegetarian and vegan mothers, as the majority of vitamin B12 containing foods are animal products (source: Nutrients). In addition to B vitamins, sea moss also provides necessary minerals including calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, and zinc (source: Food and Nutrition).
Grown underwater, sea moss is also a good source of iodine. Unlike brown seaweed, which have very high levels of iodine and are not recommended to eat regularly while pregnant, red seaweeds including sea moss contain a more moderate amount of this essential nutrient and are safer to enjoy regularly.
Iodine is essential for all people, but during pregnancy especially. This nutrient is important for maintaining healthy thyroid function and neurological growth and development for babies (sources: Foods, WHO).
I will discuss more specifics on sea moss and vitamins in the dedicated section below.
Beyond its status as a nutrient-packed snack, sea moss may also help to boost your immune system due to its phytonutrients. Darker purple mosses will have the highest levels of anthocyanins, which are compounds in the purple-hued pigment that have been shown to be anti-inflammatory (source: Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology).
Though sea moss will contain some mercury, like all foods grown in the water, studies have shown that the amount of mercury in seaweeds is less than that of canned tuna fish and well below the safe acceptable limit- including during pregnancy (source: Food Additives and Contaminants).
Types of Sea Moss and Pregnancy Safety
With all of the different varieties of sea moss, as well as the multitude of ways to eat and/or use the aquatic plant, it can be difficult to know which products are safe. Below is a rundown of some of the most popular and widely available options and any safety considerations you should take.
Sea Moss and Bladderwrack: Bladderwrack is another type of seaweed. Many sea moss blends and gels contain a combination of these two seaweeds. While sea moss is safe to consume while pregnant, bladderwrack has yet to be evaluated for safety during pregnancy and therefore should be avoided (source: Botanical Safety Handbook, second edition).
Irish Sea Moss Supplements or Tablets During Pregnancy
For some, the idea of eating a sea plant is enough to turn their stomach, despite knowing that that sea moss can provide important nutrients. Though sea moss supplements can be tempting, it is important to carefully evaluate these products and only purchase from reputable third-party tested brands.
Some seaweed supplements contain brown seaweeds and/or kelp, which contribute harmfully-high levels of iodine. Sea moss-only supplements may also contain high levels of heavy metals which can build up in the body over time. To be on the safe side, either avoid supplemental sea moss or only use reputable products in moderation.
Sea moss drinks
Just like other leafy plants, you can brew sea moss tea and make sea moss latte-style beverages. When made with quality sea moss that is verified to be true sea moss (not a brown seaweed), these drinks are not only safe but can be a fun way to switch up your morning beverage.
Sea moss gel
While sea moss gel seems like a hair or skin product, most sea moss gels are marketed as a food additive. Purple moss is often used to produce agar, a gel-like substance that can be used to thicken sauces and as a vegan gelatin substitute, amongst other uses.
Some sea moss drinks are also made using this gel. When made from pure sea moss, these gels are safe during pregnancy. Keep serving size in mind, as they do tend to be more concentrated than fresh or dried whole sea moss.
Fun fact: Sea-moss-derived agar is also used in clinical laboratories. The pink or clear gel in the bottom of Petri dishes used to grow bacteria for science experiments or medical tests is agar (source: Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology)!
Sea Moss and Prenatal Vitamins
Knowing that sea moss contains quite a number of important pregnancy-supporting nutrients, many women wonder what this means in terms of their prenatal supplement.
If you eat sea moss regularly, should you choose a prenatal supplement with lower levels of any nutrients or skip it altogether? I’ll break down the difference between this nutrient-rich plant and the ever-important prenatal.
Does Sea Moss Have Folic Acid or Folate?
Folic acid is one of the most talked-about nutrients when it comes to pregnancy. Adequate folic acid is necessary to ensure proper development of your baby’s central nervous system and prevention of neural tube defects.
Currently, all women trying to conceive are recommended to take a prenatal vitamin with a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid daily (source: CDC, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology).
¼ cup of sea moss has an average of 36 micrograms of folate– not folic acid (source: USDA). Folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9, while folic acid is the synthetic form. The body can use folic acid easier than folate and only folic acid has been shown to prevent neural tube defects (source: CDC).
For this reason, no amount of sea moss is an acceptable replacement for a folic acid-containing prenatal supplement.
Can I Take Sea Moss With a Prenatal Vitamin?
Some nutrient-rich foods are best eaten in moderation due to concerns for getting too much of certain nutrients when also taking a prenatal supplement. Does sea moss fall into this category?
While sea moss is nutrient-dense and is high in many essential vitamins and minerals that are also found in prenatal supplements, there is no concern for nutrient excesses. It is safe to continue to eat sea moss while taking your prenatal supplement.
Can I Take Sea Moss Instead of a Prenatal Vitamin?
There is no doubt that sea moss is nutrient-dense and provides many of the necessary nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy. For this reason, some holistic medicine websites seem to suggest that women are able to take sea moss in lieu of prenatal vitamins, however this is not the case.
Taking a quality prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement is recommended for all pregnant women and those trying to conceive, regardless of diet (source: American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, CDC). Prenatals contain all of the necessary nutrients in the recommended amounts to best meet the needs of both mother and baby.
Can Sea Moss Help with Morning Sickness?
Any expecting mother knows the horrors of morning sickness. Whether intense or mild it certainly is not pleasant and many mothers wonder if certain foods like sea moss can calm their stomachs.
While I was able to find a handful of anecdotal reports of women feeling less nauseated after eating sea moss, there is no concrete evidence that it actually works and is not simply a coincidence.
Calcium and vitamin B6 are thought to reduce nausea (source: American Pregnancy Association). Sea moss does contain these two nutrients, though not in any amount comparable to the recommended levels to aid in stopping morning sickness.
If eating sea moss seems to be helping your stomach it is perfectly safe to continue, but overall there does not appear to be any hard connection between the two.
Knowing the difference between sea mosses, seaweeds, and which/how much is safe can certainly be confusing. Hopefully, this article has provided some reassurance when it comes to meeting your nutrient needs in a safe way during pregnancy.