Chia seeds used to be something you found only at health food stores. But lately, they’re popping up everywhere, from food trucks and grocery stores to restaurant menus and your Insta feed — with good reason.
These unassuming black and white seeds might measure only 1 millimeter in diameter, but they’re a superfood packed with many important nutrients — including those that are especially beneficial during pregnancy.
We know you don’t want to put anything in your body that can be harmful to you or your precious baby. But while it’s good to err on the side of caution, chia seeds are safe for most people during pregnancy. Let’s take a closer look.
Chia seeds are so easy to eat that you’ll want to add them to everything — your oatmeal, your yogurt, and yes, even your ice cream. (Hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.)
Here are some of the reasons why this may be a great idea:
1. They can help you go
Fortunately, eating fiber-rich foods can keep your digestive system running more smoothly.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds have about
2. They give your red blood cells a boost
Are your hands and feet so cold that you have to wear gloves and socks around the house? Do you feel more tired than normal? Are you concerned about dizziness? You may be lacking iron.
If we haven’t made it obvious yet, pregnancy can take a major toll on your body, so it’s not uncommon to have pregnancy-related complications like iron-deficiency anemia.
When you think about it, this makes sense, even if your body was an iron-producing machine prior to your pregnancy. Now, your body isn’t only supplying blood to you, but also to your baby.
The problem is that many pregnant women don’t produce enough red blood cells, which can cause anemia (basically, med speak for a low amount of red blood cells). A quality prenatal vitamin containing iron can help, or your OB-GYN or midwife might recommend a specific iron supplement.
But increasing your iron intake through food can also really help boost your body’s red blood cells. While spinach and red meat might be more famous for their iron content, chia seeds are also a great source, containing about
3. They can strengthen baby’s teeth and bones
You’ll do anything to contribute to the health of your little one. By now, your doctor has likely explained the importance of getting enough calcium in your diet.
Typically, you’ll need about 1,000 mg of calcium per day, but don’t think you have to chug several glasses of milk to meet this requirement. Unless you absolutely love the stuff, it’s probably better to mix it up — variety is the spice of life, right?
You can get calcium from various fruits and vegetables, and yes, even chia seeds. Two tablespoons of this superfood have
4. They help you stay full longer
Pregnancy hunger is something you don’t understand until you live it.
The almost-constant hunger can turn you into a ravenous beast. But overeating isn’t only unhealthy — it’s also a fast way to pack on too many pregnancy pounds.
This doesn’t suggest starving yourself (or your baby), but you’ll need to make protein your friend.
The more protein-rich foods you eat, the less hungry you’ll feel. So whenever possible, add a few sprinkles of chia seeds to your recipes. It has about
5. They’re a good source of omega-3
But did you know that omega-3 also promotes healthy brain development in unborn babies and may even contribute to a healthy pregnancy? Talk about a powerhouse!
So, how do you get more omega-3s in your diet? Well, you can start by eating more low-mercury fish, like salmon, oysters, sardines, and shrimp.
But if pregnancy has changed your taste buds and the thought of eating fish makes you queasy, then these small but mighty seeds are a good alternative. One ounce contains about 5 grams (g) of omega-3s.
It’s worth pointing out that the omega-3s in chia seeds are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and studies on omega-3s and pregnancy focus on the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3s found more commonly in fish.
So, to get the DHA and EPA your body and brain (and baby) need, consider other omega-3 sources besides chia seeds. Or talk to your healthcare provider about taking a prenatal vitamin that has DHA and/or EPA in it.
6. They can help you maintain healthy blood sugar
Pregnancy hormones can cause an accumulation of glucose in your blood which needs to be kept under control to help you avoid developing gestational diabetes.
This isn’t anything to take lightly, because high blood sugar can affect your baby’s health (and yours). The good news is that fiber in chia seeds doesn’t only prevent constipation, it may also help regulate blood sugar by decreasing the rate of sugar absorption in the bloodstream.
7. They may have you saying hello to more energy
Let’s be honest, who couldn’t use a boost of energy during pregnancy?
Whether you’re working outside the home or you’re a stay-at-home mom caring for your other kiddos, your energy level might feel like it’s at an all-time low.
As a healthy fat, chia seeds may give you a much needed pick-me-up. The seeds aren’t going to eliminate fatigue — they’re a superfood, not a miracle cure. The hard truth is that growing a human is tiring! But healthy fats can often offer you the boost you may be craving.
Can too much good = bad? Sometimes, and maybe even with our beloved chia seeds. Here are a few risks you need to know about.
1. Diarrhea or stomach discomfort can result from eating too much
Chia seeds are healthy and natural, but this doesn’t mean you can’t overdo it.
This is a high-fiber food, and if you’re not used to consuming this much fiber, eating too many seeds could cause diarrhea and other stomach discomfort. And let’s be honest, this is the last thing you want to go through while pregnant, especially if you’re still struggling with morning sickness.
Typically, you can eat 1 to 2 tbsp of chia seeds a day without problem. But if you’re introducing more fiber into your diet, start off with 1 tbsp to be on the safe side.
2. Possible drug interactions do exist
Chia seeds are safe for a lot of pregnant women, but it doesn’t hurt to talk with your doctor before incorporating the seeds into your diet.
If you’re already taking medication to manage your blood sugar, adding chia seeds to your diet could interact with your medication, causing a significant dip or increase in your levels.
3. They can be a choking risk
Chances are, you’re not going to choke on chia seeds. But there’s still a risk.
If this is your first time eating chia seeds, you’re probably unaware that seeds can quickly swell and absorb 10 times their own weight in water. On the off chance that you eat a spoon of chia seeds and drink water immediately after, the seeds could expand in your esophagus.
The swelling can be a frightening experience. This is especially if you’re already dealing with more phlegm, which pregnancy can cause.
You’re better off sprinkling chia seeds over your food rather than eating an entire spoonful. Also consider soaking chia seeds in juice or water to make a drink or a gel-like pudding — that way they’ll expand before you ingest them.
4. Some people have allergic reactions
Keep an open eye for signs of an allergic reaction. Again, not likely — but possible.
Realize, too, that symptoms of an allergic reaction aren’t always as dramatic as your throat tightening up or closing. You may have a mild reaction like a tingling or itchy sensation on your tongue or lips. Or you may have an upset stomach that closely resembles morning sickness.
Pay attention to how you feel, and stop eating the seeds if you suspect a food allergy.
Chia seeds might be small in size, but there’s nothing insignificant about their nutritional punch.
So whether you’re looking for a bit more energy or you want to try getting rid of constipation, go ahead and sprinkle some chia seeds over your food. And don’t stop eating the seeds just because you’ve given birth — their health benefits are for everyone.