Can Pregnant Women Eat Chia Seeds?

Packed with important nutrients, chia seeds should be considered as one of your healthy pregnancy superfoods. Chia seeds are loaded with protein, vitamins and fatty acids that help ensure the proper development of your growing baby. As an expectant mother, these tiny seeds can help give you the energy boost your body needs for a healthy delivery.

Chia seeds are good for pregnant women. (Image: happy_lark/iStock/GettyImages)

Tip

Chia seeds are safe to eat during pregnancy and are an excellent addition to your diet, offering omega fatty acids and essential nutrients needed for the growth and overall health of your baby.

Chia Seeds Nutrition

The demands of pregnancy can often lead to the depletion of essential vitamins and minerals, which are crucial to your growing baby. Chia seeds are rich in many nutrients including iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc and potassium. In addition, chia seeds are high in protein, fiber and healthy fats, all of which will help meet the needs of your body.

Eating the right amount of calories helps you and your baby gain the proper amount of weight. The American Pregnancy Association advises that during the second and third trimester of pregnancy, your body needs about 300 extra calories per day. According to the USDA, chia seeds contain 138 calories per ounce, or 2 tablespoons, so can contribute to your energy requirements.

Wards Off Constipation

Constipation and stomach upset are common complaints for pregnant women, which is why fiber is an important key component for a healthy digestive system. The USDA reports that one ounce, or about 2 tablespoons, of chia seeds contain 9.8 grams or 39 percent of your daily value for fiber.

Because fiber remains undigested by your body, it adds bulk to your stool and helps avoid constipation. The fiber in chia seeds supports regular bowel movements, helping to avoid the pain and irritation of hemorrhoids, a common pregnancy-related condition that can be brought on or made worse by constipation.

Provides Protein for Fetal Development

As an expectant mother, you need to consume about 75 to 100 grams of protein per day. Protein is essential for the development of fetal cells and organs, which includes the brain. Protein also plays a role in increasing your blood supply and helps with the growth of your uterine tissue during pregnancy. In addition, protein in chia seeds helps keep you feeling satiated, reducing the risk of craving unhealthy, fatty or sugary foods.

Chia seeds nutrition includes 4.7 grams of protein per 2-tablespoon serving according to the USDA, complementing your main sources of protein such as meat, poultry, tofu and nuts.

Helps Stop Leg Cramps

Cramps, especially in the legs, are common during pregnancy and can cause painful involuntary muscle contractions that typically affect the calf, foot or both. Leg cramps often strike at night, particularly during the second and third trimesters. Magnesium plays a role in neuromuscular transmission, nerve function and muscle contraction. Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include muscle spasms and cramps.

As a pregnancy superfood, chia seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, offering 95 milligrams or 23 percent of your daily value per 2 tablespoons. That's over four times more magnesium than a whole cup of chopped broccoli

Helps Build Strong Bones

Getting an adequate amount of calcium is vital for the proper skeletal development of your baby and development of tooth buds, not to mention preventing your body from using your own calcium stores to meet your baby's needs. You should strive for about 1,000 milligrams per day of calcium. Chia seed benefits both you and your fetus with its content of 179 milligrams of calcium per ounce.

As an added bonus, chia seeds also contain other minerals that play an important role in bone health. Per ounce, these include:

  • Iron: 12 percent DV
  • Copper: 29 percent DV
  • Magnesium: 23 percent DV
  • Phosphorus: 20 percent DV
  • Zinc: 12 percent DV

Helps Prevent Anemia

Dietary iron is necessary for the production of healthy red blood cells required for carrying adequate oxygen around your body and to your baby. By the time you are ready to give birth, the American Pregnancy Association says your total blood volume will have increased by as much as 60 percent.

Sprinkling 2 tablespoons of chia seeds on your cereal is an easy way to get 2.2 milligrams of iron into your diet, which will also help your energy level — often lacking particularly in the first and third trimester.

National Institutes for Health warns that insufficient iron intake during pregnancy can increase your baby's risk of low birth weight, premature birth, low iron stores, impaired cognitive and behavioral development and infant mortality.

Balances Blood Sugar

If you have diabetes or gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy), you should be careful to control your blood sugar levels. High blood glucose, especially during your first trimester, could put you at risk for miscarriage.

Your baby's brain, heart, kidneys and lungs start forming during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, and having a high blood sugar level can increase the chances of birth defects. It can also raise the risk of your baby being born too early, weighing too much or having breathing problems.

Including chia seeds in your diet can help keep your blood sugar in balance. The fiber in chia seeds helps slow sugar absorption in the bloodstream and does not raise blood glucose levels.

Although the recommended daily amount of fiber is between 25 to 30 grams for pregnancy, Joslin Diabetes Center reports that people with diabetes who ate 50 grams of fiber a day were more successful in controlling their blood glucose than those who ate less. However, when adding more fiber to your diet, go slowly and drink plenty of water. Too much fiber without enough water may exacerbate your constipation.

Provides Omega Fatty Acid Benefits

Sixty percent of the oil in chia seeds is from omega-3 fatty acids, primarily in the form of the essential polyunsaturated fat alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA.

Your body cannot make ALA so it must come from food. Chia seeds are one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They provide 5,064 milligrams of ALA, or a whopping 316 percent of your daily value, per 2 tablespoons.

An Australian study was conducted to determine the association between ALA intake during pregnancy and infant birth weight. Researchers assessed the diet of 224 mothers, finding that a higher intake of ALA correlated with higher infant birth weight. Conclusions, published in October 2018 in Current Developments in Nutrition, reported that omega-3 in the diet had the potential to optimize fetal growth and development.

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