Is it Okay to Eat Flaxseed While Pregnant?

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Is it Okay to Eat Flaxseed While Pregnant? (Image: OksanaKiian/iStock/GettyImages)

Flaxseeds may be tiny, but each one is packed with ample nutrition. Small servings of the seeds provide energy-providing B vitamins, brain-growing omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, cancer-fighting lignans and anti-inflammatory antioxidants, notes the website Kitchn.

If you’re expecting, it seems like the powerhouse of nutrition provided by flaxseeds would be an absolute asset to fuel your pregnancy. But an older animal study, published in a 2007 issue of Reproductive Toxicology, suggested that consumption of flaxseed during pregnancy had mild estrogenic effects on growing rat fetuses that could predispose the unborn rats to breast cancer later in life.

The rats were fed a diet exceptionally high in flaxseeds, however, and it's unclear if the animal effects translate to humans. Consumption of 45 grams per day of flaxseeds or flaxseed meal during pregnancy poses little to no health risk, notes the Natural Health Products Division of Health Canada. In fact, research published in a 2016 issue of the Journal of Clinical Medicine concludes that alpha-linolenic acid, which is prevalent in flaxseeds and flaxseed meal, consumed by pregnant moms during their babies’ development can help prevent future metabolic disease and promote health as the babies grow up. Flaxseed, therefore, doesn’t fall into the category of foods not to eat while pregnant.

Tip

Always check with your doctor about foods not to eat while pregnant, but moderate amounts of flaxseed are generally safe and beneficial during the prenatal period.

Good Source of Fatty Acids

Flaxseed is a superior source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) notes a paper in the Journal of Food Science and Technology published in 2015. ALA supports brain and central-nervous system development, which is especially important support for a growing baby. ALA also reduces inflammation, which contributes to the development of heart disease and diabetes.

Changes in your bowel movement patterns can plague your pregnancy. If you find yourself constipated, flaxseed or flaxseed meal may be your best friend. The little seeds are rich in insoluble fiber, which bulks up and triggers bowel movements. Best Health Magazine suggests flaxseeds as a natural laxative.

The fiber can also help prevent hardening of the arteries by binding to cholesterol in your intestines, giving you long-term protection against heart disease.

Safe Serving Sizes

Check with your physician before adding flaxseeds to your diet when pregnant, so you’re aware of any limitations or concerns she may have. Keep your intake to a moderate level — about 1 tablespoon per day, which provides 2.35 grams of ALA, exceeding the adequate daily intake for ALA of 1.4 grams set by the National Institutes of Health.

Other Precautions

Raw flaxseeds contain trace amounts of cyanide, but the average, healthy person can eat up to 8 tablespoons daily without doing any harm, explains Tufts University Health & Nutrition letter. No specifications are available for pregnant women, however, so if you’re concerned, roast your flaxseeds before consuming them or use your flaxseed meal in baked goods. The heat destroys the cyanide compounds.

Store flaxseed meal — ground flaxseeds — in the refrigerator or freezer to deter rancidity. Because it has a high fat content, flaxseed meal goes bad relatively quickly.

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