Chia Seeds during pregnancy – can I have them?

Chia seeds are regularly seen in health food stores and frequently added to basic foods such as; biscuits, cereal bars, and the famous chia pudding. We know that they are little powerhouses of nutrients and have been dubbed a ‘superfood’ in many areas of the media, but are chia seeds safe during pregnancy? Read on to find out more.

What are chia seeds?

Chia, also called Salvia hispanica is an oil seed and has been cultivated for over 5000 years. It was traditionally added to medicine and today we now use it generally as a food source.

Chia seeds are tiny, and are, as I’ve mentioned ‘little powerhouses of nutrients’. They have become increasingly popular. Recent data shows that the number of Google searches for chia seeds rose almost 800% between 2009-2019.

But can you have them in pregnancy? Well yes you can, in many different ways but there a few things you need to be aware of.

Chia seeds in pregnancy

The nutritional benefits of chia seeds

  • Omega 3 – Chia seeds are one of the best plant sources of omega 3 and evidence shows that they may help to promote good heart health due to their high levels of alphalinoleic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid. Essential fatty acids are those that your body can’t make so you need to get them from your diet or supplementation. During pregnancy omega 3 will support the creating of new cells in your growing baby, including their brain development.
  • Fibre – 2tbsps (28g) of chia seeds provide around 10g of fibre (daily recommendations are around 30g). Fibre is important for good bowel health and to relieve constipation. Constipation is very common in pregnancy due to hormonal changes which can cause everything including your bowel to become a little slower. We know that most people don’t have enough fibre in their diet, so adding chia seeds may be a good way to get that extra boost of fibre during pregnancy.  There is also evidence to say that meeting your daily fibre requirements (including chia seeds in your diet) can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Protein – Chia contains 18 out of 22 amino acids of which 9 are essential amino acids (amino acids join together to make proteins). Protein is essential for growth and this is especially important during pregnancy for your growing baby. 
  • Iron – It is estimated that 40% of women around the world have anaemia which is a severe iron deficiency. Chia is a great source of iron and including it in your diet during pregnancy will likely reduce your risk of developing an iron deficiency or anaemia. Iron is important in making haemoglobin, a protein that is found in your red blood cells which traps oxygen from your lungs and moves it around your body. If you don’t have enough iron in your diet then you can’t make enough haemoglobin and then can’t move oxygen around your body very well.
  • Calcium – did you know that 2tbsps of chia seeds contain more calcium than 100mls of cow’s milk or fortified plant-based milk! Calcium is very important in pregnancy to help keep your bones and teeth healthy and strong but also to support the development of your baby’s bones and teeth. 
  • Magnesium – Magnesium is a mineral which is essential in pregnancy for  enzyme production, to help develop and grow your babies nervous system and muscles. Magnesium also helps with the development of your babies bones and teeth.
  • Zinc – In pregnancy zinc helps with making new cells, including those of your babies eyes, brain and in their immune system. Chia seeds provide 1.3mg of ZInc in 2tbsps which is around ¼ of your daily zinc requirements in such a small portion! 

Chia seeds nutritional facts

2tbsps (28g) provides approximately;

  • 138kcals
  • 8.4g fat – including essential fatty acids
  • 11.9g carbohydrates
  • 9.7g fibre
  • 4.6g protein
  • 179mg Calcium 
  • 2.19g Iron 
  • 1.3mg Zinc 

The benefits of chia seeds in pregnancy

  • Maintain blood sugar levels – Chia seeds have been shown to help to keep blood sugar stable and this can be especially important if you have gestational diabetes. Maintaining stable blood sugar during pregnancy can also help with energy levels.
  • An amazing vegan source of calcium, omega 3, zinc and iron.
  • Great source of fibre for good bowel health and help to relieve constipation in pregnancy
  • Chia contains an antioxidant quercetin, which can help to support your bodies immune system.

Ground chia seeds vs whole chia seeds?

The nutritional content of whole and ground chia seeds are the same. The difference is that ground chia has been made by grinding up whole chia seeds into powder. 

How can I add chia seeds to my diet in pregnancy?

Chia seeds are very versatile and you’ll be surprised where you can actually add them into your diet. You could try;

  • Sprinkling on breakfast cereal
  • Adding on top of yogurt
  • Cooking into curry, soup, rice dishes or stir fry
  • Eating chia seeds straight off a spoon – beware they can be a little dry so make sure you have at least 1 glass of water per tbsps of chia seeds. 
  • You could use chia seed oil in your cooking, but again I wouldn’t advise too much and stick with 10mls as a serving.

What is chia seed water? 

One way to get chia seeds into your diet is via chia seed water. Now, this was a huge Tik Tok trend back in June 2022, and although I don’t agree with the claims that this drink can detoxify your body (that’s your liver’s job), it is a good way of getting extra fibre, omega 3, protein, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and zinc into your diet in pregnancy. 

Chia seeds water recipe

  • ½ lemon
  • 250mls of water
  • 1/2 tsp of chia seeds (to start) – don’t put 2tbsps of chia seeds as this could cause diarrhoea and tummy upset – go slowly

Mix it all together and leave for 10-15 minutes until it starts to thicken. It will take on a glue-like texture due to the chia seeds’ high soluble fibre content. 

If you want to increase the amount of chia seeds in your chia water then do this slowly to a maximum of 2tbsp each day – no more.

Chia seed smoothie recipe

Another way to add chia seeds into your diet is via smoothies

I particularly like a banana chia smoothie

  • 1 banana chopped
  • 250mls of milk
  • 1/2-1tbsp of chia seeds1/2 tsp of cinnamon

Blend until smooth and serve in a nice tall glass!

Chia ice cream

Did you know that you can also make chia seed ice cream?

  • 8 x whole strawberries
  • 150mls of milk
  • 100mls of yogurt (vanilla or strawberry)
  • 1-2tbsps of chia seeds
  • Honey to sweeten (optional)

My favourite way to make ice cream is in the Ninja CREAMI Ice cream and frozen dessert maker. It’s just amazing and makes the best chia ice cream ever!

Chia seed pudding recipes

Mango Chia Pudding with coconut milk

Another really easy recipe – serves 2.

Mango chia pudding with coconut milk
  • 1 large mango peeled, cored, and chopped – you can also use frozen (approx. 250g). Save some mango chunks for the top of the pudding. 
  • 5g of chia seeds to start off – up to a maximum of 25g
  • 250mls of light coconut milk – make sure it is fortified with calcium and iodine

How to

  1. Blend the mango ( if frozen this might need defrosting first)
  2. Add the chia seeds and coconut milk to the mango and whisk together
  3. Place in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes (if it hasn’t become thick then give it a stir and put it back in the fridge for another 10-15 minutes)
  4. Top with mango chunks and enjoy! 

Banana Chia Pudding 

  • 1 large banana – not over ripe, a yellow banana is perfect
  • 250mls of light coconut milk – make sure that it is fortified with calcium and iodine 
  • 5g of chia seeds – to start off – up to a maximum of 25g
  • ¼ tsp of cinnamon

How to

  1. Mash the banana
  2. Add the banana to a bowl and add in the cinnamon – mix until smooth
  3. Add in chia seeds and coconut milk and whisk
  4. Place in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes (if it hasn’t become thick then give it a stir and put it back in the fridge for another 10-15 minutes)
  5. Top with banana slices and enjoy

Side effects of chia seeds in pregnancy

Beware, although chia seeds are ‘little powerhouse of nutrients’ every mom is different, and having too much of a good thing can be bad for you. I would always advise you to start with 1/2 tsp of chia seeds and build this up to a maximum of 2tbsps per day, depending on whether it affects your bowels due to the amount of fibre contained. Having too many chia seeds can cause stomach upset, constipation and diarrhoea.

Summary

Adding chia seeds as part of a balanced diet whilst pregnant can be a great addition, they can be used in many different ways. Just make sure you watch your portions of chia seeds as they can cause an upset stomach if you eat too many.

As always if you have any worries, concerns or questions DM me on Instagram or if you would like some expert advice in pregnancy then send me a message via the contact me form and I’ll be in touch

Hannah x

Want more info?

If you have any questions or need some advice, feel free to get in touch!

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