Chia Seeds in pregnancy

By Hannah Whittaker RD, PGDip | Nov 17, 2022

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 these tiny seeds safe during pregnancy? Read on to find out more

You can also download a copy of this blog for your future reference by clicking the link below

What are chia seeds?

Chia, also called the plant 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 eat chia seeds.

Chia are tiny seeds, and are, as I’ve mentioned ‘little powerhouses of nutrients’. They have become increasingly popular due their superior nutritional value. 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 and they have several health benefits but there are a few things you need to be aware of.

Chia seeds during pregnancy

What are the benefits of eating chia seeds?

  • Omega 3 fatty acids – 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 creation of new cells in your growing baby, including their brain development. It can also support regulation of blood cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.
  • Fibre – 2tbsps (28g) provides around 10g of soluble fiber (daily recommendations are around 30g). Fibre is important for good digestive health 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 and support good gut health. There is also evidence to say that meeting your daily fibre requirements (including chia seeds in your diet) can improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.
  • Protein – chia seeds contain 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. 

More benefits to eating chia seeds…

  • Iron – It is estimated that 40% of women around the world have anaemia which is a severe iron deficiency. Consuming chia seeds provides a great source of iron in your diet during pregnancy and 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 these nutritious seeds contain more calcium than 100mls of cow’s milk or fortified plant-based milk! Calcium is very important in pregnancy for your teeth and bone health, 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. Consuming chia seeds means a great source of magnesium.
  • Zinc – In pregnancy zinc helps with making new cells, including those of your babies eyes, brain and in their immune system. They provide 1.3mg of Zinc in 2tbsps which is around ¼ of your daily zinc requirements in such a small portion! 
Chia Seeds in pregnancy

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 while pregnancy

  • Maintain blood sugar levels – Chia seeds have been shown to help to help to reduce blood sugar spikes and keep blood sugar stable. 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 omega 3 – alpha linoleic acid, calcium, zinc and iron.
  • Great source of fibre to support the digestive system and good bowel and help to relieve constipation in pregnancy
  • They contain the antioxidant quercetin, which can help to support your bodies immune system.

Is ground chia better than chia seeds?

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

What happens if you grind chia seeds?

Grinding chia seeds can make them easier to digest and the nutrients more easily absorbed. Ground chia is also easier to mix into beverages or other foods. It should be noted, however, that grinding will reduce the fibre content slightly of chia as some of the fibre gets lost in the process.

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 to your diet to gain the health benefits. You could try;

  • Sprinkling dry chia seeds on breakfast cereal
  • Adding on top of fresh fruit with 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 tbsp of chia seeds. 
  • Using 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 health 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 all ingredients together and leave for 10-15 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken and you see the seeds expanded. It will take on a glue-like texture due to the chia seeds’ high soluble fibre content. 

If you want to increase the number of chia seeds in your water then do this slowly to a maximum of 2 tablespoons of chia seeds each day – no more as it can cause stomach discomfort.

Chia seeds during pregnancy

Can I drink chia seed water every day?

I wouldn’t advise drinking it every day as it can cause stomach discomfort. It can be included in the diet 1-2 per week to get the nutritional benefits.

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

Chia Seeds during pregnancy

Another really easy recipe – serves 2.

  • 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 during pregnancy

Beware, although chia seeds are ‘little powerhouse of nutrients’ every mom is different. Having too much of a good thing can be bad for you due to the dietary fiber contained.

I would always advise you to start with 1/2 tsp of chia seeds and build this up to a maximum of 2 tbsps 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.

Who should not eat chia seeds?

Although chia seeds are nutritious foods they aren’t for everyone. If you have had an allergic reaction to chia seeds or you feel that they cause you tummy upset then you may want to try another option.

Summary Chia Seeds

Adding chia seeds as part of a balanced diet during a plant-based pregnancy or if you are vegan can be a great addition as they can be used in many different ways and have so many health benefits. Just make sure you watch your portions of chia seeds as they can cause an upset stomach if you eat too many. Increasing fiber intake slowly is the best option.

A great way to get started is to add to smoothies, cereals or soak chia seeds and making chia seed water.

Chia pudding recipes are also a great option for breakfast, as are chia ice creams for dessert.  But remember, it is important to start slow with chia seeds and build up your intake gradually. A maximum of 2 tablespoons per day should be enough to get the nutritional benefits without causing any side effects.

Overall, chia seeds can be great for pregnant women if you consume them in moderation as they are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, calcium and dietary fiber! They have many health benefits.

Enjoy!

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

You can also download a copy of this blog to your inbox by clicking on the image below

Chia Seeds during Pregnancy

Hannah x

Hannah Whittaker Dietitian Bump2baby Nutrition
Expert Pregnancy & Paediatric Dietitian at | info@bump2babynutrition.com | Website | + posts

Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy. 

She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.

Credentials

  • Registered Dietitian
  • First Class Degree in Nutrition

Experience

  • Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
  • Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
  • Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition

 

 

More Vegan Pregnancy resources:

Elderberry vs Blueberry; What are the health benefits?

Elderberry vs Blueberry; What are the health benefits?

So Elderberry vs Blueberry who wins?! Well elderberries and blueberries are two fruits that have gained a lot of attention for their health benefits, but is there any difference between the two. As an expert Paediatric & Pregnancy Dietitian, I love how these...

Are Candy Canes Dairy Free & Vegan? Let’s find out! 

Are Candy Canes Dairy Free & Vegan? Let’s find out! 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… and one sweet treat many of us love at this time of year is the tasty red and white peppermint flavor of candy canes. As an Expert Dietitian specialising in supporting plant-based and vegan families, I'm eager to explore a...

Are Pretzels Vegan? Can you eat this soft snack [2024]

Are Pretzels Vegan? Can you eat this soft snack [2024]

As a Dietitian who specializes in vegan and plant-based diets for families, the first questions here would be; what kind of pretzel are we talking about? The crunchy, hard, salty snack or the plaited, warm pretzel with the chewy texture? Does it matter? Let's find out...

11 Best Plant Based Sour Creams [2024]

11 Best Plant Based Sour Creams [2024]

One of the exciting developments in the world of plant-based foods is the variety of delicious alternatives to dairy product. This is especially crucial for families with milk allergies, as well as those who follow a vegan or plant-based lifestyle. In this blog, I'll...

Black Beans vs Black Soya Beans: What’s the difference?

Black Beans vs Black Soya Beans: What’s the difference?

In the world of plant-based nutrition, the debate of black beans vs black soya beans: what's the difference? is a common topic. As a dietitian who specializes in vegan and plant-based diets for families, I get many questions about plant based protein sources. When...

Want more info?

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