Is It Safe To Eat Flax Seeds During Pregnancy?

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You might be thinking about whether or not you can eat flaxseed while pregnant. Flaxseeds or linseeds, called alsi in India, are small, tan, brown or golden seeds. They are a great source of dietary fiber, minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, proteins, and vitamins B6 and E. Flaxseeds are a source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and lignans. You can consume them as a whole, sprouted, ground, or in the form of oil (1).

In this post, MomJunction tells you about eating flaxseeds during pregnancy, its benefits, and ways to include them in your diet.

Is It Safe To Consume Flaxseeds During Pregnancy?

It is safe to eat a moderate amount of flaxseeds during pregnancy as large amounts can act like estrogens in the body, causing hormonal disturbances. As there is little research on the effects of flaxseeds during pregnancy, it is best to consult your doctor before using them.

What Quantity Of Flaxseed Can You Have During Pregnancy?

You can have about one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds every day during pregnancy. This will meet your daily requirement of 1.4g alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) (2).

What Are The Benefits Of Flaxseed During Pregnancy?

Flaxseeds contain some of the vital nutrients that you require during pregnancy.

1. Essential nutrients aid fetal brain development

Flaxseeds contain two essential fatty acids – linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acid- that play a prominent role in the unborn baby’s brain development during early pregnancy (3).

2. Relieves pregnancy constipation

Flaxseeds are a good source of fiber and help keep constipation at bay. Regular consumption of flaxseeds in moderate amounts, along with plenty of water, can ease bowel movements and also prevent hemorrhoids (4). However, it can also be a cause of constipation if taken in excess, and without adequate amounts of liquids.

3. Controls blood sugar levels

It is common for the blood sugar levels to rise during pregnancy, and flaxseeds can help control them. Also, the risk of Cesarean delivery and high birth weight reduces with the use of flaxseed oil (5).

4. Prevents cancers

Lignans (phytonutrients) present in flaxseeds decrease the risk of breast and ovarian cancers (6).

5. Lowers risk of cardiovascular diseases

Research findings show that flaxseeds help lower the bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and increase the good cholesterol levels (HDL). They are known to possess blood-thinning properties, which reduce the risk of clogging in arteries (7).

In spite of these benefits, flaxseeds should be eaten in moderation, as excess consumption can be risky for a pregnant woman.

Possible Side-effects Of Flaxseeds During Pregnancy

These are some of the side effects of including flax seeds in your diet during pregnancy.

  1. Nausea, diarrhea, and gas due to over-consumption
  1. If you are allergic, reactions such as swelling of the lips, tightness in the chest or breathing problems
  1. A sudden increase in blood pressure when you consume unripe or raw flaxseeds.
  1. Cyanide present in flaxseeds can lead to poisoning when taken in excess amounts (8).

If you are not allergic, and want to add flaxseeds to your everyday diet in limited amounts, then here is how you can go about it.

Ways To Include Flaxseeds In Prenatal Diet

Avoid raw flaxseeds as they can be toxic. Roast the seeds to destroy the cyanide compounds and consume them freshly roasted. You can also grind the roasted seeds into powder and store in an airtight container, as your body takes more time to digest and absorb whole seeds.

Here are some ways to include the roasted flaxseed powder in your diet:

  • Add to smoothies or yogurt
  • Mix into wheat dough for making bread, chapattis, paranthas
  • Mix in the batter of dosa, idly, bread and muffins

If you have more queries about flaxseed consumption during pregnancy, read on.

Is Flaxseed Oil Safe During Pregnancy?

Do not take flaxseed oil during pregnancy without your doctor’s consent. Though the oil contains vital fats that a fetus needs, it could create issues as the pregnancy progresses. A study conducted at the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Pharmacy found out that pregnant women who consumed flaxseeds during pregnancy had about 12% risk of premature birth compared to 3% risk among women who didn’t.
The correlation was especially observed in women who consumed flaxseed oil during second and third trimesters. However, consuming whole or ground seeds does not seem to create this risk (9).

Is It Safe To Take Flaxseed Oil Tablets During Pregnancy?

Flaxseed oil tablets are a source of vegetarian omega-3 fatty acids. Though you can get a healthy dose of omega-3 by adding the flaxseed oil tablets/capsules/supplements to your diet, it is better to seek your doctor’s advice first.

Flaxseeds are a good source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and other nutrients. Consuming flaxseed while pregnant could help relieve constipation, control blood sugar, and lower cardiovascular diseases. However, doctors suggest that you should consume these seeds in moderation because excess may cause hormonal imbalances, allergies, and nausea. Always consume roasted flaxseeds as the raw ones can be toxic. Enjoy them by adding them to smoothies, oatmeal, salad, etc. Consult a doctor if you notice any discomfort or side effects after consuming them.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Flaxseed A Review of Health Benefits.
    https://www.pbrc.edu/training-and-education/pdf/pns/pns_flaxseed.pdf
  2. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status in Overweight Pregnant Women of Louisiana.
    https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2244&context=gradschool_theses
  3. Jaclyn M Coletta et al.; (2010); Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3046737/
  4. Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil.
    https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/flaxseed-and-flaxseed-oil
  5. André Manoel Correia-Santos et al.; (2015); Maternal use of flaxseed oil during pregnancy and lactation prevents morphological alterations in the pancreas of female offspring from rat dams with experimental diabetes.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4459801/
  6. Priyanka Kajla et al.; (2015); Flaxseed-a potential functional food source.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4375225/
  7. Delfin Rodriguez-Leyva et al.; (2010); The cardiovascular effects of flaxseed and its omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2989356/
  8. Nadia Chaouali et al.; (2013); Potential Toxic Levels of Cyanide in Almonds (Prunus amygdalus) Apricot Kernels (Prunus armeniaca) and Almond Syrup.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3793392/
  9. Pregnant women consuming flaxseed oil have high risk of premature birth study finds.
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081027140817.htm

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Dalia Kinsey

(RD, LD)
Dalia Kinsey is a School Nutrition Specialist and a Registered Dietitian on a mission to make health accessible to all by encouraging body respect and joyful movement. After years of working in public health, Dalia saw a need for health education resources that speak directly to the experience of BIPOC and LGBTQIA people. All of her work is BIPOC and... more

Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more

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