Flax seeds are a part of an ever-growing list of “superfoods” that are gaining popularity and notoriety these days. Rarely would you not find a box of flax seeds sitting on the shelf of a supermarket. These seeds are rich in fiber, protein and Omega-3 essential fatty acids (“good” fats), and have an endless list of health benefits that include, but are not limited to:
- Improving constipation
- Improving hair growth
- Prevents breast cancer
- Lowers cholesterol
While doctors recommend flax seeds as one of the top fertility foods for women trying to conceive, it may not be safe for a pregnant woman to consume it.
Are Flax seeds Considered Safe During Pregnancy?
There is a lot of debate on whether or not flax seeds are safe for pregnant women, mainly because there is lack of substantial research and information. Therefore, some doctors recommend you completely avoid it.
Some say that it is a plant with maximum health benefits and minimizes the risk of certain health conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease. We understand that you are concerned about the safety of eating flax seeds in your pregnancy. It is very important to adopt safe food choices during pregnancy. It’s okay to be concerned about the safety of eating certain foods, as you wish nothing but the best for your unborn baby. In this article, we will help you understand about the concerns of eating flaxseed when pregnant.
What Exactly Are Flax seeds?
Flax is a fiber crop and it is grown in some cooler regions of the world. It is another term for ‘linseed’. In Hindi, it is called ‘Alsi’. Flaxseed is an excellent source of dietary fiber and omega 3. Not only omega-3, it has lignans, folate, vitamin B6, zinc, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and protein. It should not be ignored in one’s diet given its health benefits. Is it same during pregnancy? Let’s see below.
Safety Of Flax seeds In Pregnancy: Not Enough Evidence
Some animal studies show that high doses (4 tablespoons of flax seeds for every 2000 calories) of flaxseed may be harmful for the fetus. However there are no studies conducted on human beings confirming the effects of flaxseed during pregnancy.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Flax seeds?
Recent studies have shown that consuming flax seeds may provide you protection from the below diseases:
- Cancer: It is rich in lignans which are natural cancer preventing phytonutrients. It provides protection against breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer
- Diabetes: Taking flax seeds everyday can help regulate your blood sugar levels for an extended period of time. It increases insulin sensitivity because of its high content of soluble fiber
- Cardiovascular diseases: It has been shown that flaxseed decreases the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases the good cholesterol (HDL). It also has blood thinning properties hence reducing the risk of clogged arteries
Apart from the above benefits, it is used in condition like ongoing constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis. It also helps with certain conditions related to women such as menopause symptoms, prevents breast cancer, weak bones.
Benefits Of Flaxseed During Pregnancy
- Flaxseed has linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) or omega-3 polyunsaturated fat which is needed during pregnancy
- It also acts as a laxative and can help with the pregnancy caused constipation
- It is excellent source of dietary fiber
- It reduces the blood sugar levels so it can help with pregnancy related increase in the sugar
- It can reduce the hot flashes during pregnancy
What Are The Side Effects Of Eating Flax seeds During Pregnancy?
Flax seeds are used extensively in baked goods like muffins and breads, thereby difficult in telling them apart from other nuts and ingredients.
In case you accidentally eat some flax seeds, watch out for these side effects:
- Allergic reactions: Look out for symptoms like tightness in your chest, difficulty in breathing, and swelling of lips. This is a common reaction if you’re allergic to other nuts
- Consumption of flax seeds may sometimes give one diarrhoea or nausea
- Increase in blood pressure levels, if you eat unripe or raw flax seeds
How Can Flax seeds Be Included In My Diet During Pregnancy?
Flax seeds should not be eaten raw as it contains some amounts of cyanide. Though it is not likely to cause any adverse effects on your health, it is advisable to not eat them raw. The correct way of eating flaxseed is to freshly roast them because when heated its cyanide compounds are destroyed. Grind into a powder because when you eat them whole they might not be absorbed fully. And always store the flax seeds into an air tight container.
- You can mix the freshly ground powder to yogurt or to smoothie
- Sprinkle on your salad
- Mix the powder into whole wheat dough before making chapatis
- Mix them into the batter of bread, dosa, idly, muffins
- Mix it into your morning cereal or oatmeal
Or you can find your own interesting ways of consuming flax seeds to get the nutrition.
How Much Flax seeds Can I Have During Pregnancy?
It is possibly safe to take flax seeds during pregnancy in moderation. Flaxseed is a good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is an essential nutrient in pregnancy. Since there is not much evidence available about safety of flaxseed it is sensible to limit your daily intake. The ALA requirement of pregnant women is 1.4g/per day. Approximately one tablespoon of ground flaxseed can provide you with that dose. Moderation is the key here.
Are Flax seeds Safe For Breastfeeding Mothers?
The effects of ingesting flax seeds or flaxseed oil during breastfeeding is not currently known. But some women believe they can help with milk production. As the full effects are not known, it is best advised that you consult with your doctor first.