Chia – the food of warriors
Did you know that chia means strength in the Mayan language and Aztec warriors would actually eat them for energy and endurance.
Now, if there’s ever a time in our lives when we need energy and endurance – it’s during pregnancy. Am I right?
These tiny seeds are super rich in dietary fibre with 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons). They slow the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar right down. Providing the body with a steady and slow release of energy. This in turn stabilisers our blood sugar levels, helping us to avoid the highs and the lows.
It’s not just fibre either. They’re loaded with calcium and protein too. In fact if you don’t get on with dairy and you’re wondering where to get your calcium from, then look no further.
About 3 tbsp of chia seeds contain roughly the same amount of calcium that you’ll find in a glass of milk.
Chia Seeds and Pregnancy
If you’re wondering whether chia seeds are safe to eat whilst you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You’re in luck. The good news is that these little seeds are not only safe to eat (albeit in moderation, which we’ll get to a bit later on) but they also offer up several nutritional health benefits as well.
Chia Seeds are derived from a herb called Salvia Hispanica which is native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. More commonly known as chia; the Salvia hispanica is a species of flowering plant in the mint family.
If you go back ten years, many people wouldn’t have been as familiar with chia seeds as they are today. However with Instagram feeds now crammed with the latest Chia recipes, you’ll be hard pressed to miss the chia phenomenon. An excellent way to use chia seeds is in smoothies, granola, energy bars and even blended up with a little olive oil to create a delicious salad dressing.
What Are The Benefits Of Chia Seeds?
Well, firstly they are packed full of Omega 3 fatty acids. The Omega fats are known as essential fatty acids, meaning that they’re crucial for our health but cannot be made naturally by our body.
As our bodies don’t produce these naturally, we need to get them from our diet or via supplements. ⠀Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, flax seed, chia seeds, soy, and walnuts. These fatty acids may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease as well as boosting our immune systems.
Consuming Omega-3 fats is essential to maintaining the balanced production of a group of physiologically active lipid compounds called prostaglandins. This helps regulate many bodily functions including blood clotting, blood pressure, nerve transmission, kidney function, the inflammatory and allergic responses and the production of hormones.
Benefits of Omega-3s in Pregnancy
Omega-3s are essential for neurological and early visual development of a baby. However, our diets tend to be lacking in this critical fat. This fat deficiency is often increased by the fact that when pregnant, women are often depleted of the omega-3s that they eat because the baby uses them for nervous system development.
They also have positive effects on a pregnancy. Increased intake of omega-3s may lower the risk of preeclampsia, prevent pre-term labour and delivery and may even increase the birth weight of the baby. However, a deficiency in omega-3 may also increase a mother’s risk of postpartum depression. So it’s important to ensure you’re getting adequate levels.
They’re loaded with Calcium
When we consider optimum sources of calcium, we often think of dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. However, for those women following a plant based or vegan lifestyle- sourcing the right amount of calcium from non dairy sources is crucial. Amazingly, just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contains nearly 20% of a woman’s recommended daily intake.
They’re nutrient rich
Chia seeds are packed with several vital nutrients that are crucial during pregnancy; including zine and selenium. are a rich source of several nutrients, some of which function as antioxidants. Adding a tablespoon of ground chia a day to either your morning smoothie, soup, porridge, or even sprinkled over your morning granola, can be a great way to ensure you meet your daily needs.
As well as containing calcium, they also contain trace minerals including zinc, copper, magnesium and selenium. Magnesium is essential to bone growth and production of cells and genetic material. It also works as a cofactor in enzymatic release of energy (which is definitely needed during pregnancy and in this heat)
Our body’s ability to absorb magnesium is also largely affected by Vitamin D and Calcium so it’s crucial to ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of both these vitamins and minerals to ensure optimal absorption of Magnesium.
If you’re struggling with a crappy nights sleep, pregnancy brain and muscle cramps – try adding as many magnesium rich food sources to your diet.
Just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contain the following:
- 95 mg of magnesium / approximately 27% of the recommended daily requirements
- 0.8 mg of manganese / approximately 39% of the recommended daily requirements
- 15.6 micrograms of selenium / approximately 26% of the recommended daily requirements
- 1.3 mg of zinc / approximately 12% of the recommended daily requirements
Struggling with constipation
Constipation is a common pregnancy complication, and those pesky hormones can cause a lot of digestive distress. In fact half of all women struggle with constipation during pregnancy.
(Quick Side Note)
Follow these Top Tips to help ease the back up
✔️ Increase your fibre – include as many vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains as you can.
✔️ When sourcing bread – stick with wholegrain always and if wholegrain flour isn’t listed as the first ingredient put that loaf back on the shelf and walk away. Bleached flour is not your friend ladies.
✔️ Eat little and often if you’re struggling
✔️ Stay away from any refined or modified foods (note above – avoid anything that contains bleached white flour which includes cereals and pastas too.
✔️ Keep your fluids up, try to get around 2 litres of water a day, especially in this heat. It doesn’t need to be water only, it can be fruit teas or any other means of fluid but just get as much as you can.
✔️ DO NOT hold it in – if you have to go please GO.
Things to consider
Even though chia seeds are a relatively low-risk food, complications may occur if you eat too many of them. They’re best eaten ground as the body is able to digest them easier. Although soaking them in over-night oats or chia pudding will definitely help the digestion process. Just remember to drink plenty of water with them and of course if you’re suffering from any bowel issues such as diverticulitis then avoid and of course, for specific questions regarding your diet or if you feel that you need extra assistance, please do contact your doctor or midwife to seek guidance.
My Favourite Chia Recipe Roundup
- 1 cup 120g dates, without stone
- ¾ cup 60g almond meal
- ½ cup 30g desiccated coconut
- 2 tbsp. chia seeds
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil melted
- 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter
- Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor and blitz until everything is well combined and chopped to small pieces.
- Using your hands, form 10 balls about the size of a walnut. Place them in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour so that they become more solid.
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Mixed Berry and Vanilla Chia Pudding
- 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
- 1/2 cup of dairy free coconut yogurt
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 1/2 cup strawberries blueberries, raspberries
- A dash of maple syrup to taste
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Mix together, milk, yogurt, chia seeds, vanilla and maple syrup. Give the mix a really good stir to fully combine. You may want to pop back after an hour and give it another stir.
- Store in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4 hours.
- Top with mixed berries and another little drizzle of maple syrup
- Serve cold.
Oat, Carrot and Chia Cookies
- 1 medium carrot grated
- 1 cup 100g instant oats
- 2/3 cup 100g whole-grain flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp. coconut oil melted
- 1 egg ( Flax Egg if Vegan)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 5 tbsp. 75ml maple syrup
- 2 tbsp ground chia seed
- 4 tbsp plant milk
- Preheat oven to 340F (170C). Mix the oats, flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl whisk together, the egg melted and cooled oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Fold in the dry ingredients and mix well.
- Add in the finely grated carrot and mix again.
- Spoon the mixture (1 heaped tbsp. per cookie) onto a baking tray lined with paper and shape into rounds, leaving space between each cookie as they will spread slightly while cooking.
- Place in the preheated oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until slightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before serving.
Blueberry and Chia Overnight Oats
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 2 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 3/4 cup plant milk
- 3/4 cup of plant based yogurt
- 1 grated apple
- Cover your oats with just enough liquid to totally soak them.
- At this stage I add a large dollop of yogurt and give it a good stir.
- If you’re adding chopped nuts and seeds and any dried fruit add this now along with the syrup.
- Give it a good stir again and seal in your air tight container and place in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight ready for the morning
- The chia seeds will have soaked up a lot of the liquid so add a little more milk, grate the apple over the top, and drizzle with a little more syrup to sweeten, or another dollop of yogurt.