I have been blown away by the feedback I’ve been getting from you guys! I love that YOU love my blog, and I love that you’re always asking for more information. One of the questions I see most often is, “What to eat to get pregnant?” Since there are so many amazing options out there, I thought I’d answer it by writing a series of blogs called “Superfoods for Fertility!” First up, chia seeds!
Chia, also known as Salvia hispanica, means “strength” in Mayan. A species in the mint family, it can be traced back over 3,000 years to Central America, where the Aztecs used it as one of their primary plant sources of food. In fact, it was their third most important crop behind just corn and beans! Considered more valuable than gold, chia was often used to pay taxes and tribute to the Aztec nobility.
Chia seeds are one of the best foods for pregnancy (and the months leading up to conception!) because they’re chock full of all sorts of nutrients critical for fertility health! The most important? Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Omega-3 EFAs play a critical role in regulating hormones, increasing blood flow to the uterus, reducing sensitivity to the hormone prolactin (which can suppress ovulation), normalizing cycles, and–most importantly–increasing cervical mucus, which is needed to help the sperm reach the egg.
As a fertility nutritionist, I love sharing mouthwatering chia seed recipes with women who are trying to get pregnant. I also encourage them to keep eating chia seeds while pregnant because Omega-3 essential fatty acids are crucial for the development of baby’s brain, eyes, and heart, as well as the circulatory system.
The benefits don’t stop there, though! EFAs support the respiration of vital organs in everyone. Since the human body is unable to manufacture them itself, however, they must be obtained through diet. Be sure to stick around until the end of this post, and I’ll share one of my favorite chia recipes with you!
Many people get their EFAs by eating fish. When it comes to plant-based pregnancy food items, though, chia seeds are one of the best. They have the highest Omega-3 content of any plant-based source, containing 64% alpha linolenic acid (ALA). (For reference, flax, another popular source of ALA, only contains 55%!) That means all our non-fish eating friends can still get those invaluable Omega-3 EFAs during pregnancy by munching on chia seeds.
In men, Omega-3 EFAs help improve circulation to the genitals, which supports the prostate, another key element in reproduction. You know what else benefits when we improve circulation to the genitals? NO MORE ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION. That’s a definite bonus for fertility! 😉
But wait, there’s more!
In addition to the copious amounts of essential fatty acids, chia seeds:
Furthermore, because chia seeds have such a high antioxidant content, the seeds stay stable for much longer. Flax, on the other hand, may turn rancid if not stored properly. Chia seeds can easily be stored dry for 4-5 years without deterioration in flavor, odor, or nutritional value. That means if you stock up but don’t finish all your chia seeds while pregnant, you don’t have to worry about them going bad. Another bonus is that you can substitute chia in any recipe that calls for flax.
As if all that weren’t advantageous enough, chia seeds can also improve digestive function. If you’re having any issues with bowel regularity (read: constipation), chia seeds are fantastic for getting things moving. The best way to do this is by making a chia gel. Soak ⅓ cup chia seeds in 3 cups of filtered water until a thick gel forms. You can add this gel to smoothies, drink it straight, or even use in baking recipes in place of eggs. I recommend consuming ⅓ – ½ cup of chia gel per day to help with constipation or just to keep things moving regularly. Store the chia gel in your refrigerator.
Easy! The taste of chia is both mild and pleasant, so you can sprinkle them over salads or yogurt, add them to grain-free granola, or use them in smoothies and puddings. They also make for a great egg replacement in baking because the original flavor of the dish is retained, but they add a lot more nutrition!
My favorite way to enjoy chia seeds is by making a Raw Tapioca Pudding using chia seeds!
1 cup raw cashews
3 cups filtered water
1-2 tbsp raw honey or pure maple syrup (depending how sweet you want it)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
pinch of celtic sea salt
¼ cup chia seeds
Place the cashews in a large bowl. Cover the cashews with enough warm filtered water to cover the cashews by at least 1 inch. Cover the bowl with a towel or lid and let soak for 4 hours. Drain the soaking liquid and give the cashews a good rinse. Then, place the soaked cashews and 3 cups filtered water in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Add the sweetener, vanilla, almond extract, and salt. Add the chia seeds to a DRY large mason jar (32 oz), pour the cashew mixture into the jar and shake well. Place in the refrigerator overnight (or for several hours) until the texture resembles tapioca pudding.
You can also experiment by adding cinnamon, vanilla bean, and other tasty enhancements to this recipe in your desired quantity.
Eating a balanced diet that incorporates the best foods for pregnancy, including chia seeds, is one of the most effective ways to increase your chances of conceiving. Tracking ovulation, having intercourse during your fertile window, and leading a healthy lifestyle will also help.
When you’re trying to get pregnant, a fertility nutritionist can serve as an invaluable resource. Together, you can optimize your diet so you’re at your healthiest for the start of your journey. After you conceive, your nutritionist can also help you devise a diet that includes the best foods for pregnancy, so you and baby can thrive during each subsequent trimester.
To support your reproductive health, try to consume 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds daily. This can be as easy as sprinkling them over granola and yogurt or tossing them in a fruit smoothie each morning! And if you’ve got the time to do a little food prep, I encourage you to try my Chia Seed Raw Tapioca Pudding. It’s utterly delicious!
For maximum benefit, look for chia seeds that are certified organic. These are the healthiest option, as they’re free of pesticides and other chemicals.
Pregnant women should follow the basics of healthy eating, which means enjoying lots of high quality protein, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole non-gluten grains. There are a few additional nutrients, however, that they also need. For example, folate which can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, beans, seeds and whole grains, support the healthy development of baby’s brain and spinal cord. Calcium is another essential nutrient as both Mom and Baby need it for strong bones and teeth. Good sources of calcium include organic full-fat dairy products, bone broth, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, and of course chia seeds! To learn more about foods for pregnancy and to devise a custom diet, consult a nutritionist.
Before trying to conceive, it’s wise to talk to your doctor about foods you should start cutting out of your diet. Your provider can give you a comprehensive list that’s catered to your particular lifestyle. Generally speaking, though, pregnant women should avoid seafood that’s high in mercury, uncooked luncheon meats, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and raw fish.
The Fertility Code is the best-kept secret of women who want to take the guesswork out of conceiving, and give themselves every possible chance of getting, and staying, pregnant successfully.
Bringing together evidence-based information, science-backed protocols, plus a customized and personalized approach, this course is for anyone who is struggling to get pregnant, or thinking about getting pregnant soon. The course is a one-stop-shop for getting your body, mind and soul prepared for conception.
In less than 3 months, you will learn exactly what you need to do now to get pregnant successfully and have a healthy full term pregnancy.
Sarah Jane Sandy is a certified nutrition therapist, and a fertility and women’s health expert. She has helped hundreds of women increase their fertility naturally and go on to have healthy full-term pregnancies. She has been working with women and couples trying to get pregnant for over 15 years and over 90% of the women who work with her get pregnant and have healthy babies. Learn more about her own fertility journey here. To send Sarah a message, complete her Contact Form