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flaxseed oil in pregnancy

When should you take flaxseed?

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Also known as linseed, flaxseed is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acid, but is it safe to eat, use or take during pregnancy? Here’s what you need to know.

Flaxseeds have been eaten for thousands of years and for good reason. As well as being high in fibre, they also deliver a big hit of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that supports cardiovascular health, and another polyunsaturated fat called omega-6.

On its own, omega-6 can also help to support heart health, and skin and provided it’s well balanced with other omegas in the diet – and flaxseeds are one of the few foods that have a healthy ratio or balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

What is flaxseed?

Sourced from the flax plant, as the name suggests, flaxseeds are a seed that can be eaten whole, ground or as an oil. Flaxseed supplements are available, too. Generally speaking, while eating flaxseeds whole provides some fibre and lignans, unless you chew them incredibly well, you’ll miss out on much of the omega-3s they contain because they can often pass through the intestine undigested. And similarly, flaxseed oil contains the omega-3s, minus the lignans and fibre. On the other hand, eating ground flaxseeds means you’ll benefit from all of their nutritional benefits. Just one teaspoon of ground flaxseeds contains 922mg of ALA, which is roughly what’s considered an adequate daily intake for that particular type of omega-3.

To incorporate flaxseed into your diet, you could try adding a small amount of the ground variety to your cereal, yoghurt and smoothies, or even to soups, casseroles and when you’re baking bread or muffins. And you can use cold flaxseed oil in place of other oils, in dressings, or to drizzle over cooked vegetables, bearing in mind that flaxseed oil is sensitive to heat and light.

So, is it safe to eat flaxseed during pregnancy?

Some concerns have been raised around consuming large amounts of flaxseed during pregnancy, due to research suggesting that it can affect hormone levels.Eating a moderate amount of flaxseed as part of a healthy eating pattern is thought to be safe during pregnancy, but limiting intake is important – bearing in mind that one teaspoon of ground flaxseed provides the adequate intake of ALA’s that’s recommended during pregnancy.

For specific dietary advice, talk to a dietitian or your healthcare provider. Do not take flaxseed supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding.