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Are Sea Greens Safe to Eat When Pregnant?

written by: BStone • edited by: lrohner • updated: 5/31/2011

Sea greens are a rich sources of nutrients. Learn more about the benefits of adding seaweed to your diet during pregnancy and what you need to be aware of.

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    Eating Well During Pregnancy

    Vegetable Sushi It is very important to get optimal nutrition from a healthy diet during pregnancy. Pregnant women have greater demands for many nutrients, including calcium, iron, folate and B vitamins. Making sure nutrient-rich foods are included in the diet can help a woman meet the high nutritional needs.

    Sea greens, like herbs and green leafy vegetables, are some of the best sources of nutrition that nature has to offer. Not only are they high in vitamins and minerals, but they are also a source of vegetable protein, fiber, chlorophyll and enzymes. It is beneficial to consume seaweed during pregnancy, although only a small amount is necessary to boost nutrition intake.

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    Sea Greens Nutrition

    Different sea greens, such as kelp, nori, arame and hijike, provide a range of nutrients for pregnant women, helping to support a healthy pregnancy and to provide nourishment for the growing fetus. Some of the important nutrients that different types of seaweed are a good source of are iodine, vitamin K, vitamin B12, folate and magnesium.

    Sea greens are an excellent source of iodine. This mineral is important for healthy thyroid function, which is vital for energy levels, metabolism and hormone production and for proper growth and development. Although an iodine deficiency is not common in many parts of the world, a lack of this mineral can be detrimental for newborns, leading to problems such as stunted growth and poor muscle coordination. Aside from sea greens, fish and other types of seafood are good sources of iodine. Iodized table salt is supplemented with this mineral, however avoiding excess salt is important during pregnancy.

    Vitamin K is necessary for pregnant women because it is needed for proper blood clotting. This nutrient is very important during the last trimester of pregnancy, closer to labor. It can help prevent excess hemorrhaging during labor. Vitamin K is also important for the utilization of calcium for the bones. Seaweed, green leafy vegetables and many herbs are all rich in vitamin K.

    Vitamin B!2 is used for the growth of the nervous system and for preventing nerve damage. It helps to prevent anemia and is necessary for healthy red blood cells. Sea greens are one of the very few non-animal sources of vitamin B12.

    Folate is a very important vitamin for pregnant women to focus on. It is needed for healthy fetal nerve cell formation and the prevention of neural tube defects. Like vitamin B12, folate is needed for healthy red blood cells. Seaweed, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, milk, salmon and brown rice all provide folate.

    Mineral-rich sea greens also supply the body with magnesium. This nutrient is important for bone health, being necessary for the proper absorption of calcium. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that pregnant women who supplemented with magnesium had a lower chance of giving birth to infants with mental retardation. Magnesium is found in many foods including seafood, sea greens, green leafy vegetables whole grains and many fruits and vegetables.

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    Safety

    It is safe to consume seaweed during pregnancy although there is no reason to go overboard. A very small amount will act as a good source of nutrition. Sea greens are a natural source of sodium. Enjoying in moderation may be important for pregnant women who have high blood pressure. Try adding a teaspoon of dried greens to miso soup. Add dry, snipped sea greens to add a little flavor to cooked vegetables, fish and meat. If getting your seaweed from sushi, it is safer to stick with vegetable sushi or cooked seafood. There is a risk with eating raw foods while pregnant of introducing harmful microbes into the body.

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    References

    Balch, Phyllis A. " Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).

    Page, Linda. "Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition" (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).

    photo by Grand Canyon/flickr