It is safe to eat seafood when pregnant?

19 May

While teaching a nutrition class last week I was asked if it was saved for pregnant women to eat fish. Pregnant women are bombarded with lists of things they can’t eat, and misinformation about seafood abounds. But the truth is that pregnant women can and should eat fish (with a few exceptions) according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and other studies.

Why eat fish? Pregnant women should aim to eat eight to 12 ounces of safe seafood a week. Here’s why.

• Fish is full of protein and iron. Pregnant women need at least 27 milligrams of iron a day (up from 18 milligrams pre-pregnancy) to help prevent anemia, and 71 grams of protein daily (up from 46 grams) to support the baby’s growth and a woman’s own physical changes.

•You and your baby need omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish like wild salmon and sardines are high in Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful with decreasing inflammation and also help with infant brain development.images[6]

•Food aversions may narrow your diet. Expectant mothers should eat a wide variety of healthy foods, but pregnancy may limit your food tolerances. Fish is a nutrient-rich food, and expectant mothers should add it to their diets if it appeals to them. Talk to your doctor to see if you should take a fish or flaxseed oil supplement if you cannot tolerate fish.

What fish is safe? Avoid seafood high in methyl mercury and other environmental toxins when pregnant. Methyl mercury can damage brain, kidney and central nervous system development of the fetus. It is a toxic chemical and it builds up most commonly in predatory species of fish. Mercury is both naturally occurring in our environment and also results from industrial pollution. When it falls from the air and accumulates in water, it becomes methyl mercury. Some fish accumulate more methyl mercury than others, depending on their diet, habitat, size and longevity. Here’s what seafood to eat, and what to avoid.

. Eat eight to 12 ounces per week: Tilapia, Cod, salmon (excluding that from the Atlantic), crab, shrimp, sardines, and canned light tuna.
. Eat up to six ounces per week: Albacore or “white” tuna, and Atlantic salmon.
. Avoid: Shark, swordfish, king Mackerel, tilefish, raw fish (sushi, sashimi, ceviche and carpaccio), and refrigerated smoked seafood.

Also ask if your fish is farm raised or line caught. Farm-raised fish has less potential contaminants, but it may be corn fed, so the nutrients may not be as high. Check local advisories for food safety alerts before eating locally caught fish. When in doubt, limit your consumption of local seafood to 6 ounces a week.

Quality fish has these characteristics: Bright, clear eyes, intact scales, a fresh or mild salt water scent, firm to the touch with flesh that springs back when pressed, cold (39°F) with no ice crystals. Refrigerate fish quickly after purchase, consume it within a day or two of purchase, and cook it to an internal temperature of about 145ºF to reduce your risk of food poisoning.

Enjoy fish and the nutritional boost it provides you and your growing baby.

For more information about eating fish while pregnant visit:

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