It is said that mothers who ate seafood, such as fish, during pregnancy have given birth to children with higher IQs as compared to those who did not eat fish. This is due to the fact that seafood is a great source of protein and other nutrients: vitamins (vitamin D and choline), minerals (iron, zinc, iodine, copper, and selenium). Research studies indicate that the intake of seafood decreases the risk of premature births and the lower the weight of the baby.
Is Seafood Safe While Pregnant?
Some may say that it should be off-limits while you’re pregnant. Some say it’s no big deal. But the truth is there are many options for safe seafood while pregnant. The key is to avoid some offenders and rotate the good options.
Benefits Of Eating Seafood While Pregnant
- No doubt about it, seafood is some of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet.
- Protein & Iron:
Seafood is full of protein, of course, but also iron. Both of these are incredibly important in pregnancy. Higher levels of protein can also help with edema. For these reasons, fish consumption is encouraged while pregnant by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Trace Minerals:
Seafood is also high in iodine, selenium, and zinc. These nutrients support the mama’s endocrine system and are crucial for a baby’s growth and development.
- Omega 3’s:
Most importantly, seafood is high in the very valuable omega-3 fatty acids. These long-chained polyunsaturated acids are essential nutrients for the baby’s health and development.
How Much Seafood Can Pregnant Women Eat?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood a week. That’s a good two-to-three serving of seafood over the course of seven days.
Also, when possible remove the skin and always cook the fish thoroughly, which will reduce some environmental pollutants and risk for parasites.
List of Safe seafood While Pregnant
When choosing seafood to eat during pregnancy, this list is a good choice. These fish are very high in important nutrients and are low in mercury.
- Salmon: A fantastic and tasty source of omega-3 fatty acids
- Anchovies: Very economical and packed with healthy omega-3s
- Herring: One of the highest concentrations of DHA and EPA of any seafood
- Sardines: A top source of calcium, inexpensive and full of Omega 3’s
- Trout: A top source of Vitamin B12
- Atlantic mackerel: Rich in vitamin B6, selenium, and vitamin B12
- Oysters (cooked): The highest level of zinc in any food, they are also packed with Omega 3’s.
There are many more highly nutritious seafood options with low mercury levels that can be found here.
List Of Seafood to Avoid During Pregnancy
Now that we’ve talked about the benefits and listed some safe seafood while pregnant, let’s talk about some of the unsafe seafood choices. Mercury is an element that can collect in bodies of water, like oceans and lakes. In these places, mercury turns into methylmercury, a neurotoxin that we want to avoid in high quantities.
Generally speaking, larger, predatory fish contain high levels of methylmercury so we want to avoid the following seafood while pregnant:
Highest in Mercury:
- Orange roughy
- Tuna (Ahi)
- Mid to High in Mercury:
- Sea Bass
- Tuna (Canned Albacore*, Yellowfin)
By avoiding or significantly reducing these high and mid-level fish, we can still gain the benefits and enjoy the other sources of safe seafood while pregnant. It’s always advisable to consult your doctor before changing your diet.