Many Americans do not eat a diet high in fish, despite the health benefits of eating seafood. Some folks avoid it because they see a burger as the tastier option, but others may be afraid of the mercury that is found in seafood, a concern that is especially prevalent for expecting and new moms. Yet seafood can be particularly beneficial to pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as their babies. Fish has excellent nutritional value – it’s high in protein, low in saturated fat, contains many vitamins and minerals, and it’s the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. There are great benefits to eating fish during pregnancy.
Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids are an important component to brain development in growing fetuses and breastfed babies. The issue for new and expecting moms is finding fish that is safe, and then eating enough to benefit themselves and their babies.
Luckily, the Food and Drug Administration is here to help and has drafted the following current advice regarding eating fish during pregnancy:
- Eat 8 – 12 ounces (2 – 3 servings) of fish varieties per week.
- Choose fish low in mercury (e.g. salmon, tilapia, shrimp, light canned tuna, catfish, cod, pollock)
- Avoid fish that are higher in mercury (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish) and limit white albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week.
- If you choose to catch your own fish in a lake, stream, or river, check local advisories for safety updates. If information is unavailable, limit your intake of locally caught fish to 6 ounces or less per week and refrain from eating other fish for that week.
- Avoid raw or undercooked meat or fish (such as sushi)
Perhaps one reason most women do not eat the currently recommended amount of fish is that they believe taking omega-3 supplements is enough; however, fish comes with a whole array of health benefits that are not available in omega-3 supplements alone. Your best bet is to follow the recommendations of the FDA regarding eating fish during pregnancy. Look for some great recipes online to help you get excited about preparing fish, and supplement your main course with healthy side dishes. If you’re not into cooking, consider going out for a seafood meal. Even if you are used to eating lots of meat and poultry, you may find that it doesn’t take long to appreciate this lean, nutritious, and delicious alternative.