What a shame it is that our polluted waters have made one of the leanest and healthiest protein sources on the planet – fish – practically too toxic to eat. Mercury is the main offender and, because it has been linked to poor neurological development in fetuses, nursing babies and young children, the FDA has issued strict guidelines regarding fish and seafood consumption for pregnant and nursing mothers as well as young children. The good news is that these guidelines have become somewhat relaxed.
Previously, experts recommended that women and children eat less than 12-ounces of fish and other seafood per week in order to avoid unhealthy mercury toxicity. However, these recommendations underestimated the healthy benefits of Omega-3s and other nutritional bonuses that come through a diet that prioritizes fish as an animal protein source.
For that reason, the FDA has issued new guidelines that recommend pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers eat at least 8 to 12 ounces of seafood per week, placing an emphasis on fish that are known to be lower in mercury. Furthermore, they recommend that young children consume fish on a weekly basis as well, with proportions that reflect the child’s size.
What You Need to Know About the Fish You Eat While Pregnant and Breastfeeding
So, here is what you need to know about the fish and seafood products you consume while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and to help keep your little ones healthy.
Eating fish benefits fetal development. The Omega 3s and other health benefits of fish are really good for your developing fetus and you! Says FDA’s Acting Chief Scientist Stephen Ostroff, M.D.,“We’re updating our advice because the latest science strongly indicates that eating 8 to 12 ounces per week of a variety of fish lower in mercury during pregnancy benefits fetal growth and development.” The reason for this is that fish, more than any other animal, have what are considered to be “high-quality” proteins and low saturated fat levels in addition to vitamins, minerals and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
Eat fish known to be low in mercury. The key to adding fish to your diet is to select seafood options that have lower levels of mercury. These fish include things like canned light tuna, tilapia, salmon, shrimp, pollock, catfish and cod. The good news is that the majority of the fish sold in your local grocery store have low mercury levels. When in doubt, check in with the meat department representative so they can verify it for you.
Avoid fish with high mercury levels. You definitely want to avoid fish and seafood that are known to have high mercury levels. These include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish that are caught in the gulf of Mexico.
The general consensus is that the health benefits of eating 8 to 12 ounces of seafood with low mercury levels far outweigh the health risks.
Interested in learning more about prenatal dietary and lifestyle information? Schedule an appointment with Overlake OB/GYN.