Just about everyone has at some point considered the following question: “Can I eat seafood when I’m pregnant?” The facts regarding this topic have been blurred over the years and many myths and rumors exist. The true answer to the question is a bit complex, but one that we think you’ll be happy with. The fact is, you CAN eat seafood while pregnant, but there are certain kinds of seafood to avoid and certain kinds, that if not eaten, could actually have an adverse effect on your child.
Let’s get the negative out of the way first. Delicious as they are, large game fish such as Mako Shark, Swordfish, and Mahi Mahi must be avoided during pregnancy. This is because large, predatory fish such as these contain very high levels of mercury when compared to that of their oceanic neighbors. Consuming these fish can cause mercury to build up on the expecting mother’s bloodstream. While this will not hurt the mother, it can have severely adverse effects on her child, with damage to the fetal brain and nervous system development being among the worst consequences.
It’s also important to avoid eating raw fish such as sushi as well as grouper, smoked or refrigerated seafood, Sea Bass, Mackerel, and Tilefish.
All right, we got the bad news out of the way. We’re feeling better already, and so will you after reading what we have to say now. There are many kinds of seafood which you should eat when pregnant. eating up to 12 ounces per week of fish such as non-Atlantic Salmon, Catfish, Cod, Herring, Anchovies, Sardines, Trout, Pollock, Tilapia, and Shrimp actually have the chance to provide great benefits to your child.
The aforementioned fish all have vital nutrients that are important for both mother and child. Nearly all of these fish, especially more oily fish such as the pregnancy-safe varieties of Salmon and Sardines are brimming with health-boosting Omega 3 fatty acids as well as other key nutrients such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin B3, calcium, protein, and iron. A woman’s need for iron her her diet doubles during pregnancy4 During pregnancy, a woman needs to take in 30 mg of iron per day. This makes up much of the hemoglobin in red blood cells which transport oxygen throughout the mother’s body and to the placenta. In turn, this helps the developing fetus to acquire health red blood cells. This is especially important during the mid-to-late periods of pregnancy when a fetus obtains a greater ability to build up iron in its system.
Recently performed studies have shown that the children of mothers who include pregnancy safe seafoods in their diets while pregnant have children who go on to have superior cognitive and motor skills at six months of age than those mothers who abstain from seafood entirely.2 There is also evidence to suggest that this lowers the risk of premature birth and to result in better vision and language skills at an earlier age.
In addition to the benefits provided to a fetus, a diet including seafood benefits mothers as well. Many of the more oily fish are high in a form of fat known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a specific Omega 3 fatty acid which helps to prevent postpartum depression. Eating fish containing DHA also helps to increase the amount of this element in a mother’s milk. A deficiency of this nutrient during the early days of nursing has been linked with cognitive impairments in children1.
Other fish, such as Albacore (white)Tuna and Atlantic Salmon may be eaten during pregnancy, but it is best to limit your intake of these fish to 6 ounces or fewer per week when pregnant. It’s also advised that mothers do not eat fish caught by themselves/their partners in the wild as there may be unknown toxins or pollutants in the waters where these fish are caught that you might be unaware of.
Now that we’ve shown you both sides of the eating seafood while pregnant coins and have helped to debunk some myths, we’d now like to share with you a delicious and pregnancy-safe recipe for Lemon Garlic Cod.
Lemon Garlic Cod
Ingredients: 4 6-oz cod portions, 2 tbsp of chopped leaf parsley, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1/2 tbsp of butter, juice from one lemon3
Directions: 1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees
2. Place the fish into a large glass baking pan and add sea salt and crushed pepper to taste
3. Put the butter and olive oil into a nonstick frying pan and add in the garlic cloves. Put on medium-low heat for about one minute.
4. Add the lemon juice and parsley to the oil mixture and stir together, after turning the heat off of the burner.
5. Drizzle the liquid mixture over the fish portions and bake for 12-14 minutes. It will be ready when the fish becomes flaky at the touch of a fork3.
1. Mayo Clinic Staff
Pregnancy and Fish – What’s Safe to Eat?
2. Cunningham, Eleese
Seafood Dos and Don’ts When Pregnant
3. Haynes, Fiona
Lemon Garlic Cod
4. Niles, Karen