It’s no secret that pregnant women have a long list of foods to avoid, but what about fish? We’re warned about the scary levels of mercury found in seafood but then we’re encouraged to get our omega-3’s in whenever we can. So what do we do? Let me break it down for you.
First things first – don’t avoid fish!
Let’s get one thing straight before we dive into the details. Avoiding fish altogether is not the answer. In fact, it’s great for you and baby’s diet. Because the human body does not naturally create omega-3 fatty acids like DHA, EPA, and ALA—all three of which are considered “essential,” the only way Mama can obtain these nutrients is through diet. In addition to the omega-3 fatty acids, fish also provides you with minerals like iron and it’s also a great protein option. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for baby’s brain function, healthy growth and development, and reducing inflammation. Deficiencies have been linked to a variety of health problems, which include some cardiovascular diseases, varying types of cancers, mood disorders, arthritis, and more.
And a note on fish-oil and omega-3 supplements: when you can, always choose whole foods rather than substituting with supplements. Just like how obtaining vitamins and minerals in the form of natural whole foods is way better than relying only on supplements, it’s always beneficial to incorporate foods that naturally contain omega-3’s. For this reason, it’s a great idea to incorporate fish with low mercury levels into your diet. And for mamas-to-be who don’t care for seafood, you can obtain your omega-3’s through foods like ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, canola oil, and soy oil.
So, what’s the deal with mercury?
Mercury is a type of metal that collects in natural bodies of water, where it turns into the neurotoxin, methlymercury. It is found in high levels in certain types of fish and is absolutely toxic to mom and baby’s nervous system and can even lead to serious birth defects. While one serving of fish with a high level of mercury is unlikely to pose a huge risk, it’s best to avoid these kinds of fish at all costs.
So this might be where people get lost. Because there are so many kinds of fish, and because restaurants don’t want to tell you that you’re consuming mass quantities of mercury, unless you research fish types, it’s hard to tell which types of fish are safe and which are not. So, let me make this easy on you! Here is helpful guide straight from the FDA on how to safely consume fish during your pregnancy.
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