We have long heard how healthy fish and shellfish are and that we should eat it at least twice a week. This is especially true when we are growing a new little person inside us. They need all this protein to grow they way they are supposed to. However, a few years ago, we started hearing about mercury in our fish. Suddenly, we had to be careful about what kind of fish we ate. Shellfish can be affected by toxins and red tides. What is a pregnant mom to do?
What to Avoid and Eat in Limited Quantities
When you are pregnant, stay away from tile fish, shark, swordfish, barracuda, red snapper, trout and mackerel. These fish tend to have more mercury in them than others. Tuna, another mercury magnet, should only be eaten occasionally. You also need to limit your intake of catfish, salmon, shrimp, and tilapia. They are safe to eat once or twice a week, but no more. Albacore tuna, the one you find most commonly in a can, should only be eaten once a week.
An easy way to remember what is safe and what is not is to think about what the fish eat. Predatory fish that eat other fish will tend to have a higher level of toxins in them than those fish that nibble on algae, detritus, and kelp. You also want to avoid raw fish and shellfish. They may contain harmful bacteria or viruses as well as pollution from some fishing areas.
If sushi is one of your favorite foods, stick to those options that use cooked fish. Cooking seafood properly can render some of these problems harmless. Even with the risks, the chances of getting sick from raw shellfish is about 1 in 250,000; compare that to 1 chance in 1,000,000 from getting sick from other types of seafood. Pay attention to local fishing advisories. Chemical spills, red tides and other occasional events may make certain types of local seafood unsafe for awhile.
According to the Experts
According to the Mayo Clinic, it may actually be more harmful to forego the nutrients you get from seafood than the harm that may result from mercury exposure. A study in Britain done in 2007 showed that women who ate 12 ounces or less of seafood per week were more likely to have babies that grew up to have more verbal and fine motor skill problems than women who ate more.
If you eat out at seafood restaurants frequently, choose busy restaurants when you are pregnant. Busy restaurants are going through their seafood quickly; it is not sitting around getting old. Use the way the dining room appears as a clue to how the kitchen probably looks. If the dining room is clean, chances are the kitchen is taken care of, too. Contamination occurs more easily in dirty kitchens than in clean kitchens.
The Benefits of Seafood
After you get past the fear factor, look at the nutrition you get from seafood. Not only does it help your baby develop to their full potential, it helps you maintain a healthy pregnancy so you can be strong after your baby is born. Seafood is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. When you get enough omega-3s, you can produce more DHA and EPA for your baby. These are acids that are important in the development of the brain and the eyes. Give your baby what he or she needs before they are born; eat enough of the right kinds of seafood.
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