Fishing Through Nutrition Advice
If you’re pregnant, you might feel like you need to become a nutrition expert- or at least everyone around you has given himself or herself the honorary title and wants to share their knowledge with you. After all, what you eat and drink influences your baby’s development. Some advice is easier to understand than others, such as eliminating alcohol from your diet. The good news is there are lots of foods out there you should have more of while pregnant and breastfeeding. You might be surprised to learn one of these foods is fish (cooked). Here’s why:
What Science Says
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have drafted NEW advice on fish recommendations in an attempt to encourage young children, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, and those who are breastfeeding, to eat more fish. Their new recommendation is for these women and young children to eat a 8 to 12 ounces (2-3 servings) of fish weekly, from a variety of fish lower in mercury. This change comes from a review of the latest science which which shows that eating fish low in mercury during pregnancy and in early childhood can help with growth and cognitive development.
The Health Benefits of Fish
Fish is an excellent source of protein and iron, both critical nutrients for fetal growth and development. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids found in many fish can promote brain development. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids and must be obtained from food sources. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are types of omega-3 fatty acids and are found mainly in fish that many of us are already eating, such as salmon and canned tuna.
Most fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and can also be released into the air through industrial pollution. Mercury falls from the air and can accumulate in streams and oceans and is turned into methylmercury in the water. Fish absorb the methylmercury as they feed in these waters and so it builds up in them. Large fish –such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish- pose the greatest risk of mercury contamination. Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. Another commonly eaten fish, albacore (“white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna.
If you love eating fish like I do, there’s no reason to stop eating it when you’re pregnant or stop serving it to your little ones. Not a fish fan? Then talk to your doctor about an omega-3 supplement. You don’t want baby to miss out on the visual and cognitive health benefits of this important nutrient.