Enjoy seafood safely when pregnant

Seafood can be a great source of nutrition during pregnancy. Learn more about food safety guidelines for pregnancy and seafood consumption.

Prepared salmon on a dinner plate.
Photo: Pixabay.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), fish can be a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and iron. These nutrients are important for brain development and support the growth of the fetus. While fish can be a great source of nutrients for you and your developing baby, some fish may contain high amounts of mercury. Too much mercury in the bloodstream during pregnancy may be harmful to the baby's developing brain and nervous system.

What is the seafood recommendation during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the FDA and the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces of a lower-mercury seafood variety each week, which is approximately 2-3 servings of seafood.

So what fish types are lower in mercury and safe to eat?

According to the FDA, these varieties are lower in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Salmon.
  • Anchovies.
  • Herring.
  • Sardines.
  • Freshwater trout.
  • Pacific mackerel.
  • Shrimp.
  • Pollock.
  • Tilapia.
  • Cod.
  • Catfish.
  • Canned light tuna.

*The FDA recommends limiting white (albacore) tuna and tuna steaks to six ounces per week.

Other seafood varieties and safety

Some fish should be completely avoided: shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and any raw and smoked fish. This includes raw sushi. These types of seafood are often high in mercury and other toxins. It is also important to check with your local health department environmental representative to determine if locally caught fish are safe to eat and in what amounts. Per the FDA, limit fish from local waters to six ounces per week if there are no advisories.

Remember to cook seafood to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit before consuming.

For more information, resources and articles on food safety during infancy, visit MSU Extension's Safe Food = Healthy Babies website.

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