Eating fish while pregnant needn’t produce anxiety. Fish gets bad press now and then because of concerns about mercury. I am the mother of a son with autism. I really get the concern about mercury. A recent draft report from the FDA and EPA now recommends 8-12 ounces (2-3 servings) of low mercury seafood per week for pregnant and nursing mothers and for young children. Previously, a limit of 140 grams (0.31 pounds) a week for pregnant or lactating women was recommended by the agencies. As concerned as one might be about eating fish while pregnant, limiting or eliminating fish from the diet is more worrisome.
Eating Fish While Pregnant: Why Should I?
First, let me say that I’m not a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional. I am a teacher. I work with young people whose brains are developing. Students’ cognitive fitness has never been more important at school. The Common Core State Standards is “raising the bar” for student performance as America’s students compete academically with students from other countries for college placement and, eventually, for jobs. Students are expected to remain focused in class and to tolerate copious testing–all without negative behaviors. Fish is brain food. You’ve probably heard that before. What you may not know is that one of the Omega 3 Fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), directly benefits nerve endings in the brain, according to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Fish, especially oily fish, contains Vitamin D, which improves cognitive function. Eating fish while pregnant, as long as it’s low-mercury fish as recommended by the FDA and EPA, is an investment in a child’s cognitive future.
The recent FDA/EPA report states that women are not eating enough fish and thus are not realizing health benefits that only fish can provide. The report summarized the results of a study that revealed that women who ate seafood while pregnant had children with higher IQs than women who avoided fish while pregnant.
So Which Fish Are Low in Mercury?
On this blog, I’ve always encouraged readers to eat Alaska seafood because it’s sustainable seafood. Now, I’m encouraging mothers and parents with young children to eat Alaska Seafood because it’s a sustainable and safe, low-mercury seafood. AlaskaSeafood.org responded quickly to the new FDA/EPA draft report: “Alaska is proud to offer a wide array of wild and healthy seafood, all with very low mercury levels including wild Alaska salmon, halibut, cod, Pollock, rockfish, sole, black cod, scallops…sole/flounder, and crab.” The organization added that seafood is “one of the best sources” of Omega 3s, which “cannot be be produced by the body and must be consumed in food.” Basically, Alaska seafood is considered safe, the above list of seafood is varied, and the quality of Alaska seafood is outstanding.
Which Fish Should I Avoid?
The FDA and EPA, in the previous and current reports, cautioned against shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tilefish, all of which are long-lived fish (older fish have larger stores of mercury). For any woman eating fish while pregnant, the long-lived fish should not be consumed. I do not eat these fish nor do I serve them to my family. Since methyl mercury exists in the atomosphere and in the ocean, I know it cannot be absolutely avoided, but I can limit my exposure by being judicious when selecting seafood. For me and for my family, Alaska seafood is definitely on my weekly shopping list.
What are your thoughts about fish and pregnancy or about serving fish to young children? Has serving and eating fish ever been a concern?
* I was not paid nor did I receive any form of compensation that influenced my opinions in this post.