Mamas-to-be and fish have historically had a tough relationship with each other. Depending on who you ask, you’ll receive a different opinion, from ‘I didn’t eat fish at all’ to ‘I only ate canned tuna’ to ‘I ate fish four time a week and my babies fine’. It’s hard to know just whose advice to take and whose set aside.
The controversy surrounding pregnant mamas eating fish is rooted in the link between mercury and their growing baby’s nervous system. Many studies have found that high levels of mercury can damage the brain development and nervous system of growing babies, but that shouldn’t mean that mamas should write off fish completely. Fish contains necessary nutrients, vital to the health of both mama and baby.
In this excerpt from Mama You’ve Got This, an honest guide to pregnancy, Melissa Schweiger Kleinman, offers her thoughts on how to enjoy fish whilst pregnant.
Do I need to cut out all fish from my pregnancy diet?
No, in fact fish can be very good for your baby’s brain development. It’s widely known that the long chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, DHA in particular, set the foundation for healthy brain development. Studies have also shown that those omegas are best absorbed by the body via diet as opposed to supplements, so eating fish has some amazing health benefits. It’s really just about choosing the right types of fish whilst pregnant.
Which fish are pregnancy safe?
The fish that should be avoided are mostly the large, predatory fish, which eat smaller fish and live longer, making them more likely to contain higher levels of mercury. These include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Albacore tuna has more mercury than light tuna, so it’s advised to limit your intake to 170 grams a week. Other than those restrictions you’re encouraged to eat up to 340 grams a week of the lower mercury fish and shellfish, which include prawns, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish. Just make sure they’re cooked!
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