In fact, eating fish while pregnant is preferable, according to Dr. Mary Harris, professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University. Harris says, “In research that studied maternal nutrition and how it affected babies, moms who ate the least amount of fish during pregnancy had babies with the lowest brain and eye test scores.” Adding, “Women who plan to become pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding are encouraged to eat two to three servings of cooked seafood each week, of which half (6 ounces) can be albacore tuna.”
Harris also says moms who eat three servings of fish each week have the brainiest babies; they speak earlier and have better social skills. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study suggesting that, “Compared with women who ate the least fish, women with the highest fish intake (two ounces per day on average) had children 25 percent more likely to have higher developmental scores at six months and almost 30 percent more likely to have higher scores at 18 months.”
While it’s important to eat seafood during and after pregnancy, there are certain types of fish you should avoid.
Shark, king mackerel, tilefish and swordfish should not be consumed by pregnant and breastfeeding women because they contain high levels of mercury. Mercury is always a concern for pregnant women, but Harris stresses that all fish contain naturally-occurring trace amounts of mercury, and there have been no documented cases of illness from mercury due to eating commercial seafood.
The Omega 3’s found in seafood are important for everyone’s health, including children. Harris says Omega 3’s are “essential for human health” and notes that our bodies cannot produce them on their own, therefore they must be ingested through food. Seafood is an excellent source of Omega 3’s, especially DHA, a fatty acid found to be “extremely critical to brain development and health.”
If you’re a vegetarian, you can get DHA from fortified eggs, and if you’re vegan, try algae. Worried about how to get your kids to eat fish? Vanessa Druckman of ChefDruck.com says, “I like to refer to salmon as the princess fish, because it’s pink.” That’ll certainly work for little girls. For boys, just tell them that salmon is King.
For more information, take a look at A Seafood Lover’s Guide to Pregnancy.