You probably already know about the heart health benefits of eating fish. But, did you know that same seafood also offers health benefits for your growing baby? There is a lot of misinformation about eating seafood while pregnant and breastfeeding. As fish-loving dietitian-nutritionists who work with the National Fisheries Institute, we’re here to set the record straight and help you navigate the murky waters of pregnancy nutrition.
Fish is a Key Part of a Healthy Pregnancy Diet
As an expectant mom, you want to eat the right foods for a healthy and bright baby. Lots of moms know about the importance of calcium, fruits and veggies, and protein, but many women don’t realize the value of eating seafood while pregnant and how much of it they should be eating. Extensive research shows that eating fish 2 to 3 times a week can deliver significant health benefits for mom and baby, from a healthy heart and reduced anxiety during and after pregnancy to optimal baby brain and eye development. Avoiding fish during pregnancy can mean missing out on critical nutrients like omega-3s.
The Benefits of Eating Fish Don’t End When Your Baby is Born
Eating seafood is important for your child’s growth and development. Regularly eating fish increases the amount of omega-3s, such as DHA, in mom’s breast milk. Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who ate at least 2 to 3 seafood meals per week during their pregnancy reached milestones earlier than babies whose mothers ate little or no fish. TIME recently published an article on The 50 Healthiest Foods of All Time (With Recipes) that highlighted the benefits of eating seafood for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding: “Choosing fish rich in essential Omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna-and even canned tuna-can promote immunity, heart health and may even lessen postpartum depression.”
Dealing With Pregnancy Cravings
Incorporating seafood into your diet while pregnant can even help ease your pregnancy cravings. Scouring the grocery aisles for something sweet? Try drizzling a cranberry glaze over your salmon. In the mood for something salty? Adding some walnuts to your tuna salad may do the trick.
How Much Fish Should I Eat?
Recent reports show that pregnant women in the U.S. are not consuming the recommended amounts of fish. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding eat at least 8 and up to 12 ounces (or 2-3 meals) of a variety of seafood per week. There are only four rarely eaten fish that pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid—shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. All other fish can—and should—be enjoyed for your, and baby’s, optimal health.
Rima Kleiner, MS, RD and Jennifer McGuire, MS, RD share the latest in seafood science, news and recipes on Dish on Fish. Follow them on Twitter @DishOnFish
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed by Rima Kleiner, Jennifer McGuire, and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM) or any employee thereof. PAM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Rima Kleiner and Jennifer McGuire. Consult with your own medical provider regarding your individual health questions or concerns.
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