Pregnant Women and Children Should Eat More Fish, Says Everyone

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Look. I don’t need scientists, doctors or the FDA to twist my arm into ordering shrimp and lobster fajitas the next time I’m out to dinner. But it’s refreshing to know everyone is finally in agreement that eating fish and shellfish every week is extremely beneficial to everyone’s health, especially growing babies in and out of utero, and children.

In 2014, the FDA updated their recommendation because the “latest science strongly indicates that eating 8 to 12 ounces per week of a variety of fish lower in mercury during pregnancy benefits fetal growth and development,” says FDA’s Acting Chief Scientist Stephen Ostroff, M.D.

Fish and shellfish are nutrient dense foods, and contain high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fish during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and in early childhood can be especially important for a child’s brain growth and development.

Just how important? Mothers who consumed more than 500 grams of seafood a week during pregnancy had children that scored higher on cognitive tests and had reduced outcomes of Autism and ASD over mothers who did not consume any fish, according to this Spanish study. As if having smart kids wasn’t enough of a reason, this study found babies whose mother’s took 600mg daily of DHA (a long chain omega-3 fatty acid) had longer gestation duration, greater birth weight, length, and head circumference, over placebo controls. The DHA group had fewer infants born before 34 weeks, and shorter hospital stays for infants born preterm than did the placebo group. Seriously, this is a win-win.

It is still recommended to avoid the fish with the highest levels of methylmercury: Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, orange roughy, ahi tuna and bigeye tuna. The rule of thumb is the bigger the fish, the higher up on the food chain, so the more mercury it has been able to absorb. As for tuna, not all types of the fish are considered low mercury: only canned light tuna is recommended. Pregnant or nursing mothers should limit their consumption to no more than six ounces of canned light tuna per week, with children being 4 ounces per week. In all, it is best to vary the type of fish you eat weekly, just like it’s best to vary all the foods you eat anyways.

Here is the nutritional rundown:

Shellfish

Clams, oysters and mussels are a great source for iron. For example, a 3-ounce (85 gram) serving of clams has 22g of protein and 23 mg of iron, which is 132% of the DV. By contrast, a 3.5 oz serving of spinach only has 3.6 mg of iron. I never had any anemia while I was pregnant because I always kept a can of clam chowder close by. Additionally, clams also has 84 mcg of vitamin B12 which is 1401% of the DV. A one cup serving of lobster has only 1g of fat but nearly 30g of protein. Lobster also impresses with high amounts of vitamin B12, copper and selenium.

Salmon

Salmon is a great fatty fish. A serving of half of a filet (about 154g) contains 13g of fat and an impressive 39g of protein. Salmon is high in niacin, folate, vitamin B6, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium. But where this fish really shines is in the Omega department: salmon contains 4000 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids and 339 mg of Omega-6 fatty acids.

Tilapia and Pollock

These white fish are fun to season and are generally less fishy tasting than the fattier fish. A 4 oz portion of tilapia would give you 28g of protein and only 4g of fat. Half of a filet of pollock is higher in protein, at around 38g per serving, and 2g of fat. Pollock gives more in terms of vitamins and minerals: it has a good amount of niacin, vitamin B6 and 93% of the daily value for vitamin B12. The white fish also boasts decent amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, plus is packed with over 861mg of Omega-3 fatty acids, and 18mg of Omega-6 fatty acids.

Canned Light Tuna 

Tuna is one fish that swam out of the sea and is found in most people’s food pantries. And for good reason, a one-cup serving of tuna is only 1g of fat but 39g of protein. It’s loaded with niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, iron, and selenium. As for the Omegas, it has 433mg of Omega 3 and 13mg of Omega 6. Pretty good nutrition for a quick lunch. Just remember to make sure the label reads “Canned Light”. Canned light tuna can be sneaky as it’s right next door to Albacore tuna and Skipjack tuna on the shelf, which are both higher in mercury content.

Shrimp

I’m new to loving shrimp, but my love for them is running deep and honestly I’m surprised I found love this late in life. TRIGGER Shrimp aren’t pretty to look at, so do yourself a favor and don’t look up a picture of them in their natural state. Trust me. But these little things are pretty healthy as it turns out: A 3 oz serving has only 1g of fat but 18g of protein. Those little bodies are filled with vitamin B12, niacin, choline, iron, phosphorus, selenium and a fair amount of cholesterol. It turns out though that not all cholesterol is bad, and shrimp’s cholesterol coupled with its practically zero saturated fat make it a pretty good source of protein (provided you aren’t eating battered and fried shrimp). No, we would never do that…

What’s your favorite fish?

1 COMMENT

  1. This is a great article, and I WANT to eat fish (and feed it to my kids) for all the omega 3’s & 6’s, but the mercury thing freaks me out. Where can I find up-to-date information on mercury levels in sea food? As much as I want the health benefits, I feel irresponsible eating something when I don’t know the risk-to-benefit ratio. Can we get into that, in future articles? I totally volunteer to collaborate on that!