Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

I read that pregnant women should eat more fish? Can you explain?

Hot off the presses! The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have just released advice for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding and young children, suggesting those groups eat more fish.

They do go on to state that the fish should be low in mercury, which is something that dietitians have been advising pregnant women for some time. When I had my children over 20 years ago, I was careful to avoid mercury containing fish.

The recommendations for those groups of people mentioned above is to consume at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces of a variety of low mercury fish per week. It is expected to benefit the growth and development of the baby. Young children should eat a “proportionately” smaller amount.

So which fish are safe? All fish contain at least trace amounts of mercury. There are four types that should be avoided by pregnant women, lactating women and children — swordfish, tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark and king mackerel. These four types are not often eaten so it is not a big concern according to the FDA. Most fish sold in the grocery store are acceptable.

Both agencies continue to advise pregnant and breast feeding women to eat no more than six ounces per week of white (albacore) tuna. Canned light tuna is lower in mercury than albacore tuna. They also recommend eating less than six ounces of locally caught fish per week and to follow local fish advisories with respect to fish caught locally. Children should eat no more than three ounces per week of locally caught fish. Locally caught includes those caught in rivers, streams, or lakes near you.

As with all foods, variety and moderation are the key. It is a good idea to include some fish in your weekly meal plan due to the many nutrients it provides as well as fatty acids that are beneficial.

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