Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a big change in the food recommendations made specifically for pregnant and breastfeeding moms and their children. Pregnant women are often discouraged from consuming certain foods (sushi, hot dogs, and goat’s milk cheese are among the many on the “do not eat” list) and seafood has long been a culinary category many expecting moms stay away from. Because some fish carry too-high mercury levels for safe consumption, many pregnant women nix seafood from their diets altogether. A recent FDA analysis shows that one in five US pregnant women eats little to no fish at all. To change the public perception about all fish being unsafe for a pregnant woman’s consumption, the FDA is attempting to raise the recommended minimum serving to eight ounces (two servings) a week for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, as well as children.
Why is seafood so important to a pregnancy diet? Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, play a vital role in positive fetal development, especially concerning brain tissue. Doctors site studies that show that children born to women who dined on fish while pregnant have higher I. Q.s and more advanced behavioral development—plenty of reasons to encourage pregnant women not to forgo fish completely. Fish varieties that are deemed low-mercury and safe for consumption include salmon, shrimp, cod, tilapia and light canned tuna. Albacore tuna has a higher mercury level than light canned tuna and therefore only has a recommendation of six ounces a week.
Though this regulation change is still in its exploratory phase, the FDA hopes to calm some of the anxieties that surround mothers concerned about mercury levels in fish. While Omega-3 supplements are available in most stores and can also be naturally found in walnuts, kale, spinach, and other green vegetables. Scientists warn that not all Omega-3s provide the same health and development benefits though, and that taking a daily dose of fish oil is not the same as eating a salmon filet for dinner. To find out what diet changes are best for you and your children, talk to your doctor about nutrition needs and what kinds of fish you can incorporate into your family’s diet for safe, healthy benefits for all.