Healthy Eating During Pregnancy

Health Benefits of Fish

Fish are full of healthy nutrients and are an important part of a balanced diet, particularly for pregnant women. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for the development of the brain and the nervous system of an unborn baby. Many fish contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and are safe for pregnant women, research suggests that omega- 3 fatty acids are more readily absorbed in the natural form rather than through dietary supplements, fish are also high in proteins and low in saturated fats.

According to an upcoming report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).Babies born to mothers, who eat fish while they are pregnant have a head start over other kids. The same report finds that consumption of fish particularly oily fish lowers the risk of coronary heart disease mortality. So fish isn’t only “brain food,” it is also “Heart Healthy”

Scientific research is clear about how the omega-3’s can reduce the risks of heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, low birth weight, post partum depression and pre-term delivery.

All fish are also a significant source of vitamin D and contribute valuable mineral nutrients to the diet such as selenium, iodine, magnesium, copper and iron.

Health Hazards of Fish

Fish is good but not all fish is the same; some fish may contain large amounts of methyl mercury, Biotoxins and Parasites. If fish that has high mercury content is taken regularly by a pregnant woman the mercury can accumulate in the bloodstream and damage the baby’s developing brain and nervous system. All fish contain some level of mercury, as it is present naturally in the aquatic environment.

Tips for eating fish safely

Fish contains too many health nutrients which are essential for growth and development of the unborn baby; therefore it should under no circumstances be cut out completely from the diet during pregnancy.

  • Women planning to become pregnant and those who already are pregnant should limit their consumption of fish which are known to accumulate mercury. Since the mercury in fish cannot be reduced by any processing or cooking techniques such as canning, cooking, freezing, frying, poaching or grilling, because it is bound to proteins in a fish’s muscle.
  • “Mom’s to be” should avoid eating shark, swordfish, mackerel king; these fish devour other fish and thus accumulate their mercury too. They also tend to live longer and accumulate more mercury over the passage of time. Only 1 serving (150g) of such a fish should be taken in a fortnight during pregnancy.
  • 1 serving (150g) of fish which are relatively lower in mercury for e.g. catfish or orange roughy (Deep Sea Perch) can be enjoyed once a week during pregnancy.
  • Women who are more concerned about the risks must benefit from fish that contain very low levels of mercury such as shellfish(for example oysters, clams, scallops, mussels) salmon, crab, shrimp, trout, herring haddock, sole, flounder, lobster. Only 12 ounces or 2 servings (1 serving is150 g) of fish in a week should be taken by an expectant mother who is low in mercury. Eating fish low in mercury and in moderation by an expectant mother, will give maximum benefit to the unborn child and the mother to be, because the benefits of eating fish during pregnancy far outweigh the risks.

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