A Dietitian’s Perspective on Why Pregnant Women Should be Adding More Fish to their Diet

Pregnancy is full of blanket statements, especially when it comes to what we should and should not eat. As an expecting mother who wants the best for their growing human, it’s often the easiest and safest bet to simply follow these blanket statement “food rules” without thinking twice.

Unfortunately, following some of these food rules can actually make it more likely that you’re missing out on essential nutrients that would otherwise contribute positively to your baby’s development and long term health. With that, I’m here to talk about eating fish while pregnant.

My intention is to debunk the myth that pregnant women shouldn’t eat fish and to help you understand how to make informed choices about the fish you eat while pregnant so that you can continue to enjoy these foods and have the confidence that you’re providing your baby with a nutritional powerhouse that will benefit their overall health – now and in the future!

To begin, where did this blanket statement myth that pregnant women shouldn’t eat fish come from? It all originated from concerns around the mercury levels in seafood and the increased possibility of food borne illnesses that come when eating raw seafood. While it is true that top of the food chain fish such as bigeye tuna, shark, tilefish, swordfish and king mackerel can have elevated methyl mercury levels that can harm the extra-sensitive developing fetus, other types of fish including Wild AK salmon, rockfish and black cod pose no such threats. The benefits actually outweigh the risks on many levels.

Now, eating raw fish that doesn’t pose a mercury threat, such as Wild AK salmon, comes down to personal choice. If your salmon comes from a trusted source, many women choose to continue to eat their sushi salmon rolls or poke bowls. Others choose to cook their fish to omit the risk. If you are eating raw fish, you can take the extra measure to confirm that it has been flash frozen and handled properly to avoid food-borne illness potential. Just like with all foods, it’s valuable to be able to buy from sources you trust!

Since we now know that there are really delicious sources of fish that can be included in a pregnant woman’s diet, without posing a risk for mercury exposure, let’s explore some of the most notable benefits of including Wild AK Salmon and other fish in your diet:

The importance of Omega-3 fats, specifically DHA is elevated during pregnancy. This is because DHA is essential for a baby’s developing brain and eye tissue. Our body cannot make DHA, so it’s essential to get it from our diet.

Current guidelines recommend at least 300mg of DHA per day during pregnancy, but some research shows up to 2,200 could be beneficial. One 3-oz serving of Alaska King Salmon provides 1476mg DHA, with Alaska Rockfish coming in at 300mg per 3oz serving.

Research shows that consuming dietary sources of Omega 3 fats, such as those in Wild Alaska Salmon also have positive impacts on reducing inflammation, improving immunity, reducing the prevalence of premature birth and even reducing the risk of maternal depression.

Beyond the Omega-3 and DHA benefits, including Wild Alaska salmon, Alaska Rockfish and Alaska Blackcod in a prenatal diet provides lean sources of protein and valuable doses of selenium (supports thyroid function), potassium (important for the management of hormones) and B vitamins (play a vital role in many levels of fetal development).

As a dietitian, I wish that the more commonly heard blanket statement regarding fish consumption during pregnancy would be that pregnant women should be adding MORE fish to their diet. However, just like with all foods, it’s smart to be picky about where we get these fish and what kinds are best for us. As someone who is currently 8 months pregnant, I have been very intentional about adding Wild Caught Alaska salmon, Alaska rockfish and Alaska black cod to my diet – now more than ever.

For more information and research on this topic, see the report from Alaska Seafood.org: “Alaska Seafood and Healthy Moms and Babies.”

Guest Author: Uriell Carlson, RDN. You can check out more great advice and nutrition tips at her company Inner Wild Nutrition

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