We are not born nutrition experts and often do not worry too much about our nutritional intake. But when you are pregnant, it is a whole different story as what you eat has a direct effect on your baby’s development. We all know that seafood is a great source of protein, iron and zinc – very crucial nutrients for a baby’s growth and development. Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids in many fish are vital for your baby's brain development. Some types of seafood however, contain a high concentration of mercury.
Some things to know about mercury: Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and can also be released into the air through industrial pollution. Mercury falls from the air and can accumulate in streams and oceans and is turned into methylmercury in the water. It is this type of mercury that can be harmful to your unborn baby and young child. Fish absorb the methylmercury as they feed in these waters and so it builds up in them. It builds up more in some types of fish and shellfish than others, depending on what the fish eat, which is why the levels vary.
If you regularly eat types of fish that are high in methylmercury, it can accumulate in your blood stream over time. Methylmercury is removed from the body naturally, but it may take over a year for the levels to drop significantly. Thus, it may be present in a woman even before she becomes pregnant. This is the reason why women who are trying to become pregnant should also avoid eating certain types of fish.
So how do we strike a balance? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood a week that are lower in mercury. To err on the safe side, choose seafood that is low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acid, such as: - Scallop (yay!) - Salmon (hurray!) - Clams - Shrimp - Tilapia - Squid
Refer to this very useful link to sort the seafood species by mercury concentration levels:
Remember ladies, it doesn’t have to be that torturous watching your diet when you are pregnant!