Thursday, December 31, 2009

Seafood and Pregnancy

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of All opinions are 100% mine.

Sometimes it's just so confusing trying to figure out what foods are good for you and what foods aren't. First there's a study saying a particular food causes cancer or some other unwanted disease or side effect, and the next week another study says that that same food is beneficial in all kinds of ways. One food I'm sure you've heard differing opinions about is seafood. First you hear that seafood, and particularly fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids, is essential for good health and should be eaten at least 3 times a week. Then you hear that some seafood contains high levels of mercury and should be avoided, especially by pregnant women. It's hard to know what to do. Is eating fish really dangerous to unborn babies?

I personally love tuna, and we all love salmon. Since it's been so many years since I was pregnant (my baby is 17), I honestly don't remember how much tuna I ate when I was pregnant. I've been reading some of the scientific studies on the healthy tuna website, and I really wish I had made a point of eating tuna or salmon more while I was pregnant. There are all kinds of benefits to both the mother and the baby when a pregnant woman eats seafood at least 3 times a week. Marine foods like fish are the only naturally rich source of a special omega-3 fatty acid called DHA, which is needed for the very best possible brain and eye development in babies. Seafood is a great source of lean protein and is high in Vitamin D and Calcium which are very important for a healthy pregnancy.

The Featured Study mentions research that shows pregnant women who ate fish at least 3 times per week were 50% less likely to develop symptoms of depression than those who ate no seafood. The study says:
Depression during pregnancy can have serious effects on a woman's health and that of her baby; emerging science suggests that depression during pregnancy may increase the risk of:
  • Having a caesarian section
  • Delivering a premature or low-birth-weight baby
  • Lowering cognitive test scores and babies' brain and behavior development
  • Having depression after pregnancy
I'm not the only one who didn't realize what benefits could be gained by eating more fish, because the study also says that, on average, American women eat one sixth of the recommended amount.

All the health benefits sound great, don't they? But what about the mercury we've heard about? Isn't it dangerous for pregnant women to eat seafood? Do the benefits really outweigh the risks? There's a nice report called Seafood Choices: Balancing Risks and Benefits that really helps with that. There's a nice chart that shows how much mercury is in a 3-ounce serving of different types of seafoods consumed in the U.S. along with the estimated EPA/DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) intake for each. The recommendation seems to be that women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or who are breastfeeding should avoid large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, or king mackerel - because the mercury content is high while the benefits are fairly low, comparatively. Fish like salmon and light tuna are high in EPA/DPA and very low in mercury content - as well as being affordable and convenient when you buy canned.

After reading some of the health benefits of eating fish, I'm thinking I need to make more of an effort to include it in our diet. 3 times a week? No, I'm not pregnant, but I'm thinking I need to get more Vitamin D and Calcium in my diet, and eating seafood is also supposed to reduce the risk of future cardiovascular disease.

What about you? Do you eat seafood? What are some good ways to include enough of it in your diet?

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