USDA Says Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Should Eat More Fish
The United States Department of Agriculture released new dietary guidelines today recommending that Americans eat more fish. This recommendation is particularly important for pregnant and breastfeeding women since new research shows that nutrients found in seafood play an important factor in babies’ brain and eye development.
Everyone one needs to eat at least 8 to 12 ounces of fish (that’s 2 to 3 servings) a week. The average American eats one serving of seafood a week and pregnant and/or breastfeeding women eat less than one half of a serving of seafood a week, according to the National Fisheries Institute .
Limiting or avoiding seafood during pregnancy can result in suboptimal brain development, slower eye development, and lower rates of positive birth outcomes, says Dr. J. Thomas Brenna, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University. Mothers also benefit from eating 2 to 3 servings of fish per week, as some research shows that the nutrients can reduce pre-partum and postpartum depression.
However, these recommendations only apply to eating fish as a whole food, rather than substituting the food for a fish-oil supplement. Supplements lack the other nutrients found in fish.
Eating omega-3 fatty acids found in fish also decreases the risk of heart disease. “By giving people fish as food you’re doing so much more since you’re getting rid of foods that would have had a detrimental effect on cardiac disease,” says Dr. Louis Aronne, internist and director of Comprehensive Weight Program at Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and clinical professor of medicine at Cornell University.
The Federal Drug Administration tells pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoiding eating fish like Shark, Tilefish, Swordfish, and King Mackerel that have higher levels of mercury. (Yet, Dr. Brenna says that those toxicological effects were hypothetical and we, as consumers, should be positive about encouraging more consumption of seafood.)
A quick and easy way to add seafood to your diet is to swap out the same old proteins in your favorite recipes.
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