USDA Says Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Should Eat More Fish

shrimpThe 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.

Check out some of our favorite fish recipes:

Find out more information about the new USDA dietary guidelines here.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Parents Magazine, Bébé miam homelybaby. Bébé miam homelybaby said: RT@parentsmagazine: USDA:pregnant&bfeeding women shld eat 2-3 servings of fish/w. Ave intake now=less than 1/2 serving/w http://su.pr/1aRyvM [...]

  2. by concerned mama

    On February 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    This is ridiculous. The USDA report tells women to eat more fish, but emphasizes the importance of choosing low mercury species. These include:wild salmon, oysters, trout, sardines. Omega-3 fortified eggs, canola oil and walnuts are good vegetarian (and low mercury) sources.

  3. by Theresa

    On February 1, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    WEll when I was pregnant and even after Fish and Seafood made me vomit all the time. Even if Id try two pieces of shrimp. And I loveeee shrimp and seafood. They tell us its good to eat but there has to be a good reason it makes us vomit. They say your body when ur pregnant expells things ur body doesnt need and craves things and nutrients it needs.

  4. by Babita

    On February 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Seafood 3 times a week for mothers who are
    Breast feeding. It’s good for babies brain/eye development
    Read more …

  5. by Stephanie

    On February 1, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I eat seafood all the time. Either fresh or canned I eat what I like. I stay away from what I consider to be bottom feeders since I think of them as the garbage disposals of the sea but I don’t think twice about having salmon for dinner or the occasional trip to my favorite sushi place. I’m 35 weeks pregnant this week and my baby is doing great!

  6. by Penguins baby

    On February 1, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    So…. you are saying that bag of oreos you crave and eat all of , you are craving it because it has some sort of nutritional benefit? They say They say They say a lot of things. I have healthy babies after craving fish and eating fish. Our cravings must completely contradict each others, are yours right because you shouldnt eat fish or are mine right because you should eat fish?