This past weekend, the FDA and EPA issued new advice regarding eating fish for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. This was released to help women make informed choices about which fish are safe to eat when trying to conceive or are pregnant. The guidelines also emphasize the importance and the health benefits of eating a minimum amount of fish weekly.
Fish and shell-fish have nutrients that help with a developing fetus’ growth and development. Also, for the adult woman, eating fish and shell-fish has cardiac benefits and lowers the risk of obesity.
The guidelines list some of the nutritional benefits of eating fish and shellfish. These vital nutrients include:
- Healthy omega-3 fats (called DHA and EPA)
- More vitamin B12 and vitamin D than any other type of food
- Iron which is important for infants, young children, and women who are pregnant or who could become pregnant
- Other minerals like selenium, zinc, and iodine
The guidelines suggest that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consume between 8-12 ounces of seafood which are low in mercury each week.
In terms of the amount of fish, the guidelines suggest 2 to 3 – 4oz. servings per week. One easy way to estimate this amount is that a 4oz. serving is about the size of the palm of your hand.
Which fish are safe to consume is always a big question that the guidelines attempt to simplify. Fish and shell-fish are divided into categories of low, medium and high levels of mercury. Nearly all local New England seafood are in the low levels of mercury category. These include cod, haddock, and all NewEngland shellfish. Other commonly eaten fish in the low mercury category include halibut, salmon, flounder, herring and canned light tuna.
A few commonly consumed fish in the high mercury category include swordfish, marlin,shark, tilefish and big eye tuna.Further details can be found in the following links
This advice supports the recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, developed for people 2 years and older, which reflects current science on nutrition to improve public health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans focuses on dietary patterns and the effects of food and nutrient characteristics on health. For advice about feeding children under 2 years of age, you can consult the American Academy of PediatricsExternal Link Disclaimer.
‡ THIS ADVICE REFERS TO FISH AND SHELLFISH COLLECTIVELY AS “FISH” / ADVICE REVISED JULY 2019
*Some fish caught by family and friends, such as larger carp, catfish, trout and perch, are more likely to have fish advisories due to mercury or other contaminants. State advisories will tell you how often you can safely eat fish.