Archive for Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Certain types of fish off-limits during pregnancy

August 30, 2006


Q: Last week's column made me start thinking about types of fish that pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid. Could you help?

A: Here are some guidelines that were shared in a recent newsletter that I receive called Tiny Tummies:

Don't stop eating fish and shellfish. They are nutritious and healthful for pregnant and nursing women and children. They are great sources of protein, low in saturated fat, minerals, and many offer heart-healthy omega-3 fats, which are vital for children's brain, nervous system and visual development.

Avoid fish high in mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal, which can be harmful to children and fetuses. The FDA recommends that women who are pregnant or might be pregnant, nursing mothers and young children avoid these fish completely: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish (also known as golden bass or golden snapper).

Here is a "Fish and Shellfish Guide for Women & Children" that Tiny Tummies compiled from the Monterery Bay Aquarium, FDA and Seafood Choices Alliance. They have compiled information about omega-3 fats (highest in oily, cold-water fish like salmon and herring) and which fish should be avoided because of their mercury content (large, long-lived, carnivorous fish like swordfish and shark). They also factored in the sustainability of fishing to seafood populations and the environment. The fish in bold indicates that it is a good source of omega-3 fats. An asterisk indicates fish is low in mercury but either overfished or poor choices for the environment because of the way they are caught or farmed.

"Fish and Shellfish Guide for Women & Children":

Fish and shellfish to eat regularly

Catfish (farmed)

Clams, mussels, oysters (farmed)

Cod, Pacific

Crab, Dungeness

Crab, snow

Crawfish (U.S. farmed)

Halibut, Pacific



Salmon (wild from Alaska)


Shrimp (from the U.S., farmed or wild)

Striped bass (farmed)

Sturgeon (farmed)

Tilapia (farmed)

Trout (farmed)

Tuna: Skipjack, chunk light canned tuna

Fish to eat sometimes

Black sea bass/perch (wild)

Black cod /sablefish /butterfish (wild Pacific)


Crab, king

Haddock (hook and line-caught)



Mahi mahi

Salmon (wild)



Sole (Pacific)

Snapper/rockfish (hook and line caught, Pacific)


Tuna: Albacore

Fish to avoid

Chilean Sea Bass

King Mackerel



Orange Roughy*

Salmon (farmed)*



Sole (Atlantic)*


Tilefish (also known as golden bass and golden snapper)

Tuna: Ahi, bluefin, yellowfin

Q: How much seafood should I eat?

A: The American Heart Assn. says we should eat at least two 3-ounce portions of seafood every week. Pregnant and nursing women can eat 8 to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish each week. Children over two can eat 2 or more ounces a week.

Also, foodborne illness and parasites are extremely risky for pregnant women and young children. To be safe, avoid raw fish and shellfish including raw oysters and raw fish in sushi.

Q: What about canned tuna and fish sticks?

A: The lowest mercury canned tuna is "chunk light" which is usually a smaller species of tuna called skipjack. Albacore tuna has slightly more mercury, so eat it just once a week.

Most commercial fish sticks are made from pollock, which is low in mercury.


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