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Fish Smarts for Pregnant Women

fish salmon salad

Which fish should pregnant women eat? For optimal health, the key is looking at both mercury content and omega-3 fatty-acid levels.

Eating too much of certain kinds of fish when pregnant can result in excess mercury for your baby’s developing brain. This risk has caused many U.S. women to avoid fish entirely — 21 percent, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — and 50 percent eat only a quarter or less of the agency’s recommendations.

So, how does a woman who’s pregnant, breastfeeding, or feeding her children fish choose wisely? Earlier this year, the FDA released new seafood guidelines to help clear the muddy waters. The agency recommends “women of childbearing age” (defined as 16 to 49) eat two to three 4-ounce servings a week of low-mercury seafood it classifies as “best choices.”

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., goes one step further with its consumer seafood guide, which factors in both mercury content and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to support a developing brain.

“The seafood advice from the FDA and EPA should be much more detailed and specific, to help women balance the harm from mercury and the benefits of omega-3s,” EWG senior analyst Sonya Lunder said last year in response to the government’s draft guidelines.

According to EWG, the seafood that is lowest in mercury and richest in omega-3 fatty acids includes:

  • Wild salmon
  • Sardines
  • Mussels
  • Rainbow trout
  • Atlantic mackerel

For more smart seafood choices, watch for “How to Choose Seafood That’s Nutritious, Sustainable — and Safe” in our June 2017 issue. Hear more healthy-pregnancy tips in our podcast “A Guide to Healthy Pregnancy With Latham Thomas & Heather White,” from our 2014 Healthy Revolution Conference.

is Experience Life’s managing editor.