Just Keep Swimming…and Eating Fish: why eating fish during pregnancy is a good thing
Your brain is fat.
Seriously. It’s largely made up of fat—primarily the omega 3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
What’s good for you is almost always good for baby. So, it’s no surprise to know that DHA is also essential in aiding fetal brain function and development. Developing fetuses also need omega 3 fatty acids to promote healthy brain and eye development…and potentially to become smarter and more athletic later on in life.
Unfortunately, women have been told for years to avoid fish (a major source of DHA) when trying to conceive, pregnant, or lactating. Even when we consider omega-3 supplementation (which is generally recommended for expecting mothers), it’s worth wondering:
Can fish be a healthy part of a pregnancy diet as a way to boost DHA levels?
Eating Seafood for Smarter Babies
Studies have shown that children born to moms who regularly eat low mercury fish score 2 to 6 points higher on intelligence tests than those of mothers who ate little to no fish during pregnancy and lactation. But according to one analysis from the FDA, over 20% of women surveyed ate no fish at all. The majority who did, ate far less than the suggested guidelines.
What does this all mean for pregnant women?
Try to get 8-12 ounces of low mercury fish per week. Your best choices: wild caught salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and herring. For the sake of thoroughness, I should mention that omega-3 fatty acids are susceptible to oxidative damage, but Vitamin E can prevent this. So when you take omega-3 fatty acids, make sure you’re eating plenty of foods rich in Vitamin E, including almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, mangoes, turnip greens, avocados, salmon, and trout.
Also, take a high-quality pure fish oil supplement, especially while pregnant and breastfeeding. Remember to think about your supplement as an extra insurance policy for your health—not a replacement for a healthy balanced diet.
To learn more about nutrition during and after pregnancy, check out what the Move Your Bump community has to offer and join the party!