It's in the news almost daily: Eating fish several times a week is a healthy habit. Pregnant women, however, must be mindful about avoiding particular kinds of fish that carry higher levels of mercury, which could be harmful to the brain development and nervous system of a foetus.
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that children and women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should consume no more than 340gr (two average meals) of low-mercury fish per week. These include anchovies, calamari, king crab, pollack, catfish, scallops, flounder, haddock, rock lobster, crayfish, salmon, shrimp, clams, tilapia, oysters, sardines, sturgeon and freshwater trout.
The FDA recommends that pregnant women eat no more than 510gr of high-mercury fish per month. High-mercury fish (not to be confused with the highest-mercury fish, listed below) include saltwater bass, croaker, halibut, canned, white albacore tuna, bluefin or ahi tuna, sea trout, bluefish and American or Maine lobster.
Since these fish carry the highest levels of mercury, the FDA strongly recommends that pregnant women abstain from eating them throughout the pregnancy and while breastfeeding: grouper, marlin, orange roughy, tilefish, swordfish, shark and king mackerel. Of these, tilefish, swordfish, shark and king mackerel have the highest levels.
Levels of mercury vary in tuna, depending on the type of tuna and where it was caught. The Natural Resources Defense Council developed a chart that helps pregnant women, women trying to conceive, and children determine how much canned tuna is safe to eat. (See Resources.)
Fish caught in local lakes, rivers or coastal areas must be considered for their mercury levels as well. Check with local advisories about the safety of eating fish caught locally. If no information is available, consume up to 170gr per week, but do not eat other fish that week.
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