Before we are even born, we need important nutrients in fish and seafood. This is in line with the current American Dietary Guidelines 2020-2025, which advise pregnant women to consume 8 to 12 ounces of a variety of seafood each week. In addition to being an excellent source of protein building protein, seafood provides nutrients such as omega-3 fats and iodine, which are important for the baby’s brain and mental development.
Seafood is also on the list of high-protein first foods presented to infants around six months of age. Just 2 to 3 ounces a week will provide the baby with a good dose of EPA and DHA – vital omega-3 fats that young children need for optimal brain development.
As the experts put it: “The long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are supplied through seafood, nuts, seeds and oils, influence the fatty acid status of the child and are among the most important nutrients required for the rapid development of the brain in the child’s first two years of life. “
What’s the catch? Some seafood is high in methylmercury, a poison that is present in the atmosphere. Large fish such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel are usually high in methylmercury and should be avoided by pregnant women and young children.
However, this is not a reason to avoid fishmeal altogether. Good choices with high EPA and DHA content and low methylmercury content are anchovies, black sea bass, catfish, clams, cod, crabs, lobster, flounder, haddock, hake, herring, lobster, mullet, oyster, perch, pollock, salmon, sardine, Scallop, shrimp, sole, octopus, tilapia, freshwater trout, light tuna and whiting.
Here’s another catch: if we all start eating the amount of fish and seafood experts recommend, there won’t be enough wild fish to meet demand. And farmed fish isn’t that great, is it?
Wrong, say scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Special processes now produce farmed fish that are similar to wild-caught species that are also good for the planet, people and the economy. At seafoodwatch.org you will find the best recommendations for farmed and wild fish.
OK, but isn’t wild fish more nutritious than farmed fish? Current farming methods produce fish with a nutritional profile similar to that of wild-farmed fish, says Linda Cornish of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership. Farmed salmon, for example, are fed feed that mimics what salmon eat in the wild. By the way, both farmed and wild fish can contain methylmercury, which is released from the environment into oceans and other bodies of water.
Do you need more information about the species of fish to choose? Check out these: FDA.gov/fishadvice and EPA.gov/fishadvice.
Barbara Quinn food column
Barbara Quinn is a Registered Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Advisor affiliated with the Monterey Peninsula Community Hospital, California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email them at [email protected].