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5 facts about eating fish during pregnancy

29 July, 2014

Women who eat fish while pregnant give their growing fetus important nutrients.

Fish is a unique choice among the Meat and Alternatives food group because of its fat profile; compared to other choices, fish is generally lower in saturated fats and higher in the long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Fish also contains high quality protein and other essential nutrients: vitamins (such as vitamin D and choline) and minerals (such as selenium, iodine, iron, zinc and copper).

  1. Fish contributes to a healthy eating pattern during pregnancy. During your pregnancy, you should eat at least 150 g (5 ounces) of cooked fish each week as recommended in Canada’s Food Guide.
  2. Fish provides significant amounts of omega-3 fats and other essential nutrients in the diet of pregnant women, such as vitamin D, zinc and iron.
  3. Get the best health benefits from fish by using lower fat cooking methods such as grilling, poaching, broiling or baking.
  4. There are many ways to improve your taste for fish. For example, preparing fish with lemon juice, herbs (such as dill) or spices (such as curry) can add pleasing flavours and aroma to fish. Canned fish eaten cold in a salad or sandwich has a mild flavour.
  5. Thoroughly cook fish and seafood, including refrigerated smoked products. Eating raw or partially cooked fish and seafood increases the risk of contracting a food-borne illness such as listeriosis.

Recommended fish intake during pregnancy

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Health Canada recommends that women continue eating at least 150 grams (5 ounces) of cooked fish each week during pregnancy, as recommended in Canada’s Food Guide. Health Canada also suggests that women pay special attention to the types of fish they eat. Since many pregnancies are unplanned, the advice presented in this document also applies to all women of childbearing age, including breastfeeding women.

Women should choose the types of fish that generally have low levels of contaminants, such as salmon, trout, herring, haddock, canned light tuna, pollock (Boston bluefish), sole, flounder, anchovy, char, hake, mullet, smelt, Atlantic mackerel and lake white fish.

Fish that should be eaten less often

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Some types of fish contain contaminants such as methyl mercury. Women who eat too much of these types of fish can ingest too many contaminants. Health Canada issues retail fishconsumption advisories. Advisories on local fish are available from provincial and territorial agencies. Environment Canada maintains a listing of authorities that are responsible for implementing fish consumption advice in each province and territory.

Women can limit the exposure to contaminants by choosing fish that generally do not contain levels that pose a health risk.

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