Which fish? How much? When?
Last week a new scientific study from researchers at the University of Southampton found that babies born to mothers who had eaten more omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (found mainly in vegetable oils and nuts) during pregnancy had a greater fat mass. They suggested that reducing omega-6 intakes and increasing omega-3 polyunsaturated fat intakes (found mainly in fish oils) during pregnancy may have a beneficial effect on the body composition of the developing child (less fat and more muscle and bone).
For some time, public health messages have been that we should all be eating more fish in our diets and this new research seems to add more weight to this advice. But which fish are safe in pregnancy, whilst breastfeeding, and for babies and young children, and how much is recommended? The recommendations can be quite confusing, so I have summarised these in the table below:
Oily fish are an excellent source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and are important for pregnant women and during breastfeeding because they help a baby’s nervous system to develop. However, oily fish and some white fish can contain some pollutants at low levels, so intake of these fish should be limited.
White fish and some shellfish e.g. squid, crab, mussels, are also a source of omega-3 fats but at much lower levels than oily fish. White fish are low in total fat, making them a healthy option to red meat in the diet, and there are no restrictions on their intake.
Some fish should not be eaten at all by children, pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant because they contain more mercury than other fish – these are swordfish, shark and marlin. Babies, children and pregnant women should also avoid raw shellfish to reduce the risk of getting food poisoning.
Does this make it clearer?! For some further reading about eating fish you might like to have a look at the following links:
Until next time,