Can Pregnant Women Eat Fish? A Quick Guide!

Posted: June 14, 2019

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There are a lot of myths that float around when it comes to pregnancy. One of them is that eating fish is not good for expectant moms. Is it really a myth?

Fish during pregnancy? This is one question which most of the ‘to be mommies’ struggle with. A majority would say no to it, since certain fishes absorb mercury and mercury can harm a baby’s developing brain and nervous system. But, there is always a way out.

If you go by what the studies say, I am sure you would never give fish a miss. Studies show that fish can provide an array of nutrients which are required for the development of your little one. So, rejoice and eat fish!

To be precise, fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids,Vitamin D, Protein and is low in saturated fatty acids, making it one of the best foods for a pregnant woman.

So, if you eat fish, it definitely needs to be a part of your diet if you are expecting.

Is it safe to eat fish during pregnancy?

The answer is yes, you can consume certain fishes which do not absorb excess mercury and are free from a man-made toxicant – polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), but only in moderation. Pregnant women can consume 2-3 servings of fishes in a week, please refer to the list below  for the same.

Here is a list of fishes which are preferred:

1) Butterfish (Pomfret)

2) Catfish (Singhada)

3) Herring (Hilsa)

4) Mackerel (Bangada)

5) Salmon (Indian salmon is known as Rawas)

6) Sardine

7) Tilapia

8) Whitefish

9) Clam

10) Anchovies (Nethili in Malayalam/Tamil)

Types of fish you must avoid during pregnancy and why

While we have already discussed the types of fishes which are safe to consume during pregnancy, here is a list of fishes that should be completely avoided if you are expecting.

  • Bass
  • Carp (Rohu)
  • Cod(Gobru)
  • Lobster
  • Snapper
  • Tuna (Canned chunks)
  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Sea bass (asian version is bhekti)
  • Tuna (Yellowfin)
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna (Ahi)

The reason why the above fishes are not allowed is because they contain large amounts of mercury. Metal mercury once consumed by the fishes is later converted to methyl mercury (due to water pollution) which is capable of passing through the placenta to the fetus and can adversely affect the nervous system and brain development of the fetus thereby making the above mentioned fishes harmful for you and your baby.

Not just that, another contaminant known as PCB Or polychlorinated biphenyls which is a byproduct of industrial waste and is known to get accumulated in the body of these fishes, which can in turn make the fish harmful for consumption.

Here are a few ways to cook fish well.

Poached fish – This method helps in keeping the fish moist. Simply pour water/Chicken stock/vegetable stock in a pan or vessel and place the fish pieces. Simmer it for some time and once you see bubbles, then it’s time to remove the fish from the pan.

Steamed fish – Steaming is the best way to preserve the nutrients of the fish. You can rub the fish which garlic/ginger and mild spices before placing it in the steamer basket. This way the fish would not only be cooked well but believe me it would simply taste yum.

Grilled fish – This helps keep the nutrients in the fish intact and you can also have it along with grilled vegetables.

Some mouth watering fish recipes

Healthy steamed fish

Ingredients-

1)500 gms pomfret

2) ½ tbsp garlic

3) 1 Tbsp chopped lemongrass

4) Few chopped mint leaves

5) 1-2 Whole red chillies.

6) Sesame oil

7) 1 Tsp honey

8) Coriander (chopped)

9) ¼ tsp black pepper powder

10)Spring onion

11) Olive oil

Method 

      • In a steamer or pressure cooker add all the ingredients except honey.
      • Now add the fish and steam till the fish is done.
      • Once done drizzle some honey, black pepper, Sauteed spring onions and chopped coriander leaves on it.

Grilled Fish Steaks

      • 1 clove garlic, minced
      • 1 Tbsp olive oil
      • 1 Tsp dried basil
      • ½ tsp rock salt
      • 1/4 tsp black pepper powder
      • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
      • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley/coriander
      • 1 Fillet white fish/pomfret

Method

      • In a glass bowl add garlic, olive oil, basil, rock salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley/coriander.
      • Place the fillet in a glass dish and pour the marinade over it.Let it remain for an hour.
      • Once marinated place the fillet on the grill tray and grill for 5 minutes on each side, flip over slowly and once the side is brown.
      • Make sure you grill it well and then sprinkle some chopped chopped coriander over it.

Fish Soup

Ingredients

      • 1 Tsp chopped garlic.
      • 1 Small onion chopped
      • 500 gms Pomfret fish heads, skin and bones
      • 1 Tsp olive oil
      • 1 Tbsp chopped coriander
      • 1 Small carrot ,hopped
      • 3 cups water
      • ½ tsp white vinegar
      • Rock salt
      • Black pepper to taste

Method

      • In a pan add olive oil and sauté chopped garlic and onion.
      • Now add water and bring it to a boil.
      • Add in all the ingredients and cook for some time.
      • Place it on low flame and keep simmering by skimming out the foam on top.
      • Once done strain the soup well and consume.

Hence, even if you are pregnant you can consume fish. However, one must practice moderation.

Image Source: Pixabay

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A Nutritionist,Clinical Dietitian,Speaker,health/fitness blogger who runs a nutrition website named NutriBond

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