Is Sushi Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

Safe Guidelines when Eating for Two

If you are either pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, chances are you’ve heard your fair share of warnings and guidelines about what to eat and what not to eat for the health of your baby. Pregnancy is a time in your life when you might have to make changes in your diet and lifestyle in order to support the development of a healthy baby.

Fish offers pregnant women a healthy way to add protein and Omega-3 fatty acids – essential for the strong development of your baby’s brain. A healthy diet during pregnancy can include fish, even sushi, as long as you follow safe guidelines for selection and preparation, just as with most protein sources.

Is There Such a Thing as Safe Sushi?

When it comes to eating sushi during pregnancy, the most important concern is not that the fish is served raw. In fact, some sushi is prepared cooked. Instead, the most important thing of which to be aware is the likely mercury level of the fish you are eating. Mercury is a metal that is potentially dangerous for humans. Exposure at increased levels can lead to damaged nervous systems, lungs, kidneys, vision, and hearing. Unborn babies who are exposed to mercury through the mother’s diet or environment can suffer brain damage and poor development of vision or hearing.

Select your fish, even sushi, based on the lowest possibility of mercury (generally the older and larger the fish, the higher the mercury levels will be). Many of the most common types of fish used in sushi are high in mercury, but the following options have been reported by the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) to be lower in mercury and therefore safe for pregnant women to eat on a limited basis (up to two 6 oz. servings each week).

  • Anago (conger eel)
  • Aoyagi (round clam)
  • Awabi (abalone)
  • Ebi (shrimp)
  • Hamaguri (clam)
  • Hamo (pike conger; sea eel)
  • Hokkigai (surf clam)
  • Hotategai (scallop)
  • Ika (squid)
  • Kaibashira (shellfish)
  • Kani (crab)
  • Karei (flatfish)
  • Masu (trout)
  • Mirugai (surf clam)
  • Sake (salmon)
  • Sayori (halfbeak)
  • Shako (mantis shrimp)
  • Tako (octopus)
  • Unagi (freshwater eel)
  • Uni (sea urchin roe)

What Sushi Types Should I Avoid?

Because of high mercury levels, the following types of sushi should be avoided during pregnancy.

  • Ahi (yellowfin tuna)
  • Aji (horse mackerel)
  • Buri (adult yellowtail)
  • Hamachi (young yellowtail)
  • Inada (very young yellowtail)
  • Kanpachi (very young yellowtail)
  • Katsuo (bonito)
  • Kajiki (swordfish)
  • Maguro (bigeye, bluefin or yellowfin tuna)
  • Makjiki (blue marlin)
  • Meji (young bigeye or yellowfin tuna)
  • Saba (mackerel)
  • Sawara (spanish mackerel)
  • Shiro (albacore tuna)
  • Seigo (young sea bass)
  • Suzuki (sea bass)
  • Toro (bigeye, bluefin or yellowfin tuna)

The diet you choose to follow while pregnant can have dramatic effects on the healthy development of your baby. However, when eaten in moderation and with careful, informed decisions, sushi can be a part of that healthy diet. With all food preparation, make sure that the food you select is fresh, handled carefully, and served in a sanitary manner.



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