Surprising Pregnancy Food to Avoid

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We’ve heard all the reports. Eating fish is good for you. Fish contains a lot of the omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for proper heart health. But, canned fish can also contain something that is not so good for you: mercury.

Have you heard of mercury? It’s an element in the periodic table that is very carcinogenic. For many, many years it was the metal used in thermometers. But, whenever the thermometer broke, the mercury spilled out and caused illness for those who came in contact with it.

In canned and some fresh fish, there is a type of mercury called methyl mercury. Fish pick it up from water pollution. Factories and mines have this mercury in their smoke, and volcanic activity can also produce it.

Over time, this air pollution eventually seeps into lakes, rivers and streams. The amount of mercury and methyl mercury in the water itself is minimal and within standards. However, problems develop when mercury enters the food chain.

Biomagnification: Mercury Danger

Here is how it works. The algae in the water absorb the methyl mercury. Other organisms in the water nibble on this algae or live in it. Small fish eat the smaller organisms and absorb the mercury compound. Can you see where we are going with this?

Each successive level of the food chain consumes a little more of the mercury into their bodies. The mercury is stored in the muscle of the fish, which is what we eat. Unfortunately, fish fall prey to what we term “biomagnification.” More mercury is stored in the bodies of the fish higher in the food chain that live longer.

Mercury is excreted slowly from the bodies of fish. If you eat canned tuna for example, you will get more methyl mercury than if you were to eat an oyster or a smaller fish.

Implications for Pregnancy

While seafood and fish supply plenty of needed vitamins and minerals to the body, they can also present a danger. For this reason, pregnant women are advised not to eat much fish and seafood during their pregnancy. The presence of mercury in the body can be toxic to unborn fetuses and also little children.

It is recommended that a pregnant woman eat less than six ounces of canned fish like tuna per week because of the potential mercury content. Fish that are on the pregnancy “Food to Avoid” list are larger ones like shark, mahi mahi, swordfish, and king mackerel. Instead try smaller fish and other seafood like shrimp or salmon.

Fish is an important part of a healthy diet but there could be a mercury issue for pregnant women. Consult your obstetrician about how much and which types of fish are best for you.

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