Eating salmon during pregnancy is a common question many expecting mothers have. Salmon is touted for its numerous health benefits. However, its safety for pregnant women is sometimes brought into question due to concerns about mercury content.
This complete guide on whether pregnant women can eat salmon covers everything you need to know, including:
- The health benefits salmon offers during pregnancy
- The potential mercury risks and how to avoid them
- How much salmon pregnant women can eat
- The safest salmon options in pregnancy
- Simple recipes for pregnant women
Key Takeaways on Eating Salmon While Pregnant:
- Salmon is very nutritious, packed with protein, omega-3s, vitamin D, B vitamins, potassium, selenium and more. These support fetal brain development, vision, nervous system growth and maternal health.
- However, some types of salmon are high in mercury, which can harm fetal development. Avoid king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna.
- Pregnant women can safely eat 2-3 servings (6-12 oz) of low-mercury salmon per week. Focus on wild Alaskan, canned, salmon jerky, and salmon roe.
- Cook salmon thoroughly, avoid raw or undercooked fish. Check local advisories on caught fish. Supplements are an option too.
Why Eat Salmon During Pregnancy? The Nutritional Benefits
Salmon is one of the most nutritious foods expectant mothers can eat. Here are some of the key nutrients salmon provides:
Excellent Source of Protein
Salmon is an amazing source of high-quality protein. A 3 ounce serving of salmon contains about 17 grams of protein.
Protein is vital during pregnancy to support fetal growth and development as well as maternal health. The high protein content in salmon can help meet increased protein needs during pregnancy.
Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA. A 3 ounce serving of salmon provides over 1000 mg of omega-3s.
These healthy fats play a crucial role in fetal brain and nervous system development. They are also important for forming the baby’s eyes and optimizing vision.
Omega-3 intake during pregnancy is associated with lower risk of preterm births, higher birth weights and improved cognitive development.
High in Vitamin D
Salmon is one of the few natural food sources high in vitamin D. A 3 ounce serving of sockeye salmon contains about 500 IU of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential during pregnancy to support bone development and growth. Low vitamin D in pregnancy is linked to adverse outcomes like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, low birth weight and more.
Good Source of B Vitamins
Salmon provides several B vitamins including niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and B12. A 3 ounce serving offers 15-50% of the recommended daily intake for these.
B vitamins help convert food into energy. They also play a role in supporting the immune system and red blood cell production during pregnancy.
Excellent Source of Potassium
Salmon is high in potassium with about 534 mg per 3 ounce serving. This mineral is needed for building muscles, maintaining fluid balance, and regulating heart function.
A serving of salmon offers about 40 mcg of the antioxidant mineral selenium. Selenium is essential for thyroid hormone regulation and immune function.
Benefits for Maternal Health
In addition to benefiting fetal development, salmon promotes the expecting mother’s health too. The omega-3s support heart and brain health while the protein helps maintain muscle mass.
The nutrients in salmon can help optimize pregnancy outcomes related to gestational diabetes, postpartum depression risk and excessive weight gain.
Concerns About Mercury in Salmon
While salmon offers tremendous nutritional value, there are some concerns regarding its mercury content.
Mercury is a heavy metal that can be toxic in high amounts. It is found in trace amounts in certain types of fish and shellfish. When pregnant women consume mercury-contaminated fish, it can be passed to the developing baby.
High mercury exposure in pregnancy is associated with impaired cognitive development, vision issues, motor skill problems and delayed neurological development.
To avoid potential mercury exposure, it’s important to choose low mercury salmon options when pregnant. Guidelines also recommend limiting overall fish intake to 12 ounces (2 average meals) per week.
How Much Salmon Can Pregnant Women Eat?
Most experts agree that pregnant women can safely eat 2-3 servings of low mercury salmon per week as part of a balanced diet.
A typical serving size is about 3-6 ounces. So the recommendations allow for pregnant women to eat 6-12 ounces or 170-340 grams of salmon per week.
Consuming salmon in moderation, within these guidelines, provides optimal nutrition benefits for mom and baby while avoiding potential mercury risks.
The Safest Salmon Options in Pregnancy
To minimize mercury exposure, pregnant women should choose salmon with lower concentrations like:
Wild Alaskan Salmon
Salmon caught in the wild oceans of Alaska are low in mercury since they come from unpolluted waters. Options like wild sockeye, coho, pink, chum and Chinook salmon are great choices.
Canned salmon like pink salmon, red salmon or sockeye salmon tends to be lower in mercury content. Opt for low sodium options packed in water.
Dried and smoked salmon in the form of jerky is a tasty way to get your salmon fix. Look for jerky free of added sugars or preservatives.
Salmon Roe (Fish Eggs)
Salmon roe or fish eggs from the Pacific Northwest region are a low mercury caviar-like option.
Fish oil supplements derived from salmon are free of mercury risks. They provide omega-3s in a convenient form.
Salmon Options to Avoid or Limit When Pregnant
On the other hand, these types of salmon are higher in mercury and best minimized:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Some tuna like Ahi tuna
It’s also wise to limit raw or undercooked salmon, sashimi, lox, and smoked nova salmon when pregnant.
Tips for Safely Eating Salmon While Pregnant
To maximize the benefits of salmon and minimize any potential risks, here are some tips:
- Stick to recommended serving sizes – Limit salmon intake to 2-3 servings (6-12 oz) per week during pregnancy. This provides an optimal balance of nutrients while avoiding excessive mercury exposure.
- Choose low mercury varieties – Focus on wild Alaskan, canned, smoked, and salmon roe which tend to be lower in mercury. Avoid king mackerel, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, marlin and tilefish.
- Cook thoroughly – Salmon should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F to destroy any potential parasites or bacteria. Avoid raw, undercooked, sashimi or lox styles.
- Check local advisories – Follow local fish consumption advisories if eating salmon caught from local waters. Some areas may have higher mercury levels.
- Balance with other healthy proteins – Rotate salmon with other clean proteins like beans, lentils, eggs, chicken, and turkey. Vary your protein sources for maximum benefits.
- Purchase from reputable sellers – Always buy salmon from trusted and reputable sources like grocery stores and fish markets. This minimizes the risk of contamination.
Simple and Delicious Salmon Recipes for Pregnant Women
Here are some easy, delicious recipes to help pregnant women enjoy salmon safely:
1. Lemon Garlic Baked Salmon
This simple baked salmon recipe combines salmon fillets with lemon, garlic and herbs. Serve it with roasted vegetables or a fresh salad.
- 4 (4-6 oz) salmon fillets
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place salmon fillets skin-side down on prepared baking sheet. Brush evenly with olive oil.
- Sprinkle salmon with garlic, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until salmon flakes easily with a fork.
- Serve salmon immediately with desired sides.
2. Cajun Blackened Salmon
For a flavorful kick, coat salmon fillets with Cajun seasoning and blackening spices before pan-searing.
- 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1⁄4 tsp black pepper
- 4 (4-6 oz) salmon fillets
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Combine Cajun seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne and black pepper in a small bowl.
- Brush both sides of salmon fillets evenly with olive oil. Coat fillets evenly with spice mixture.
- Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add salmon fillets and cook 3-4 minutes per side until blackened and cooked through.
- Serve blackened salmon with your choice of sides like rice or quinoa.
3. Salmon Salad Sandwich
Turn canned salmon into a protein-packed salad sandwich by combining it with yogurt, celery, onion and herbs.
- 1 (5 oz) can salmon, drained and flaked
- 3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1⁄4 cup onion, diced
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1⁄2 tsp dried dill
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 slices whole grain bread
- Lettuce leaves
- In a bowl, combine flaked salmon, yogurt, celery, onion, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper.
- Spread salmon salad evenly over 2 bread slices. Top with lettuce leaves and extra dill if desired.
- Enjoy the salmon salad sandwiches for a nutritious lunch or dinner.
4. Salmon Avocado Sushi Rolls
Make these easy no-cook salmon sushi rolls by wrapping smoked salmon, avocado, cucumber and rice in nori sheets.
- 3 nori sheets
- 1 1⁄2 cups cooked sushi rice
- 6 oz smoked salmon, sliced
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1 cucumber, julienned
- Soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger for serving
- Lay out a nori sheet on a sushi mat, shiny side down. Spread about 1⁄2 cup rice evenly on the sheet, leaving a 1-inch strip uncovered at the top.
- Layer one-third each of the smoked salmon slices, avocado slices and cucumber sticks horizontally across the bottom half of the nori sheet, over the rice.
- Lift the bottom edge of the mat over the fillings and tightly roll it away from you to form a cylinder. Seal the edge with a bit of water.
- Slice the sushi roll into 6 pieces using a sharp knife. Repeat process to make 3 rolls total.
- Serve the salmon sushi rolls with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.
Is Eating Salmon While Pregnant Worth the Benefits?
Overall, salmon is a nutritious addition to a pregnant woman’s diet when consumed in moderation and the right varieties are chosen.
The rich array of nutrients salmon provides supports fetal development and maternal health. By sticking to recommended guidelines and preparation methods, pregnant women can safely reap salmon’s benefits.
Focus on low mercury wild, canned and smoked salmon options. Cook thoroughly, follow local advisories for caught fish, and balance intake with other proteins.
Eating 2-3 servings of salmon per week as part of a varied diet can promote optimal health for both mother and baby. So the benefits are well worth it!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to eat raw salmon when pregnant?
Raw salmon is not recommended in pregnancy as it may contain parasites and bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. Pregnant women should only eat salmon that has been cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F.
What are the risks of eating too much salmon while pregnant?
Eating more than the recommended 2-3 servings (6-12 oz) of salmon per week in pregnancy can potentially increase mercury exposure. Excessive amounts may also lead to an imbalance of other important nutrients.