Dr. Nashat Latib

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Safe Seafood for Fertility

By Dr. Nashat Latib • Mar 07, 2023

Follow These Simple Guidelines to Select the Right Seafood

It’s no secret that seafood is good for your heart and brain, but you’ve probably also heard that some people should avoid certain types of fish when pregnant (or trying to get pregnant).

This is true. If you’re allergic to seafood, you should avoid it altogether. If you’re at higher risk for foodborne illness, you should avoid certain types of seafood. However, on the whole, most people who want to get pregnant or who are pregnant should increase their seafood intake. Seafood nutrition during pregnancy can be confusing! If you’re not allergic to it and you have questions about it, this post is for you. 

I’m going to cut through the confusion and tell you about some of the nutrients found in seafood (including the famous omega-3 fatty acids), who should avoid which types of seafood (hint: not everyone), and let you in on some pro tips on selecting the healthiest seafood. Let’s begin by summarizing the impressive health benefits of eating seafood. 

Health benefits of eating seafood before conception and while pregnant

Seafood contains nutrients for good health, including healthy fats, lean protein, vitamins, and minerals. It also contains omega-3s (more on these in the next section) which support the development of your baby’s brain and eyes, is associated with reduced allergies/asthma in children, and contributes to both egg and sperm health.

Eating seafood during pregnancy may also help to reduce the risk of certain complications, such as preterm birth and low birth weight. Studies have also shown that women who consume higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy have babies with higher cognitive development scores.

Healthy nutrients in fish for pregnancy

Seafood is lower in saturated fat than red meat. There are two main omega-3 fatty acids in seafood: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Seafood is the richest food source of EPA and DHA, but you can also supplement it. Click here to view our recommendation for a combined EPA/DHA supplement.

DHA is particularly good for your brain because it helps to keep it functioning efficiently. Your brain and nerves are partly made from fat, and they have a special preference for DHA. DHA deficiency is linked to serious cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s disease. Consuming enough DHA regularly over the long-term is linked to improved ability to learn, improved memory, and a lower risk of cognitive decline. 

You can also get DHA from algae and supplements. Regarding omega-3 supplements, recent studies show that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may not have the same positive impacts as eating the food itself. Eating seafood as part of a healthy dietary pattern seems to have the most health benefits, however if you don’t eat seafood, you may get some heart benefits from taking a fish oil supplement.

Seafood is also an excellent source of protein and contains essential minerals like vitamin B12, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc. It is also one of the only foods with naturally occurring vitamin D.

If you cannot eat fish then you can also get essential fatty acids like avocados, extra virgin olive oil, seed butters, and nut butters. Click here to read more about our take on prenatal nutrition, including omega-3s.

Selecting the best seafood

For those of you who do eat seafood, we recommend aiming for 1-2 servings of fish lower in mercury, such as salmon and shrimp, each week to get the benefits seafood has for you and your baby.

Some seafood contains mercury (a toxin) that can harm the brain and nervous system of you and of your developing baby. Everyone is advised to avoid fish high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy, tilefish, bigeye tuna, and king mackerel. These fish should be avoided in pregnant and breastfeeding women and limited in women attempting to conceive (we recommend either avoiding or limiting to once a month to err on the side of caution).

Opt for seafood that is lower in mercury such as shrimp, cod, sardines, wild Alaskan salmon, haddock, and non-king mackerel like Atlantic mackerel and Pacific chub mackerel. Examples of “oily” fish that contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and are also low in mercury are herring and trout. 

For all my sushi lovers… raw fish, such as sushi, should also be avoided during pregnancy, as it may contain harmful bacteria or parasites that can cause food poisoning. Additionally, pregnant women should avoid raw oysters, clams, and mussels, as they can also contain harmful bacteria. Cooked seafood is generally considered safe for pregnant women to eat.

When selecting fresh seafood, look for those that are properly refrigerated, where the flesh looks shiny and firm, and that smell mild and not overly “fishy.” You can keep your seafood cold by picking it up toward the end of your shopping trip and ensuring it’s refrigerated as soon as you get home. If you can’t use it within two days, then wrap it up tightly and freeze it.

When it comes to cooking seafood, try to limit your intake of ones that are battered and deep-fried as they may be higher in salt, and the process of deep-frying can deteriorate the healthy omega-3 fats. More healthful ways to cook seafood are to bake, broil, or grill.

Our favorite place to buy high-quality seafood is actually online! Seatopia offers certified-clean, high-grade seafood delivered to your door.

Final thoughts…

Enjoying seafood 1-2 times per week can help your sperm and egg health as well as the development of your baby during pregnancy.

There are a few things to look out for when choosing seafood, including those that are low in mercury and ensuring they’re fresh and properly refrigerated before being cooked.

If you’re reading this and you want help this year, we have space inside the Fertility Kickstart. Our 4R Fertility FormulaTM has an 85% success rate!


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