Fish are healthy and loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids -- a key nutrient during pregnancy -- but some fish including tuna can contain toxic contaminants like mercury PCBs and dioxins, which have may cause learning problems, breast cancer or other health problems. These contaminants can pass from the mother to child during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
What's a consumer -- especially a pregnant woman -- to do?
The Monterrey Bay Aquarium knows. It has crunched the numbers, considering both environmental and health data, and released a list of the best fish for women of childbearing age (since contaminants can build up inside our bodies, it's important for women to watch their diets long before they think about getting pregnant). These eight fish are the most nutritious, with the highest levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, while having low levels of both mercury and PCBs. For good measure, they are fished sustainably, so eating these fish won't contribute to the decline of ocean health.
Note that the method and location of the fishery matters: A wild-caught salmon from Alaska will have a very different (and far superior) nutrition, contaminant and environmental profile than a farmed salmon, for instance. Also note that the American Pregnancy Association recommends against consuming raw shellfish or smoked fish -- whatever it's nutrition and contaminant profile -- during pregnancy.
1. Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia). Tuna is a top source of Vitamin B6, which helps maintain healthy blood, muscle and skin.
2. Mussels (farmed). Try them in this Dungeness crab and mussel chowder.
3. Oysters (farmed). A true superfood, oysters are a top source of iron and Vitamin B12. Try them in roasted with shallots and herbs, chowder or fresh, with a champagne vinaigrette. Note: The American Pregnancy Association recommends against consuming raw shellfish during pregnancy.
6. Rainbow Trout (farmed). Try trout, a top source of Vitamin B12 with beet-horseradish yogurt sauce and green garlic oil, with egg in a smoked* trout salad, as a garnish to pea soup, or with this delectable meal: filleted trout with crispy sage and prosciutto, early summer vegetable beurre blanc, wilted spinach and potato puree. Note: The American Pregnancy Association recommends against consuming smoked fish during pregnancy.
8. Spot Prawns (wild-caught, from British Columbia). Try them as a substitute for shrimp, or in one of these recipes.
The Monterrey Bay Aquarium lists six additional seafood choices as safe pregnancy fish -- they just aren't as high in Omega-3 fatty acids:
Arctic Char (farmed). Try substituting char in most salmon recipes, or try these Arctic char recipes.
Bay Scallops (farmed). Try them seared with saffron couscous or with fennel and Pernod in this rotini.
Crayfish (farmed, from the U.S.). Substitute crayfish for shrimp in most recipes, or try them in these recipes.
Dungeness Crab (wild-caught, from California, Oregon or Washington). A top source of Vitamin B12, try Dungeness crab in this Dungeness crab and mussel chowder.
Longfin Squid (wild-caught, from the U.S. Atlantic). Go beyond fried calamari with these squid recipes.
Pacific Cod (longline-caught, from Alaska). Try cod broiled with miso glaze.
For more healthy sustainable fish options, consult these Web sites: The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program, Environmental Defense's Oceans Alive campaign, Fishwise, and the Seafood Choices Alliance.
And look for these labels at the fish market, though be aware that Consumer's Union says none is "highly meaningful":
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