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Healthy Choices for Mom & Baby

 

Eat At Least 2 Servings of Seafood per Week to Boost Babies’ Brain Development

Choosing the right foods during pregnancy can make a big difference in your baby’s health and growth. Seafood is an essential part of a healthy diet for you and your unborn child or breastfed baby. The recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend pregnant and breastfeeding women eat 2 to 3 servings of seafood per week to improve babies’ eye and brain development. It is so important that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat no less than 8 ounces (2 servings) of seafood each week.

To get the recommended amounts and the health benefits, eat a variety of seafood, which can include all types of tuna – white (albacore) and light canned tuna. Pregnant women can eat up to 6 ounces of white (albacore) tuna per week.

There are only four fish to avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding; shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.  Most women in the U.S. already do not eat these types of seafood. If you are not pregnant or breastfeeding, there are no types of commercial seafood to avoid.

A Seafood Lover's Guide to Eating During PregnancySeafood Tips Bookmark

Seafood Benefits for Moms-to-Be

  • Helps Prevent Depression During and After Pregnancy
  • Can Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

Moms-to-Be: Are You Eating Enough Seafood?


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that pregnant women in the U.S. eat less than half a serving of seafood a week. That means most moms-to-be should quadruple the amount of seafood they eat each week to meet the minimum 2 servings recommendation.

Prevent Depression During and After Pregnancy:

Research shows women who eat no seafood during pregnancy are twice as likely to experience depression as those who eat seafood two times a week.i Studies suggest that depressed women have lowered levels of DHA, an important omega-3 found in fish. During pregnancy your developing baby needs a lot of DHA, thus depleting your levels of DHA. To get more DHA, try eating more seafood. ii,iii

Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease:

Keep your heart healthy by eating seafood. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women in the U.S., with risk factors including diabetes, high blood cholesterol and being overweight.

The good news is that you have the power to help manage your risk factors and protect your heart by including more fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, into your diet. Deficiencies in omega-3s are known to increase the risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent.iv Nutrients found in seafood also decrease blood triglyceride levels and increases HDL (good) cholesterol. v

A Seafood Lover's Guide to Eating During Pregnancy

Seafood Benefits for Babies

  • Promotes Healthy Brain Development
  • Improves Eyesight Development
  • Helps Improve Sleep Patterns

 

Is Your Baby Getting the Right Nutrients?


During pregnancy, you have at least three chances everyday to boost your baby's health. A recent study found that moms-to-be who ate fish 2 to 3 times a week during pregnancy had babies who reached milestones such as imitating sound, recognizing family and drinking from a cup, more quickly.vi

  • At 6 months children of mother’s who ate fish during pregnancy are more likely to sit unsupported and crawl than children of mothers who did not eat fish during pregnancy
  • At 9 months children of mothers who ate fish during pregnancy are more likely to be able to climb stairs, drink from a cup, write or draw and put 2 words together than children of mother’s who did not eat fish during pregnancy

 

Help Your Baby’s Brain Develop:

Omega-3s found in seafood, such as tuna, make up a major part of the brain. So when pregnant and breastfeeding moms eat seafood, it provides an important foundation for their baby’s brain to develop normally. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding moms should eat at least 8 ounces of seafood – that’s two servings – per week to help their baby’s eyes and brain develop.

Increase Omega-3s for Better Eyesight:

Studies also suggest that not having enough DHA, an important omega-3 found in seafood such as tuna, during pregnancy can have a negative effect on a baby’s eye development. Research from the Child and Family Research Institute suggests that women who eat a lot of meat but little fish can be deficient in omega-3s, and their babies did not do as well on eye tests as babies from mothers got plenty of this important nutrient.vii

Help Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep:

Eating seafood increases the amount of essential omega-3s in a mother’s breast milk, which helps nourish developing babies. One study found that babies of mothers with higher DHA levels during pregnancy showed significantly quieter and less active sleep, and less sleep-wake transition than those of mothers with lower DHA levels. In other words, they slept better.viii

Eat Seafood during Breastfeeding for More Benefits:

Eating seafood increases the amount of essential omega-3s in a mother’s breast milk, which helps nourish developing babies. Studies show that children who are breastfed tend to have better eyesight, higher IQ scores and do better in school. These benefits may be due to the high level of omega-3s in breast milk.ix

Did You Know? More than 200,000 women die from heart attacks every year—five times the number of women who die from breast cancer.

HEALTHY SUGGESTIONS

For an easy and tasty meal that’s high in omega-3s and low in calories, choose canned or pouch tuna. To get the recommended amounts and the health benefits, pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat a variety of seafood, which can include all types of tuna – white (albacore) and light canned tuna. Pregnant women can eat up to 6 ounces of white (albacore) tuna per week.


i Golding, Jean, et al. “High levels of depressive symptoms in pregnancy with low omega-3 fatty acid intake from fish.” Epidemiology 20 (2009): 598-603.

ii Golding, Jean, et al. “High levels of depressive symptoms in pregnancy with low omega-3 fatty acid intake from fish.” Epidemiology 20 (2009): 598-603.

iii Leung, Brenda and Bonnie Kaplan. “Perinatal Depression: Prevalence, Risks, and the Nutrition Link – A Review of the Literature.” The Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109 (2009): 1566-75.

iv Horn, L. V., PhD, RD., McCoin, M., MPH, RD., Kris-Etherton, P. M., PhD, RD., Burke, F., MS, RD.,Carson, J. A. S., PhD, RD., Champagne, C. M., PhD, RD., Sikand, G., MA, RD. (2008, February). The Evidence for Dietary Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(2).

v Horn, L. V., PhD, RD., McCoin, M., MPH, RD., Kris-Etherton, P. M., PhD, RD., Burke, F., MS, RD.,Carson, J. A. S., PhD, RD., Champagne, C. M., PhD, RD., Sikand, G., MA, RD. (2008, February). The Evidence for Dietary Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(2).

vi The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Associations of maternal fish intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding duration with attainment of developmental milestones in early childhood: a study from the Danish National Birth Cohort. Available at: http://www.ajcn.org/content/88/3/789.abstract. Accessed March 5, 2012.

vii The American Journal of Nutrition. Essential n–3 fatty acids in pregnant women and early visual acuity maturation in term infants. Available at: http://www.ajcn.org/content/87/3/548.full?sid=5e4016a6-830a-4856-a5e4-5e3ea7bd1622. Accessed March 5, 2012.

viii PubMed. Maternal consumption of a DHA-containing functional food benefits infant sleep patterning: An early neurodevelopmental measure. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=3.Maternal consumption of a DHA-containing functional food benefits infant sleep patterning: An early neurodevelopmental measure. Early Human Development. Accessed March 5, 2012.

ix The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Associations of maternal fish intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding duration with attainment of developmental milestones in early childhood: a study from the Danish National Birth Cohort. Available at: http://www.ajcn.org/content/88/3/789.abstract. Accessed March 5, 2012.