Can Pregnant Women Eat Tilapia?

Most people think pregnant women are lucky in the sense that they get to eat as much as they want of whatever they want because they are eating for two. This is a huge misconception. Actually, during the nine months of pregnancy and the months following nursing, a woman has to be very careful in terms of what she eats. Fish is one of the foods that cause great concern because of potential for mercury levels. Even so, the FDA suggests pregnant women and those breastfeeding should eat fish because the vitamins and minerals it contains. Several of the nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and iron, contribute to a child’s development in and outside the womb.

Grilled Tilapia

Can Pregnant Women Eat Tilapia?

Because tilapia is a fish that contains low amounts of mercury, women can eat it when pregnant and nursing. Your doctor will give you a list of food consumption guidelines when you find out you are pregnant and go in for your first exam. There are several reasons why it is good for you.

1. Low Mercury

Tilapia is on the "okay to eat" list because it contains very little mercury. It might surprise some people, but freshly caught tilapia from Honduras and Mexico are mercury-free, which makes it very safe to eat. Tilapia that is frozen from Indonesia is also safe and has no mercury.

2. Minerals and Vitamins

Healthy fetal and early childhood development depends greatly on what an expected mother consumes. Tilapia is full of vital nutrients, such as magnesium, selenium, vitamin B12, phosphorous and niacin.

3. Omega-3

Both mother and child benefit from omega-3, which tilapia has plenty of. One of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is it is healthy for the nervous system and brain development. 

4. Protein

When a woman is pregnant, her daily required consumption of protein increases. This is important to both her and her developing baby. Tilapia is high in protein, containing 21 grams of protein per fillet.

5. Low Calories

Can pregnant women eat tilapia? Yes because it has low calories. While pregnant women should increase their protein intake, that does not mean they should eat double the calories. Tilapia is a good choice as it will not pack on unneeded calories.

How Much Can You Eat?

The U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services suggests eating two 12-ounce serving of fish with the smallest amount of mercury per week. Tilapia is one of these types of fish, as well as salmon, mahi mahi and yellowtail tuna. Other beneficial seafood includes crab, oysters, clams and shrimp. However, remember when you are pregnant you should not eat raw or undercooked seafood. One type of fish to avoid is mercury-high swordfish. If you were to compare it to tilapia, swordfish contains 0.87 parts of methylmercury per million while tilapia only has 0.013.

Precautions When Eating Tilapia

Can pregnant women eat tilapia? Yes but it doesn't mean that you can eat it anyway you want. There're several precautions to take so as to prevent unnecessary risks.

  • Thaw Properly: Fish can quickly go from good to bad if left unrefrigerated. Frozen fish should be thawed in the refrigerator or under running cold water. Do not leave it on the counter to defrost. Bacteria can start growing and cause a pregnant woman to become ill.
  • Avoid Odorous Fish: Make sure the fish is unspoiled. If fish stinks, it is bad. It is not only dangerous for the mother, but also the child. Tilapia may have some type of odor, but it should always be fresh and mild in nature. Any type of strong odor means you should throw it away.
  • Cook Thoroughly: Raw and undercooked seafood can be full of food-borne germs so make sure to thoroughly cook your tilapia. Seafood should reach an temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit internally or until it is opaque in color and can be flaked easily by a fork.
  • Avoid Cross Contamination: Be careful not to use the same plate for raw and cooked fish. Same thing goes with utensils. If you cut seafood with a knife, do not use the same knife to slice it after it is done. Also, do not use the same containers to store raw seafood and cooked seafood.

Fish That Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy

Mercury is naturally found in lakes, streams and oceans. It transforms into methylmercury and is consumed by fish. This neurotoxin is dangerous to individuals because it can affect your nervous system. Some fish absorb more than others, making it dangerous for pregnant women to eat them. Specific ones are very high in mercury, and should be avoided, which include four types: shark, swordfish, Gulf of Mexico tilefish and king mackerel.

In addition, any time you want to eat fresh fish from a local lake, river or stream, you should always check to see if there are any health advisories for the area. Sometimes a lake can be infested with a parasite that affects the health of the fish in it. Or there can be a high level of bacteria that makes it unhealthy to eat the fish that live in it.

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