Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fish provide major nutritional benefits for developing fetuses and young children. Unfortunately, many parents and pregnant women avoid fish, because they are worried about toxic metals. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued updated advice on fish consumption. If you’re unsure about how much fish you or your child should consume, the following information should help.
EPA and FDA Recommendations
To help parents and pregnant women make healthy choices, the federal government has broken down 62 popular types of fish and shellfish into three classes:
- Best choices: Safe to eat two to three servings a week
- Good choices: Limit to one serving per week
- Fish to avoid: Eat rarely, if at all
For the complete breakdown of EPA and FDA fish categories, consult this pdf.
How Safe Is “Safe?”
According to both the EPA and FDA, almost 90 percent of fish eaten in the U.S. fall into the best choices category. That said, all fish contain at least a small amount of mercury, which can harm the nervous system and brain if consumed in large quantities over time. At the same time, because they provide substantial protein and nutrients for pregnant women and developing children, fish are considered a key part of a healthy diet.
Based on rigorous scientific data, the EPA and FDA guidelines provide a clear guide to help consumers avoid potentially-harmful types of fish in favor of healthier alternatives.
What About Fish Oils?
While some studies have linked fish oil consumption with improved health, its overall impact is still unknown. Likewise, because the FDA does not strictly regulate supplements, there is no guarantee of purity or safety of individual products.
Before taking fish oil supplements, talk to your doctor about how they might affect you based on your current health. You should also consult reputable online independent lab reviews to assess the omega-3 content and purity of a product.