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How much fish should pregnant women eat?

Seafood
This Sept. 10, 2010 file photo shows the seafood counter in Whole Foods is shown in Hillsboro, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

TORONTO — If you’re expecting, chances are you’re cutting back on your intake of fish and seafood. But U.S. health officials have, for the first time, issued a recommendation on the minimum intake pregnant women should be aiming for.

Pregnant women, breastfeeding moms and young kids should be eating eight to 12 ounces of a variety of fish each week. That’s about two to three servings, and consumers should pick fish that are lower in mercury, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“For many years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s chief scientist, said in a statement.

“But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health,” Ostroff explained.

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The FDA is pointing to omega-3 fatty acids, protein and vitamin D as key nutrients in fish.

Consumer groups have sued the agency, saying its warnings haven’t been clear enough about what fish could pose a risk. Those groups asked for labels on packages or at fish counters to help shoppers remember which products are okay during pregnancy or for youngsters, according to the Associated Press.

What fish should pregnant women eat?

Fish lower in mercury, including salmon, shrimp, pollock, tuna (light canned), tilapia, catfish and cod are all safe bets, according to the FDA.

What fish should pregnant women avoid?

Four types of fish have been singled out: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel. These types are highest in mercury. Limit white (albacore) tuna to six ounces a week.

READ MORE: New moms, lose baby weight or face diabetes, heart health risk, study warns

What are the Canadian recommendations?

Health Canada says when pregnant, women need more omega-3 fatty acids in their diets to help their babies with brain development.

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It recommends that expectant moms eat at least five ounces of cooked fish every week. Read more about its recommendations here.

The Canadian Paediatric Society suggests that this group avoid raw fish, which may contain bacteria or parasites that can make you sick. Read more about its recommendations here.

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(Andre Paquette/Global News)

– With files from the Associated Press

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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