Laura M from Philadelphia asks,
I was advised not to eat too much fish during my pregnancy. How can I still get in my omega-3s?
There are many, many reasons why everyone should have a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids every day. It is especially important during pregnancy- in fact, it is essential.
Every living cell in the body requires efa’s (essential fatty acids) to rebuild and produce new cells. EFA’s and their derivatives (DHA and EPA) play a critical role in the proper functioning of the immune system, energy levels, and they help regulate anti-inflammatory responses. They are also important for brain, nerve and eye development, alertness, I.Q, and heart function. DHA (one form of EFA’s) is especially important to counteract postnatal depression, poor concentration and memory difficulties in moms once baby is born.
It is true, certain types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids; but many other foods contain this vital nutrient as well. If you have an allergy to fish/seafood, are a vegetarian or have another medical reason why you need stay away from fish, you can easily incorporate non-fish alternatives that contain omega-3’s into your daily diet. However, fish contains many VERY healthy nutrients other than EFAs that everyone needs- such as protein, vitamin D. It is also low in saturated fat, making it a great food choice.
There are many sources of omega 3’s found in food, other than fish. Omega-3 fortified eggs are excellent sources of protein as well as the fatty acid. Other food sources are olive oil, avocado, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and soybeans. You can also find your daily dose of this nutrient in supplement form. Look for liquid capsules rather than tablets, since the oil is absorbed easier into our systems.
If you do eat fish but are concerned about the levels of mercury in certain types of fish, opt for the following choices. They are low in mercury; yet high in omega 3’s.Fish that are safe to enjoy 2 or 3 times a week are salmon, sardines, Pacific herring (B.C.), Atlantic mackerel (Northeast Atlantic), European anchovy (South Africa), Skipjack tuna (Central Western Pacific). For more information about what types of fish are safe to eat and their mercury content, http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/ucm393070.htm