The FDA and Consumer Reports have two very differing views on tuna: one recommends it, and one doesn’t. For a pregnant woman, it can be rather disconcerting because two major groups are so conflicted in their recommendation.
Can pregnant women eat tuna? Let’s find out.
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The FDA Recommends Tuna
The FDA is a federal agency, so most women will put more weight into the recommendation of the FDA than they would with Consumer Reports. The Agency cites many health benefits when eating tuna:
- High protein levels.
- Benefits for young children.
- Benefits when eating.
- Boosts development.
Keep in mind that the FDA is not saying that there is a perfect food in tuna. Instead, the agency is stating that the benefits of eating tuna far outweigh the risks associated with eating too much tuna.
The amount of tuna you’re allowed to eat will vary. Many dietitians recommend not going over four medium-sized cans (5oz) of tuna per week. And if you’re eating fresh tuna steaks, it’s recommended to eat no more than two, six ounce steaks per week. If you consume other forms of seafood, you will need to adjust accordingly.
According to the FDA, a woman should only eat 8 – 12 ounces of seafood per week. So, if you do eat other types of seafood, be on the safe side and don’t eat tuna during the same week.
The Benefits of Fresh Vs Canned Tuna
Canned tuna needs to be preserved, and any time there are preservatives in a food, they will lose some of their nutrients over time. You also have to worry how the tuna was processed, which may be a concern from some sources.
Generally, it’s recommended that you eat fresh tuna for optimal benefits.
This isn’t to say that normal tuna in a can isn’t fine to eat – it is. But if you’re risking exposure to mercury, you might as well maximize your benefits in the meantime.
When you eat fresh tuna, you’ll be:
- Eating a lot of healthy protein.
- Eating a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Consuming much needed vitamins and minerals.
All of these nutrients will play a very important role in the development of your baby’s brain.
When you consume canned tuna, you will be consuming fewer omega-3 fatty acids because many of these acids are lost during the canning process. Large amounts of salt are also added to canned tuna, and this is not an ideal choice for mothers-to-be. If you do eat canned tuna and find that it’s salty, you can rinse it under cold or warm water to remove some of the salt content. You won’t lose any vital nutrients in the process.
Consumer Reports Doesn’t Recommend Tuna
Consumer Reports released an announcement in 2014 that warned pregnant women to not eat tuna. The report cites a heightened risk of women eating too much mercury – a substance that can cause toxicity if consumed too often.
The interesting tidbit is that the group cited an FDA study that found 20% of all tuna had abnormally high levels of mercury of twice the normal average.
And – sorry – but you’re also not allowed to eat the light variety.
When babies are exposed to mercury, they can develop:
- Hearing problems.
- Vision problems.
- Brain damage.
But this is when babies come in contact with mercury when in the womb. So, we have two conflicting reports where one agency states “yes, pregnant women can eat tuna” and another stating “pregnant women can’t eat tuna.”
The FDA is firm on its stance that the benefits of tuna far outweigh the risks, and many doctors agree.
7 Signs of Mercury Poisoning
Mercury poisoning, also known as methylmercury poisoning, occurs when a person, in this case, a pregnant woman, consumes foods with mercury too often. A good example would be eating a can of tuna fish daily.
Studies have shown that small exposure to mercury will not harm a person. But when levels are too high, poisoning will occur. This is a major issue and one that can also cause the baby to get poisoned. And if the baby gets exposed to too much mercury, he or she can have brain damage and serious development issues as a result.
The signs of mercury poisoning include:
- Sensation disturbances.
- Lack of coordination.
- Muscle weakness.
- Difficulty walking.
- Difficulty hearing.
- Speech impairment.
- Impairment of the peripheral vision.
And if you have been eating lots of seafood and suffer from these symptoms, it’s time to stop reading this article and to go straight to your physician. If you continue to consume foods with high levels of mercury at this time, you pose a risk of damaging many of your vital organs, including your lungs, kidneys, liver and heart.
But under normal consumption levels, fish and the mercury that they contain provide you with an abundance of nutrients that are difficult to get in an ordinary diet.