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Herbs & Nutrition
Fish, to eat it or not? With the concerns over the safety of fish, but the essential need for the fatty acids it supplies, should you be taking a fish oil supplement?
First, the question that needs to be addressed is do you need to eat fish in pregnancy, is it even that important? Though there are other ways to acquire the essential fatty acids that fish provides, at the current time, I believe consuming fish on a weekly basis is the most beneficial way to get these essential nutrients. However, the type of fish consumed is of importance.
We have a whole download devoted to helping expectant women choose the safest and healthiest fish to consume during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you can get a free copy here.
If you cannot eat fish or are not able to eat 2-3 servings per week during your pregnancy, then a fish oil supplement is better for you and your baby than missing this vital nutrient.
Essential fatty acids provided by fish are essential because it is difficult for your body to manufacture them in sufficient quantities, especially with the high demands of pregnancy. These are different than the fats that supply energy or might end up on your mid-section. Essential fatty acids are needed in every cell of your body and your developing baby's body, including the brain, central nervous system, eyes and cardiovascular system.
Every cell contains fatty acids within the cell membrane, and high concentrations are found in the brain, nervous system and eyes. Fatty acids are also needed for hormone production, also an important factor for pregnancy.
A deficiency of fatty acids, especially DHA during pregnancy may lead to delays in neurological development or slow growth for the fetus and studies indicate it may be correlated to an increased chance of pre-term labor.
Current recommendations are for at least 300 mg DHA and 200 mg EPA per day, but we often recommend up to 800-900 mg DHA and 500-600 mg EPA per day during pregnancy and breastfeeding. One serving of salmon, about 3 oz, supplies your daily requirements, so if you are consuming fish with high levels of DHA omega fats several times/week, you may need to only partially supplement your intake with a fish oil supplement. Salmon is the highest source of DHA, with herring, sardines and trout following up salmon. Not all fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, so be sure to supplement if you are not eating rich sources of these healthy fats.
Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. Most other sources, both animal and vegetable contain only negligible amounts of DHA, so you will need to supplement if you don't consume fish in adequate amounts.
Are fish oil supplements safe? We always recommend choosing the best quality fish oil supplement you can afford from a reputable source that tests their fish for contaminants. Some of the brands we recommend are Green Pastures, Standard Process, Nutrigold, Viva Naturals, Dr Tobias, and Nordic Naturals.
Don’t forget to grab your FREE Guide to Fish & Seafood in Pregnancy & Breastfeeding.
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