The nutrients in seafood are vital to the brain development of young children, especially during pregnancy. Seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for visual and cognitive development and help prevent coronary heart disease. And scientific studies show that pregnant women who eat three-to-four servings of seafood per week provide the greatest benefit to the IQ of their unborn children. That makes fish an expectant or nursing mom’s superfood, and a healthy choice for the whole family.
Unfortunately, most people, especially pregnant or nursing women, haven’t gotten the message. Global health experts agree Americans are eating very low amounts of seafood – less than half a serving per week and low levels of consumption by children may be harming their brain development as well as preventing them from gaining the important health benefits of seafood.
According to the FDA’s 2014 report on the net effects of consuming fish, 95 percent of children in America are not reaching their full IQ potential because their moms did not consume enough fish during pregnancy. Ironically, one reason for this alarming trend is the set of guidelines the FDA released in 2004 to encourage women to eat more seafood.
While the FDA recommended about three servings a week, it also cautioned against eating four rarely consumed species of fish because of the higher levels of mercury they may contain. The advice was intended to highlight the benefits of seafood and increase consumption by all Americans while mentioning the potential mercury risk for vulnerable groups. Unfortunately, the FDA advisory ended up scaring Americans, especially pregnant women, away from one of the healthiest sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids available.
Scientific studies over the past decade conclude that the real risk to pregnant and nursing women and their babies is eating too little seafood, causing them to miss out on the important benefits of fish. And while some consumers are turning to omega-3 supplements instead, these supplements are more expensive and not as rich in nutrients as seafood itself.
Because of all this, the FDA is revising its guidelines to reflect current science and accomplish what the 2004 guidelines were supposed to do, which is increase seafood consumption amongst all Americans – especially pregnant women.
So how much seafood should you eat?
According to the FDA, consumers, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should eat a minimum of two-to-three seafood meals a week. And eating a variety of seafood, from fresh fish to canned tuna, salmon and sardines, helps you enjoy its benefits of being low in calories, a healthy source of protein and a predominant dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids. For soon-to-be-moms, this recommended diet will help children’s brains grow and work properly, maximizing their IQ potential and receiving all the nutritional benefits of omega-3s. For people of all ages, eating seafood helps prevent heart disease, maintain brain health and is an important source of protein.
Consumers today can feel confident about their fish choices and boost their consumption to make up for a decade of missing out on the important nutrients and benefits of seafood. It’s time to do what mom told you, and put that brain food back into your family’s meal plans.