You might have heard that omega-3 fatty acids are a very healthy component of diet, especially during pregnancy. Not only are they anti-inflammatory, meaning that they can help reduce your risk of heart disease and other inflammatory conditions, but they also foster fetal brain development. Cod fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a category of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. They occur most frequently in species that have to withstand cold temperatures because they have very low melting points compared with other unsaturated fats, such as those found in many plants. Specifically, cold-water fish such as salmon and cod are very high in omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to being heart-healthy, omega-3 fatty acids also foster fetal brain development, explain Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz in their book "You: Having A Baby."
Unfortunately, many of the fish most likely to contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids also are likely to be contaminated by the environmental pollutant mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal that builds up in larger predator species, meaning it's most concentrated in the largest ocean fish like tuna. But cod is not only high in omega-3 fatty acids, but it's also relatively low in mercury, notes AmericanPregnancy.org. During pregnancy, you can safely eat up to six 6-ounce servings of cod each month.
If you're not a fan of cod, you can take cod oil supplements to get omega-3 fatty acids. These supplements contain the isolated and purified fat from the fish, meaning they also contain the healthy omega-3 fats. Unfortunately, they also can contain mercury contamination. While cod is a lower-mercury fish, mercury is detrimental enough to developing babies -- it's a brain toxin -- that it might not be safe to use a cod-based oil supplement during pregnancy. Algae-based omega-3 supplements might be safer.
If you choose to use a cod oil supplement during pregnancy, be aware that they can cause copious fish-flavored burps. While this isn't dangerous, it can be off-putting, particularly to pregnant women who are notoriously sensitive to smells and flavors to begin with. You can try putting your cod oil or cod pills in the freezer to reduce the likelihood that the oil will cause burping: The cold makes the oil a little less flavorful and makes the flavor molecules less likely to escape the stomach.
- You: Having A Baby; Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
- AmericanPregnancy.org: Cod Mercury