Calamari, Italian for "squid," is safe to eat when you are pregnant. Like other fish and shellfish, calamari is high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients, while low in saturated fat and sodium. The Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration urge pregnant women to avoid eating fish or shellfish that are high in mercury. Mollusks, including calamari, clams, oysters and scallops, are low in mercury.
According to the EPA, mercury is a naturally occurring element that is produced by industrial pollution. It falls from the air into bodies of water, and is then absorbed by fish. High levels of mercury can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system. It is especially important to avoid excess mercury during pregnancy, because high levels in an unborn baby's bloodstream impairs nervous system development, leading to birth defects.
Mercury in Fish
All fish contain trace amounts of mercury. The levels depend on what the fish eat, how long they live, how big they are and how high they are in the food chain. Larger fish that have lived longer tend to have higher levels of mercury. Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish if you are pregnant, based on EPA and FDA recommendations.
Fish Safe to Eat When Pregnant
It is safe for pregnant and nursing mothers to eat up to 12 ounces a week of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury, according to the EPA and FDA. Fish that are low in mercury include shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish. Calamari is also on the extended list of low mercury fish. Albacore tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna, so limit intake to 6 oz. weekly. If you are pregnant and not sure about the mercury content of local fish, eat up to 6 oz., but do not eat any other fish during that week.
Nutrients in Calamari
A 3 oz. portion of calamari contains 78 calories. It provides 13 g protein, giving you 18 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance for pregnant women. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissue and aids in immune function. A serving contains only 1 g total fat but provides 30 percent RDA for omega-3 fatty acids. Calamari is high in cholesterol, containing 198 mg.
Minerals in Calamari
Calamari is a rich source of the minerals copper, 161 percent RDA; selenium, 63 percent RDA; phosphorus, 27 percent RDA; and zinc, 12 percent RDA. Copper helps to form hemoglobin and keep bones, blood vessels and nerves healthy. Selenium protects against oxidative stress and regulates thyroid hormone action. Phosphorus helps to build strong bones and teeth; release energy during metabolism; and form genetic material, cell membranes and enzymes. Zinc is a component of many enzymes and, by helping build proteins, assists in wound healing, blood formation and growth and maintenance of all tissues. Calamari also provides 8 percent RDA for magnesium.
Vitamins in Calamari
Several B-complex vitamins are provided by calamari, including B-12, 42 percent RDA; riboflavin, 25 percent RDA; choline, 12 percent RDA; and niacin, 10 percent RDA. Vitamin B-12 helps in forming red blood cells and genetic material; nervous system function; and protein and fat metabolism. Riboflavin aids in energy metabolism. Choline’s role in pregnancy has received increased attention, thanks to its importance in preventing birth defects and promoting brain and memory development in infants.
- FDA: What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish
- FDA: Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish
- EPA: Mercury
- USDA: Nutrient Data Laboratory: Squid
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intake Tables and Application
- “Journal of the American Dietetic Association”; Pre- and Post-Natal Health: Evidence of Increased Choline Requirement; August, 2010.