Can I Eat Mackerel When Pregnant?

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Fish is tricky to navigate while you are pregnant. Safe fish provides you with a lean source of protein that's also rich in iron, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. Certain deep sea fish and any kind of raw or undercooked seafood offer more risks than benefits for pregnant women. Mackerel is no exception. Depending on the type of mackerel, you either have to skip it altogether or limit your intake to keep yourself and your baby safe.

What to Avoid

"Mackerel" is a term that applies to several types of fish. Some are safe to eat, and some are not. King mackerel contains too much mercury to be considered safe during pregnancy. Avoid king mackerel for your entire pregnancy, because there is no safe amount. A diet high in fish known to contain mercury could result in a mercury build-up in your bloodstream which could result in poor brain and nervous development of your baby. If you're uncertain what type of mackerel you have, avoid it to be on the safe side.

What's Safe

Spanish and gulf mackerel contain high amounts of mercury but not so high that you can't enjoy them in moderation, according to the American Pregnancy Association. It recommends no more than three servings per month that don't exceed 6 oz. each for a total of 18 oz. Low-mercury fish consumption should be limited to less than 12 oz. per week to reduce the risk of ingesting too much mercury. If you consume mackerel, a high mercury fish, you should also factor it into your weekly 12 oz. allotment. As well, north Atlantic and chub mackerel are low mercury fish and can be enjoyed up to 12 ounces per week.

Safe Preparation

Mercury isn't the only thing you have to worry about when you eat fish. If you consume raw or undercooked fish, you run the risk of ingesting bacteria and parasites that can make you sick and cross the placenta to affect your developing baby. To kill any potentially dangerous bacteria or parasites, FoodSafety.gov recommends cooking all fish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and avoiding any dishes, dips or entrees that contain raw fish.

Kitchen Safety

If you prepare the safe types of mackerel in your home, it's not enough to just make sure you cook it to the proper temperature. If the fish or its packaging touches your countertops or utensils, you could ingest dangerous parasites or bacteria. Wash your work surfaces and your hands thoroughly after preparing and before eating to minimize your risk. Store fish in the refrigerator in a container that will prevent any part of the fish or its juices from touching other foods.

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