When you hear the word sushi, what often comes to mind first is raw fish. Unfortunately, organizations like the American Pregnancy Association do not recommend that pregnant women consume raw fish. However, most sushi restaurants also offer a vegetarian version of sushi, which removes the potential dangers of sushi that features raw seafood. Or you can make your own sushi at home using vegetables in place of raw fish.
The problem with the raw fish in sushi is the varying levels of mercury content that can be found in most seafood. Fish are exposed to mercury while in the water due to a mixture of natural sources, and man-made sources like coal-fired power plants depositing mercury into the ecosystem of the fish. When consumed in excess while pregnant, the mercury from fish can build up in your bloodstream, which can affect the development of your child's brain and nervous system development. In general, the Food and Drug Administration suggests limiting your intake of seafood to about 12 oz. a week.
Bacteria and Parasites
Raw fish in sushi can also be a problem when you're pregnant due to the possible presence of harmful bacteria or parasites that can make you sick, as well as can affect your unborn child. While experienced sushi chefs are trained to choose fish that are bacteria and parasite free, there is still a risk when the fish is left raw. When a fish is cooked properly, bacteria and parasites becomes less of an issue, as the heat helps kill the microorganisms during the cooking process. When eating fish as part of the 12 oz. suggested by the FDA, cook the fish to an internal temperature of at least 145 Fahrenheit to kill off potentially harmful microorganisms.
When ordering vegetable sushi at a restaurant or making vegetable sushi from home, choose vegetables that have the vitamins needed to promote a healthy pregnancy. For example, choose vegetables with high levels of vitamin C, which helps you and your baby absorb iron during your pregnancy. Examples include shredded carrot or green, yellow or orange peppers. Common sushi ingredients like asparagus and cucumber also provide vitamin C. Vegetables high in vitamin A, like spinach, can be added to your vegetarian sushi to promote healthy growth of teeth and bones. Throw some sunflower seeds into your sushi for both a crunch as well as a supply of pyridoxine, or vitamin B3, which can help with morning sickness, as well as help form red blood cells.
When possible choose sushi ingredients with minerals that promote a healthy pregnancy. For example, leafy green vegetables can easily be rolled into sushi to provide folate, a necessary nutrient for placenta health and to prevent neural tube defects. Iron is essential during pregnancy, and can be provided by sushi by choosing rolls featuring spinach, peas, broccoli or non-vegetable additions like tofu.
- American Pregnancy Association: Mercury Levels in Sushi
- March of Dimes: Food-bourne Risks in Pregnancy
- MayoClinic.com: Pregnancy and Fish -- What's Safe to Eat?
- American Pregnancy Association: Essential Nutrients & Vitamins For Pregnancy
- MayoClinic.com: Pregnancy Nutrition -- Healthy Eating Basics