Tuna is often the main ingredient in fish salads, sandwiches, casseroles, and noodles. However, when you are pregnant, it is essential to know if it is safe at this time before including it in your diet.
Is tuna safe to eat while pregnant?
It is okay to eat tuna in moderation since it is a highly nutritional fish and an important source of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), protein, vitamins, and minerals like selenium, potassium, iodine, and magnesium.
It does contain mercury, but it may not be harmful when eaten in measured amounts.
1. Raw tuna
Eating raw or undercooked fish preparations like seared or smoked tuna (e.g., carpaccio, tartare, tataki) may increase the risk of bacterial infections that may spread through blood, which can be harmful to the mother and the baby. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and Centers for Disease Control have advised pregnant women to eat fish cooked to a temperature of at least 145°F since cooking at this range destroys any harmful parasites or pathogens.
2. Canned tuna
Tinned or canned tuna is okay in pregnancy when eaten in moderation, though it may not be as good as the fresh ones due to its low omega-3 fatty acids and high salt content due to its preservation.
What kind of canned tuna is safe?
While choosing the healthiest canned tuna, make sure it is:
- Water-packed instead of oil-packed (retains a greater amount of omega-3 fatty acids)
- Has no added salt
- Has a low mercury level
The chunk light variety, made from skipjack and available from different brands, is more likely to meet the above criteria. The chunk white tuna, on the other hand, is prepared with albacore having higher levels of mercury.
Tunas to eat/avoid (with mercury levels in parts per million)
|Safe to eat||Fresh/ frozen skipjack (0.26 ppm), skipjack light tuna (0.889 ppm), fresh/frozen albacore (0.82 ppm), canned albacore (0.853 ppm)|
|Recommended to avoid||Fresh/frozen big eye (1.816 ppm), fresh/frozen yellowfin or ahi (1.478 ppm)|
How much tuna fish can you eat when pregnant?
According to FDA, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 8-12 ounces (2-3 servings) is the recommended amount of seafood with low mercury levels that women can have in a week during pregnancy.
- Fresh tuna: 2 steaks, weighing 5 ounces when cooked
- Canned tuna: 4 medium-sized cans, having a 5-ounce drain weight per can
When can tuna be bad?
Increased tuna consumption may be harmful as ingestion of such high levels of mercury could affect your fetus’ nervous system. It also has certain environmental pollutants like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and dioxins that might accumulate in your body, coming in the way of your baby’s development if eaten regularly.
Dr. Mashiach has completed his MD at the Sackler School of Medicine, TAU; specialization in gynecology at the Lis Maternity and Women’s Hospital, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center; fellowship in Endoscopy at the Polyclinique de I’Hotel-Dieu, Universite d’Auvergne, Clermont, France.
He is a Senior Physician, Director of the Department of Gynecology, which provides routine and preventative care services to its patients and a full range of gynecological surgical procedures for adequately managing its patients with benign gynecologic disorders.
He offers advanced care in all gynecological subspecialties such as Urogynecology, Colposcopy, Fetal Loss Clinic, and Post Menopausal Clinic.