Sushi During Pregnancy: What Type To Eat And What To Avoid

Sushi During Pregnancy

Image: iStock

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There are so many things we love to eat, but not all are allowed during pregnancy. If you are not a fan of seafood, it is easy to refrain from it. But if you love that delicious roll of salmon or yellowtail, it might not want to miss sushi for nine months. But, wait! You can eat sushi during pregnancy if you choose the safe fish and limit it to small amounts.

MomJunction has compiled some interesting sushi facts and the dos and don’ts of the eating the seafood during pregnancy! Read on.

Can A Pregnant Woman Eat Sushi?

It is entirely safe to eat sushi when you are pregnant, but you should avoid unfrozen or uncooked fish and seafood. You should only eat sushi made from frozen fish or thoroughly cooked fish. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends frozen fish as it kills parasites (1). This is because raw seafood is harmful as it is prone to parasites and pathogens, and may contain high mercury levels.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend eating fish and shellfish only when cooked at 145ºF. At this temperature, the pathogens and other disease-causing agents are destroyed.

[ Read: It Safe To Eat Seafood During Pregnancy ]

How Dangerous Can Eating Sushi Be?

Sushi may not be dangerous to pregnant women. But the way it is made and the main ingredients in it play a significant role in increasing the risk miscarriage, preterm births, etc.

Bacterial and parasitic infections:

  • Cooked sushi is safe to eat, but raw fish nurtures bacteria and parasites such as tapeworms. If you get a tapeworm infection during pregnancy, it will deprive your body of all nutrients, thereby affecting the growth and development of the fetus.
  • Even though a parasitic infection would not pass through your placenta, the liver or gastrointestinal issues in you would affect the baby.
  • Parasitic infections can also cause malnourishment and anemia, leading to a miscarriage (2).

Suppresses immune system:

  • Pregnancy suppresses your immune system, making you prone to various ailments. A suppressed immune system is more susceptible to foodborne diseases such as listeriosis (3).

Dangerous mercury levels:

  • Fish such as king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, and sharks are high in mercury and can be dangerous.
  • Higher ingestion of mercury damages the nervous system, kidneys, lungs, vision, and hearing in the babies (4).

Now, you might ask us why we have earlier said it is safe to eat sushi when the side-effects are so prominent.

[ Read: Mercury Exposure During Pregnancy ]

How Is Sushi Safe To Eat During Pregnancy?

If the fish in the sushi is subject to “flash frozen” process (where seafood is refrigerated at extremely cold temperatures quickly after harvesting), it kills the parasites in it. Most fish and seafood that is served at restaurants is usually flash frozen.

What Kind Of Sushi Can You Eat During Pregnancy?

You can opt for sushi made of fish with the lowest levels of mercury. Most of the larger and older fish contain high mercury levels, and they are used for sushi. However, some fish varieties have low mercury and are declared safe by the US National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (5). You can enjoy up to two 6oz servings of the following seafood in a week.

  • Ark Shell – Akagai, Himo
  • Abalone – Awabi
  • Conger – Anago, Hamo
  • Clam – Aoyagi, Hamaguri, Hokkigai, Mirugai, Tairagai
  • Sweetfish – Ayu
  • Shrimp – Ebi, Shako
  • Sandfish – Hatahata
  • Scallop – Hotategai
  • Squid – Ika
  • Salmon – Sake, Ikura
  • Shellfish -Kaibashira, Tsubugai
  • Crab – Kani
  • Flatfish – Karei
  • Gizzard Shad – Kohada
  • Smelt Egg – Masago
  • Trout – Masu
  • Halfbeak – Sayori
  • Sea Bream – Tai
  • Octopus – Tako
  • Flying Fish Egg – Tobikko
  • Cockle – Torigai
  • Freshwater Eel – Unagi
  • Sea Urchin Roe – Uni

[ Read: Crab During Pregnancy ]

What Kind Of Sushi Should You Avoid ?

In addition to swordfish, shark, and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico (6), you should avoid the following kinds of sushi while pregnant: –

  • Tuna – Ahi, Maguro, Meji, Shiro, Toro
  • Mackerel – Aji, Saba, Sawara
  • Yellowtail – Buri, Hamachi, Inada Kanpachi
  • Bonito – Katsuo
  • Swordfish – Kajiki
  • Blue Marlin – Makjiki
  • Sea Bass – Seigo, Suzuki

What Sushi Rolls Can You Eat When Pregnant?

The following are the types of sushi rolls you can indulge in without any fear.

  • California rolls
  • Cooked salmon
  • Eel rolls
  • Shrimp rolls
  • Steak and chicken rolls
  • Tempura rolls (crab, shrimp, and vegetable)
  • Vegetable rolls

Best Sushi Alternatives That Outweigh The Dangers Of Eating Raw Fish:

You can indulge in sushi if you forgo all but these varieties:

1. Cured fish sushi:

Apart from freezing, curing is one more process to kill the bacteria and parasites. The process of curing, salting, and pickling will kill worms and keep the fish firm and fresh. Salt and vinegar are required for this process.

Apply salt to the fish and leave for one to one–and-a-half hours. Wash away the salt and pat dry the fish with a paper towel. Soak in vinegar for about five to ten minutes, and dry with a paper towel. The fish can now be used for making sushi.

2. Vegetable sushi:

This is the safest option as it replaces the raw fish with vegetables. You can use cucumber, avocado, and carrot for making vegetable sushi. Though making sushi with veggies may not be appealing, preparing it with the right ingredients can make it a tasty dish.

3. Homemade sushi:

If you cook sushi at home, you can prepare it in a hygienic way. If you choose to make it at home, freeze the fish for about four days to kill the worms and bacteria.

Homemade Sushi Recipes:

1.Vegetable Sushi

Vegetable Sushi

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • Bamboo sushi mat
  • Rice – medium grain size
  • Nori seaweed sheets
  • Rice vinegar
  • Pickled ginger and wasabi
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar

How to:

For sushi rice:

  • Cook two cups of rice by adding two and one-fourth cups of water.
  • Now heat vinegar and sugar together until the mixture dissolves.
  • Mix the cooked rice with this above mixture.

For the filling:

You can use any of your favorites – cucumber, carrot, soy sauced mushrooms, soy sauced tofu, avocado to make the filling.

Making the roll

  • Place the bamboo mat on a flat place and place the nori sheet on that.
  • Layer rice all over the sheet. Leave about two cm at the top edge of the sheet.
  • Add the fillings of your choice two-third cm from the bottom edge of the sheet.
  • Roll the sushi with the mat. Remove sushi roll from the mat.
  • Sprinkle some water along the edges to seal them.
  • Cut the sushi into small rolls.

2. Spicy California Rolls

Spicy California Rolls

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • Bamboo sushi mat
  • Nori sheets
  • Sushi rice
  • Avocados
  • Crab sticks
  • Seedless cucumbers
  • Kewpie mayonnaise
  • White sesame seeds
  • Spicy sauce

How to:

  • Place the bamboo mat and cover it with the nori sheet.
  • Spread the sushi rice (prepare as mentioned in recipe 1), and sprinkle some sesame seeds all over it.
  • Place the fillings – cucumber, crab sticks one-third cm from the bottom. Coat the filling with mayonnaise.
  • Roll the sushi, and press firmly into a cylinder.
  • Remove sushi roll from the bamboo mat.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Why do you suffer from diarrhea after eating sushi?

You may suffer from diarrhea if you are intolerant or allergic to seafood. You could also fall sick if you eat sushi made of spoilt ingredients or ones which haven’t been stored well. They may be contaminated with bacteria causing food poisoning, which results in diarrhea.

[ Read: Diarrhea During Pregnancy ]

2. Can sushi give you worms?

Yes, sushi can make you sick by causing worms in the intestines. Worms are a kind of parasites present in raw and undercooked seafood such as cod, salmon, sea urchins, shrimp, crab, tuna, and more. If these fish varieties are consumed without being flash frozen, the worms can enter into the gastrointestinal system and lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and coughing up worms. If the worms attach to the large intestine, it produces symptoms similar to appendicitis including throbbing pain and fever.

[ Read: Stomach Flu During Pregnancy ]

It is advisable to talk to your healthcare provider regarding your sushi diet, as the risks outweigh the benefits. And preparing it at home is the best way to have a healthy dish. Vegetable sushi is a good alternative.
If you have had any experiences with sushi during pregnancy, do not forget to share them with us!

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Rebecca Malachi

"I believe words have power. They are a powerful tool for a creative soul. Being a 'word addict', I express my thoughts and contribute articles on health, wellness and beauty. Apart from writing, I love listening to gospel music and enjoy observing nature in silence."
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