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Can You Eat Shrimp When Pregnant? Safety And Benefits

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Shrimp is a soft-textured shellfish rich in vital nutrients, such as lean protein, vitamin D, selenium, and several B vitamins. It also contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can benefit a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. But while shrimp is generally considered a healthy choice for seafood lovers, you might want to know — can pregnant women eat shrimp? Knowing this is crucial as certain types of fish and shellfish may contain high amounts of mercury.

Keep reading to know about the safety, possible health benefits, and necessary precautions pregnant women should follow to eat shrimp while pregnant.

Safety Of Shrimp In Pregnancy

According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), shrimp is low-mercury seafood rich in protein and low in saturated fats, making it a healthy choice for pregnant women (1). Pregnant women should consume well-cooked shrimp since raw or undercooked seafood can contain harmful pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses.

The US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) advises pregnant and breastfeeding women to consume 8-12 ounces per week of a variety of low-mercury seafood (2). Consuming seafood can provide you with vital nutrients that promote your health and support the baby’s growth and development.

Besides shrimp, some other types of seafood that’s low in mercury and you can safely consume when pregnant are fish, such as pollack, catfish, salmon, trout, canned tuna, cod, and tilapia.

Nutritional Value Of Shrimp

Shrimp is a nutritious shellfish that you can prepare in several ways. Here’s the presentation of approximate amounts of different nutrients a pregnant woman aged between 19 and 30 years can get by consuming three ounces (85g) of cooked shrimp (3) (4).

NutrientAmountRDA
Water63.2g
Energy84.2kcal
Protein20.4g
Total lipid (fat)0.238g
Calcium, Ca59.5mg1000mg
Iron, Fe0.433mg27mg
Magnesium, Mg33.2mg350mg
Phosphorus, P201mg700mg
Potassium, K220mg2900mg
Sodium, Na94.4mg2300mg
Zinc, Zn1.39mg11mg
Cholesterol161mg

Source: USDA and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025

Possible Health Benefits Of Eating Shrimp During Pregnancy

Shrimp contains significant amounts of high-quality protein and several other nutrients, such as vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and calcium. Besides, they contain omega-3 fatty acids and some iron. Pregnant women need these nutrients for the healthy progression of pregnancy and proper growth and development of the babies.

For instance, consuming sufficient omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy ensures the baby’s proper eye and brain development (5). In addition, it can prevent preterm labor and delivery and lower the risk of preeclampsia. Furthermore, it may prevent allergies in infants and reduce the risk of postpartum depression (6). Iron in shrimp can also contribute to your increased iron needs and prevent anemia.

Tips To Cook Shrimp At Home

Below are some simple steps you can follow to safely cook shrimp at home and mitigate the risk of foodborne infections.

  • Clean your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Use clean utensils and kitchen essentials, such as knives, to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Clean the shrimp under cold running water before shelling or deveining the shrimp. Then, quickly peel off the skin and devein them using a sharp knife. It’s vital so that they don’t get warm. Keep the shrimp in a bowl of ice whenever possible.
  • Dispose of shells and veins as soon as possible so that they don’t contaminate clean shrimp at any point while preparing the shrimps (7).
  • Thoroughly cook shrimp and check its internal temperature using a food thermometer while preparing seafood at home. Experts recommend cooking seafood to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).

You may boil, steam, fry, bake, and grill shrimp. To ensure shrimp is cooked well, monitor its color. The US FDA advises cooking shrimp until they develop an opaque (milky white) color (8). Also, as the shrimp cooks through, its flesh becomes firmer and clearer (9).

Precautions To Take When Eating Shrimp During Pregnancy

Here are certain precautionary measures you should follow to ensure the safe consumption of shrimp during pregnancy.

  1. Buy seafood from a reputable supplier or store. Experts advise buying refrigerated seafood or the one displayed on a thick bed of fresh ice, preferably under some cover.
  1. Check the skin color and odor of shrimp. Fresh shrimp has a clear, pearl-like flesh and has little or no odor.
  1. Ask for an ice bag to keep the shrimp chilled while buying shrimp from the counter. If possible, keep a cooler with you to store shrimp until you reach home and refrigerate them. Doing so is crucial as bacteria thrive at temperatures above 40°F (4°C).
  1. While buying frozen shrimp, look for the one packed in close-fitting, moisture-proof packages. Pick packages that have no damage and no melted ice leaking. Double-check that the shrimp has no signs of freezer burn, such as discoloration or drying on the surface, and has no objectionable odor.
  1. Don’t eat raw or undercooked seafood, such as shrimp, sushi, sashimi, oysters, ceviche, as it may contain harmful pathogens, such as listeria and salmonella. These microbes can cause food poisoning, adversely affecting your and your baby’s health.
  1. Ensure the safety of seafood while eating outin a restaurant or hotel. Enquire about the dish and its ingredients. Check if the shrimp used in a dish is well-cooked or raw.

Shrimp is a healthy seafood choice you can cook thoroughly and consume safely when pregnant. Depending on where the shrimp were caught, they may contain higher levels of mercury than expected. Therefore, check the country of origin label on the package of the shrimp. It will help ensure you buy low-mercury shrimp only. If you are eating locally sourced seafood, check your local fish advisories.

References:

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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more