Is It Safe To Eat Tuna During Pregnancy?

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Pregnancy had set in the sour mood in Merlyn’s appetite. But after three months of terrible morning sickness, she finally started to get her appetite back. Amongst various other food cravings, tuna was the seafood she really wanted. But imagine her disappointment when she found out that tuna was a taboo during pregnancy.

That pops the question, is tuna safe to eat during pregnancy? MomJunction is here to help you understand the safety criterion around tuna during pregnancy.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Tuna Fish?

Yes, it is safe to eat tuna in limited amounts during your pregnancy. You can prefer eating white tuna (albacore) and light tuna. Tuna that is low in mercury levels is also allowed during pregnancy. Consuming excess tuna can be toxic as it is a major source of methylmercury that is toxic and harmful (1).

[Read: Mercury Exposure During Pregnancy]

How Much Tuna Can You Eat When Pregnant?

Most dietitians and doctors suggest not to eat over four medium-sized cans of tuna (amounts to 5 ounces (oz)) a week. If it is fresh tuna steaks, you should not eat more than two, i.e., 6oz steaks a week. If you consume other kinds of seafood, you may have to adjust accordingly (2).

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pregnant women can eat only eight to 12oz of seafood per week. In case you consume other seafood, avoid eating tuna the same week (3).

Can You Eat All Types Of Tuna?

Tuna lovers should understand that not all kinds of tuna are safe. Below are some standard tuna types and their consumption rules.

Albacore tuna: It is a premium variety and the only species of tuna referred to as white. It is available in cans and pouches. You can eat no more than two medium-sized cans or 300gm (6oz) of albacore (white) tuna per week.

Yellowfin tuna: Also known as light tuna, it is also available in cans and pouches. This variety has a slightly pronounced flavor than the white albacore tuna. You can eat no more than two to three servings per week (4).

Ahi tuna: It is also known as Bigeye, and is available as a steak or sashimi. It is not canned and contains higher levels of mercury. You can only eat up to 6oz a week.

Bluefin tuna: This tuna, like ahi, also contains higher levels of mercury and is available as sashimi. You can thus eat up to 6oz a week.

What Are The Benefits Of Tuna During Pregnancy?

Consuming limited amounts of tuna while pregnant will not harm you or your growing baby, as this oily fish has significant nutritional benefits. According to the US FDA, tuna helps you during pregnancy as it:

  • Supplies your body with high proteins
  • Offers minerals, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, thereby boosting the baby’s development
  • The omega–3s aid in the development of the baby’s brain, eyes, and nerves (5)

Though it is not a perfect food to be taken during pregnancy, the benefits of eating limited amounts of tuna outweigh the risks of eating excess fish.

How Safe Is Canned Tuna While Pregnant?

Canned tuna may pose certain health risks when consumed on a regular basis.

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) is a substance present in the lining of metal cans. When you consume canned tuna, there are chances of BPA entering your system, affecting the fetus’ brain development (6).
  • Canned tuna may also contain salt, which could increase the sodium levels in your body, increasing the chances of high blood pressure.

However, canned tuna has low levels of mercury as they contain only small and young fish.

[ Read: Ways To Prevent Fish Allergy During Pregnancy ]

Dangers Of Tuna During Pregnancy

As mentioned, tuna is harmful if consumed in excess amounts, irrespective of it being canned or fresh.

  • Too much tuna can build up mercury levels in your system, thereby damaging the developing brain and nervous system of the fetus.
  • Mercury intake could also lead to heart damage.
  • Mild exposure to mercury can cause developmental delays, impaired immune functioning, and physical deformities.
  • Tuna also contains environmental pollutants, including dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which would build up in your body interfering with the baby’s development.

[Read: Nutritional Foods During Pregnancy]

Can You Eat Raw Tuna While Pregnant?

Avoid raw tuna when you are pregnant, as you may be susceptible to food-borne illness. Cooking the fish destroys harmful pathogens and parasites.

Consumption of fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and shark are a complete no-no during pregnancy since they have higher levels of mercury. But tuna is believed to contain lower mercury levels. You can enjoy tuna in moderate quantities.

There is a lack of scientific evidence to prove that consuming tuna during pregnancy is harmful. However, you can taste a serving once in a while. Stick to fresh tuna as opposed to canned, as the former undergoes minimal processing and is probably safer too. When in doubt, it is best to talk to your doctor.

Is tuna safe during pregnancy? Do share your suggestions in the comments section below. They would help our other readers.

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