Is It Safe To Eat Tuna When Pregnant?

check_icon Research-backed

Image: Shutterstock

IN THIS ARTICLE

If you are craving tuna fish these days, we have gathered some information about the safety of tuna during pregnancy. Canned tuna or the varieties containing high mercury content can risk the baby’s growth. However, fresh tuna with low levels of mercury is often considered safe during pregnancy if consumed in moderate amounts. Moreover, small amounts of tuna offer health benefits such as providing proteins and adding more vitamins to the body. However, if you consider eating tuna salad while pregnant, it is better to consult your doctor. So, read on for more information on maintaining safety standards while eating tuna.

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).

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 one serving per week.

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

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 (5).
  • 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.

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.

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.

Tuna is a low-mercury fish rich in vital nutrients, such as lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, and iodine. Eating well-cooked tuna while pregnant can contribute to your nutritional needs, supporting your health and your unborn baby’s growth and development. Albacore, Yellowfin, Bigeye, and Bluefin tuna are the “good choice” tuna fish you can safely consume during pregnancy. However, no matter how healthy, avoid its excess intake to minimize the risk of mercury buildup that can adversely affect your and your baby’s health.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Arienne Bloomingdale et al.; (2010); A qualitative study of fish consumption during pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131842/
  2. Doris T. Hicks; (2016); Seafood Safety and Quality: The Consumer’s Role.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5302431/
  3. Jennifer McGuire et al.; (2016); The 2014 FDA assessment of commercial fish: practical considerations for improved dietary guidance.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4942920/
  4. Should Pregnant Women Eat More Tuna?
    https://faculty.uml.edu//jhojnacki/83.123/Documents/ShouldPregnantWomenEatMoreTuna.pdf
  5. Sarah E Santiago et al.; (2013); Consumption habits of pregnant women and implications for developmental biology: a survey of predominantly Hispanic women in California.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3704911/
The following two tabs change content below.

Dr. Shikha Sharma

(MBBS)
Celebrity nutrition advisor Dr. Shikha Sharma has founded Dr. Shikha’s Nutrihealth in 1998. Dr. Shikha has done her MBBS from Maulana Azad Medical College and her organization, Dr. Shikha's NutriHealth, has over 50 Ayurveda experts and nutritionists who provide consultation services to the clients. The Nutrihealth expert team handles weight loss/weight gain, PCOS, thyroid, diabetes, cholesterol, post-pregnancy weight loss and... more

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

LATEST ARTICLES