For a long time, medical professionals have advised against women eating raw fish during pregnancy, warning against the potential of food poisoning, especially problematic for a growing fetus. However, studies may actually prove sushi to be good for a woman while she is pregnant.
Fish is one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids, critical to the growing development of a baby’s brain while in the womb. Few other food items contain such a concentration of these vital nutrients and infants who received a larger amount of omega 3 fatty acids in the womb rated higher on test scores by the age of six than infants who did not get the same nutrients in vitro.
When looking at the intake of raw fish, some doctors and mothers were concerned about the potential of bacterial poisoning, but the idea of such a concern seems preposterous to the Japanese population whose mothers have been eating sushi during pregnancy for thousands of years. According to many sources, the nutrient-dense raw fish and other raw seafood are considered sacred foods to many cultures, such as the Japanese, where women eat sushi while pregnant to ensure proper development of their infants as well as boosting vital nutrition for the mother.
It seems to be a myth that ingesting sushi during pregnancy results in complications as there has been no scientific evidence to back up this fear. The only concern that may even pale in comparison to the benefits fish to the diet lends, is the possible concentration of mercury levels in the sushi of choice.
America’s insistence that sushi was somehow harmful to women growing babies has certainly caused the Japanese to raise an eyebrow in this direction. Such claims have even come off as insulting to a culture which has always seen and acknowledged the health and nutrient-rich benefits derived from raw fish. Pregnant mothers in Japan would never consider deleting one of their staple food items for such ridiculous superstition.
As a pregnant mother, deciding what foods to take in to support the proper development of her baby, it seems high quality, well handled sushi may be one of the best things she can consider. It certainly outweighs the benefits of cheesecake, ice cream and pickles, or other sugar-laden snacks often craved by women during pregnancy.
Raw fish, or sushi, contains not only the omega 3 fatty acids, essential for proper brain development, but live enzymes which help to break down the meat and digest other nutrients present within the food. Fish is a great source of protein and is easier to digest than other meat choices. Even for a professed “vegetarian” sushi may be a possible “cheat” choice for foods to eat while pregnant since the food is raw and so easy to digest.
Other vegetarian options for omega 3 fatty acids are chia seeds, spirulina, walnuts and flax seeds. However, omega 3 fatty acids have three components which are vital to health and that is: ALA’s, EPA’s and DHA’s. Chia and flax seeds as well as walnuts have the necessary ALA’s which the body can convert into EPA’s but DHA’s, which are especially important for brain health, are largely only found in seafood like sea vegetables and fish. The body can make DHA out of the proper quantity of EPA’s, but it has been found that most vegetarian adults greatly lack DHA’s.
In order to maintain high levels of all the necessary components of omega 3’s it is recommended to eat spirulina or blue-green algae or to bring fish, especially sushi into the diet, and more importantly for a pregnant woman. The brain of an infant develops rapidly in the womb and sushi can greatly enhance the chances that the little one receives all the necessary nutrients to support healthy development.
By Stasia Bliss
Image by Michael Saechang – Flickr License