While pregnancy cravings can be a mom-to-be’s excuse to indulge on the food she desires, there are still some foods in the menu that you need to be cautious about. One of these foods is your much-desired sushi. Are you pregnant with a craving for this delicious Japanese treat? Here’s what experts suggest about the consumption of sushi while pregnant.
Can you eat sushi when pregnant?
Eating sushi while pregnant can be safe or not, depending on what kind of sushi you want to have. So why is it important to be more cautious while pregnant?
There are actually two issues on some varieties of sushi that experts are concerned about. Most notably, you’ll want to pay attention to sushi that contains the following ingredients:
Raw and undercooked seafood
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant women or those planning to get pregnant may need to avoid eating raw and undercooked eggs, meat, and seafood to minimize the risk of listeriosis.
Listeriosis is a food-borne illness that is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria that often contaminate raw food. Because of the immune system changes during pregnancy, pregnant women are 13 times more likely to get infected.
Once infected, the pregnant mom will experience flu-like symptoms and stomach upset which may appear to be mild. However, what’s alarming is the severity of its effects to the unborn baby, which includes sepsis (blood infection), meningitis (brain inflammation), and even death. Pregnant moms with listeriosis may also experience preterm labor and miscarriage.
Additionally, some types of fish may have some parasitic worms in them. For example, salmon may contain a parasite named anisakis that can make you sick once consumed. These parasites can live in raw, undercooked and improperly handled fish.
High mercury fish
Fish is one of the common ingredients of sushi. While pregnant women need a healthy portion of fish in their diet, they should be aware of the types of fish that have high mercury content. Mercury is metal that can be harmful for pregnant women and cause brain, hearing and visual damage to their babies, so it is best to avoid the kinds of fish with the highest mercury content.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration(FDA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the following fish types contain the highest mercury and pregnant women should avoid:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Sword fish
Other types of fish, like tuna, and shellfish can be consumed on 1 to 3 servings in a week depending on their mercuric content. It is also important to take note that the serving size mentioned is approximately equivalent to the palm of your hand.
That said, eating sushi can be safe for pregnant women, provided that you will avoid those with raw seafood and high mercury fish. Hence, not all sushi are off-limits. That’s pretty good news for pregnant women who want to satisfy their sushi cravings from time to time!
When should you stop eating sushi with raw and high mercury seafood?
The earlier you avoid them in your diet, the better. That would mean as early as you are planning to get pregnant or as soon as you find out that you are conceiving.
The possible risks of eating raw and high mercury seafood applies for your entire pregnancy so experts suggest to avoid sushi rolls with raw or undercooked seafood as early as possible.
If you just found out you’re pregnant and you recently consumed raw seafood in your sushi, don’t panic. The best thing to do is ask your obstetrician about it so that you’ll receive proper guidance on what to observe and do next.
What if I choose to eat sushi with raw fish while pregnant?
While it is generally advised to avoid raw seafood on your sushi while pregnant, the final decision is still yours to make. In some cultures, eating raw fish is a part of their healthy diet, even while pregnant.
However, if you choose to include raw fish on your sushi, experts has some important reminders to prevent or at least minimize the contamination of bacteria and other parasites on your raw fish. These are:
Freezing the raw fish
Raw wild fish is recommended to be frozen for at least 4 days before preparing it in your sushi. According to some experts, this will eliminate the parasites that are residing in the fish meat and make it safer to be consumed raw.
Use cured or smoked fish
Some sushi restaurants use fish that are cured or smoked beforehand. In that case, the fish does not need to have been frozen because the parasites would have been killed during the smoking or curing process. If you’re preparing a homemade sushi, you may want to learn how to properly cure or smoke your salmon before rolling it in your sushi.
Use farmed fish in your sushi
If you don’t have enough time to freeze or cure the fish for your sushi, it is better to select those that are farmed for the purpose of being eaten raw. Unlike those that came from the wild, farmed fish received the appropriate treatment to prevent or minimize parasitic infection, so it will be safer to be eaten raw.
Cook all shellfish
If you’d want your sushi raw, make sure not to include the shellfish. Shellfish like scallops, shrimps, crabs, and prawns in your sushi needs to be fully cooked to prevent bacteria and viruses from sinking into your sushi and cause undesirable effects to your pregnancy. So, if you’re going to order raw sushi in a restaurant, make sure to ask or instruct them to cook the shellfish in it.
What kinds of sushi are safe for pregnant women?
Want to satisfy your sushi cravings? Here’s a list of rolls that are generally safe to eat while pregnant.
Sushi rolls that are heated in 145 degrees Fahrenheit are the ideal option. Just make sure that the fish included are those with low mercury content.
One good example of cooked sushi for pregnant women is the California roll, which is usually made from cooked and low mercury crab meat. Other types of cooked sushi that you can indulge on are the ebi (shrimp) roll, unagi (eel) roll, and chicken sushi roll.
Perhaps the safest option overall would be to eat the vegan or vegetarian rolls. Cucumber maki as well as the cucumber and avocado roll are typically safe for pregnant women.
Eating sushi while pregnant is generally safe as long as the fish and shellfish used are well-cooked and with low mercury content. If you still prefer to include raw fish, it’s better to use farmed, cured, smoked or frozen fish. Fish that are improperly handled and eaten raw increases your risk to certain bacterial and parasitic infections that can be fatal while pregnant. So if you want to satisfy your Japanese / sushi-loving taste buds, the safest options are cooked and vegetable sushi rolls. Fish and vegetables in sushi can be very healthy for pregnant women – just make sure to err in the side of caution!
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or licensed medical professional before making any medical decisions.