I really believe that omega 3 is one of the most important nutrients that we should be focusing on during pregnancy. Omega 3 is essential for the development of your baby’s eyes and brain, and a lack of omega 3 is believed to increase the risk of post-natal depression. In high risk pregnancies, a higher intake of long chain omega 3 has also been shown to reduce the risk of premature births.
It is well known that fish is the best source of omega 3. The problem is that many women avoid fish altogether during pregnancy as they are worried about listeria and mercury toxicity.
As omega 3 is so important during pregnancy, I really want to focus on what you can eat to help you boost your omega 3 intake. Let me take you through my favourite top 4 options:
1. Salmon Steaks
Salmon steak is seriously rich in omega 3, containing around 2000mg per serve. Obviously it needs to be well cooked to minimise any listeria risk. Although it contains some mercury, the amount is a lot less than many fish, so as long as you’re not eating it more than three times per week, you should be fine. You can either purchase salmon steak fresh from a reputable fishmonger at the market or frozen from your local supermarket. It’s quick to cook, and can be eaten as a steak with salad or steamed veg, or added to pasta or risotto. I’d also recommend leaving the skin on, and eating the skin as that’s where most of the omega 3 is.
2. Tinned Tuna
Canned tuna generally has lower levels of mercury than fresh tuna because the tuna used for canning are smaller species that are generally caught when less than one year old. The Food Standard Authority of Australia and New Zealand advises that it is safe for pregnant women to eat a small can of tuna every day if they’re not eating any other fish. Canned tuna are an incredibly handy lunch option and have a low risk of listeria, so are a great choice to include in your diet throughout pregnancy. A can of tuna contains approximately 350mg of omega 3 fats so is a good way to bump up your omega 3 intake.
3. Canned Sardines
I have to admit that I hesitated for a minute before adding this to my list because they are quite high in salt, so be careful if you have high blood pressure….but they are such a rich source of omega 3, boasting a whopping 2,400mg/100g, and they have one of the lowest amounts of mercury of any fish. Being canned, they also have low risk of listeria toxicity and they’re also a great source of calcium. If you haven’t tried them before, the easiest place to start is to buy some reduced salt, canned sardines from your local supermarket and put them into a sandwich, salad or on top of dry crackers, as you would tinned tuna.
Trout is also incredibly rich in omega 3 fats, containing around 1500mg of omega 3 in a 100g serve…. yet it is relatively low in mercury. As trout is usually eaten fresh, you’ll need to be careful of listeria. Only purchase trout from reputable fishmongers, and be aware of freezing, thawing and re-freezing. Ideally, you want to eat it as fresh as possible…… but don’t let listeria stop you from eating trout…. just be sensible with your food hygiene.
For those of you who are still feeling hesitant about eating fish during pregnancy, try increasing your intake of vegetarian omega 3 foods.
Linseeds are one of the best vegetarian sources of omega 3 fats. Linseeds are also known as flaxseeds which can be a bit confusing! The type of omega 3 in linseeds is known as ALA, and it needs to be converted into the longer chain omega 3 which is found in fish, and known for its incredible health benefits. Unfortunately, you need to eat a lot of vegetarian ALA omega 3 to meet your requirements of long chain omega 3, but it’s better than nothing. You can increase your intake of linseeds by swapping to soy and linseed bread, adding a spoon of linseeds to a salad for some additional crunch, or sprinkling some ground linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds, known as LSA mix, over your breakfast cereal or into a smoothie. The best thing about eating vegetarian sources of omega 3 is that there are no worries at all about listeria or mercury!
The other option for boosting your omega 3 intake is to take an omega 3 supplement. I’d really encourage you to try to get your omega 3 from your diet, as eating fish has so many other health benefits in addition to the omega 3.
Download my meal planner here to plan out when you’re going to eat fish during the week so that you’re getting your three serves per week.
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