A fun infographic about the developmental stages and needs of kids ages 0-5:
Do you have questions about eating seafood while you’re pregnant? Have you been told to avoid sushi or to be careful about high mercury levels in fish? Moms want nothing more than to protect their kids and to give them a good start in life, and part of that is getting good nutrition during pregnancy. There are tons of lists out there about what to eat or not eat when you’re pregnant and a lot of the advice can be confusing. One of the more controversial items I’ve seen up for debate is fish; to eat or not to eat, and how much is safe to eat if you do eat it?
Seafood and Pregnancy Pros and Cons
So what’s the deal with seafood? On the positive side, seafood and fish are healthy sources of protein, zinc, and iron, along with omega-3 fatty acids that support a growing baby’s brain development. More problematic however is that many fish, especially the larger predatory species, can be full of mercury and other toxins. This is because these animals are higher up on the food chain and they absorb and then bioaccumulate toxins from their own food sources. Mercury is a health concern for humans and when ingested, mercury can cross through the placenta into a fetus’ circulation, causing organ and tissue damage. Mercury especially affects a growing baby’s brain and neurological development. The Environmental Protection Agency states that children exposed to mercury in utero may develop issues with cognition, attention, language, memory, and fine motor and visual spatial skills.
Safe Seafood Options and Portion Sizes
Despite the concerns, most researchers and doctors agree that fish should still be included in a pregnant woman’s diet due to the numerous health benefits this food group provides. Currently the FDA recommends women eat 8 to 12 oz of fish each week during pregnancy. This is equivalent to 2 or 3 portions per week. However, pregnant women (and everyone really!) should be careful to choose fish species that are lowest in mercury content. Good choices of fish that are low in mercury levels include: Wild Alaskan Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Sardines, Anchovies, and Atlantic Mackerel. Fish that are high in mercury, such as Shark, Swordfish, Orange Roughy, and Marlin should be avoided. Albacore and other species of tuna are also relatively high in mercury and should be limited to no more than one serving per month. Raw fish and sushi are also not recommended in pregnancy due to risk for parasites and food-borne illnesses.
Safe Seafood Guide
If this sounds overwhelming to navigate and remember, there is thankfully a great online resource for moms-to-be. The Environmental Working Group offers a customized tool to help you find clean and nutrient-rich seafood sources. The guide lists seafood choices that are big on nutrition and low in heavy metals. This resource is amazing even if you’re not pregnant, since you can input your age, gender, and health information and it automatically gives you recommendations on what kinds of fish to eat, along with how many servings you should aim for each week.
So fear not! Armed with a little knowledge on what choices to make, fish and seafood are a great addition to a healthy diet and they can provide lots of nutrients to support a healthy growing baby.
- Mayo Clinic, “Pregnancy and Fish”
- Food and Drug Administration, “Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know”
- Environmental Protection Agency, “Heath Effects: Mercury”
- Environmental Working Group, “EWG’s Consumer Guide to Seafood”
A study done at the University of Central Florida shows that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may actually learn best when they are moving. According to the study recently published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, movements such as foot-tapping and leg-swinging help the children to work out complex cognitive tasks. This goes against the prevailing approach that children with ADHD must learn how to sit still in order to fit into a traditional classroom setting. You can read more about this topic on the Science Daily blog.
Not surprisingly, a recent study found that people around the world are generally living longer lives than ever before with less cases of childhood mortality. While this is obviously great news, does this also mean that humans are healthier now than in the past? Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In most countries there have been strides over the last hundred years in better hygiene and living conditions, increased access to vaccinations, and less risk of starvation. While all of this has allowed more humans to live to old age, it doesn’t always equate to greater health status for these people. As an article in the newspaper, the Oregonian points out, “With more children surviving, chronic illnesses and disabilities that strike later in life are taking a bigger toll, the research said. High Blood Pressure has become the leading health risk worldwide, followed by smoking and alcohol.” Chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are quickly overtaking infectious disease as the top health priority world-wide.
Luckily, most chronic diseases are considered preventable. There is a great deal that we can do, both as individuals and as a matter of policy, to address and turn around these statistics. There are many organizations working to promote health education, access to fresh fruits and vegetables to poor and urban communities, and safe and fun ways for children and adults to exercise. Here are just a few:
Ending Childhood Obesity Project: Portland, Oregon
Portland Fruit Tree Project: Portland, Oregon
Spiral Gardens Community Food Security: Berkeley, California
Edible School Yard: Berkeley, California
It may go against what many parents tell their children, but there is evidence that getting dirty actually helps kids stay healthy. At least that’s what an article on NPR’s health blog states. Trying to raise children in overly sterile conditions may actually do more harm than good because our immune systems need to experience microbial insults in order to develop properly. It is these challenges that allow our bodies to develop natural immunity. Our immune cells need to learn through experience to make distinctions between what is healthy to have inside of our bodies and what warrants bringing the troops in for an attack. The ability to make this distinction comes mostly from experiencing a wide array of situations, foods, and even bacteria and viruses. If we limit what our body experiences then it may begin to label harmless things as dangerous and studies show that this phenomenon may be responsible for the increasing prevalence of auto-immune disorders, allergies, and asthma.