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FDA: Kids, Pregnant Women Should Eat More Fish

The federal government says women who are pregnant and children should eat more fish.

New recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration say kids and women who are expecting should try to eat two-to-three servings of fish that is low in mercury every week, because of the health benefits of eating fish. "It's a high quality protein which is low in saturated fat.  It has a lot of vitamins, minerals and iron, which is especially important to pregnant women, and it also has Omega-3 fatty acids, which has been shown to be beneficial to brain and eye development in fetuses," said Dr. Susan Benson, an OB-GYN with St. Vincent Medical Group.

Guidelines released by the government a decade ago suggested that women should limit the amount of fish they eat because of possible mercury poisoning, since ingesting mercury can cause brain damage.  The FDA says that recommendation appears to have caused some women to avoid all fish, which means they are not getting those nutrients they need, especially when they are pregnant or are breastfeeding.  The new guidelines point out which fish are safe and which may not be.  "You want to stay away from the kind of fish that eat other fish, like shark, swordfish or king mackerel," said Benson. However, nine out of the ten fish that are purchased the most in the U.S. are low in mercury, including salmon, tilapia, cod, canned light tuna, pollock and catfish.  The fish used to make frozen fish sticks also is generally low in mercury, Benson said.

Most seafood in general, Benson says, is safe. "Crab, clams, scallops and shrimp are all very safe as long as they are cooked."  The government also notes you should watch the kind of tuna you eat - canned light tuna is low in mercury, while albacore (or white) tuna is relatively high.  The recommendations say you should limit consumption of albacore tuna to six ounces per week.

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