Most fish are an excellent source of high quality protein. Most fish are low in fat, and most of the fat that is present in fish is healthy polyunsaturated fat. The polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are also present in many types of fish. Research is still underway to determine the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish are also important sources of selenium, zinc, iodine, iron, and other minerals needed by the body. Fish are natural sources of many B vitamins, like vitamin B12, and oily fish provide vitamins A and D. Studies with pregnant women have found that the nutritional benefits of fish, like other protein-rich foods, are important for their children’s growth and development during pregnancy and childhood. As part of a healthy eating pattern, eating fish may also offer heart health benefits and lower the risk of obesity.
For Women Who Are or Might Become Pregnant, Breastfeeding Mothers, and Young Children FDA and EPA have issued advice regarding eating fish. This advice can help women who are pregnant or may become pregnant – as well as breastfeeding mothers and parents and caregivers feeding children 2 years and older – make informed choices when it comes to fish that are nutritious and safe to eat. This advice supports the recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, developed for people 2 years and older.
To prevent children from exceeding the RfD for mercury, these are recommended serving sizes of fish for various age groups when eating fish 2 times a week from the “Best Choices” category:
Age 2: 1 ounce per serving
Age 6: 2 ounces per serving
Age 9: 3 ounces per serving
Age 11 and up: 4 ounces per serving
The FDA and EPA advice features a chart (seen below) that makes it easier than ever to choose dozens of healthy and safe options and includes information about the nutritional value of fish. A set of frequently asked questions & answers provides more information on how to use the chart and additional tips for eating fish.
Eating fish when pregnant or breastfeeding can provide health benefits.Fish and other protein-rich foods have nutrients that can help your child’s growth and development. As part of a healthy eating pattern, eating fish may also offer heart health benefits and lower the risk of obesity.
This chart (click to download) can help you choose which fish to eat, and how often to eat them, based on their mercury levels.
While it is important to limit mercury in the diets of women who are pregnant and breastfeeding and young children, many types of fish are both nutritious and lower in mercury.