Remember Bubba, Forrest Gump’s friend, who had the great idea for a shrimp business?
‘Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That – that’s about it’.
If you’re reading this, and you’re a shrimp lover like Bubba, you might be thinking of all the ways to eat shrimp.
But you’re pregnant, and you’re wondering whether eating shrimp is safe.
Can pregnant women eat shrimp? Let’s find out.
Can a woman eat seafood while pregnant?
You might not have given it much thought before but once there’s a baby in your belly healthy nutrition goes to the top of the list for most pregnant women.
When a woman becomes pregnant she often worries about doing the same things she did before.
We worry about what we eat during pregnancy and especially about food safety or foods to avoid during pregnancy.
You might be looking online for the answers to: Can I eat seafood during pregnancy?
If yes, what types of seafood?
What about fish and shellfish?
Sushi, king mackerel, shark swordfish, tuna?
Are they safe to eat?
Do they have too much mercury?
We have a very thorough article that gives you plenty of information about eating seafood and its effect on your baby’s brain.
What should I avoid during the first trimester?
During the first trimester of pregnancy, your baby’s organs are developing. This is a critical time for normal development of the nervous system, brain, and spinal cord. That’s why it’s essential to be cautious about what we eat, particularly types of seafood.
Mother Nature tends to do a very good job at keeping you away from certain foods you really enjoyed before pregnancy.
During pregnancy, it’s very common for women to develop an aversion to certain smells (like coffee or beer). You can’t detect salmonella, listeria, toxoplasmosis, parasites, worms, or mercury levels, though, just by smell.
We know bacteria like salmonella or listeria reproduce very quickly at room temperature. Bringing food to a high temperature is the only way to kill this bacteria. Make sure internal temperature of 145 F/63 C is achieved when cooking meat or fish.
Parasites (toxoplasma, anisakis) die at very low temperatures – for example, if foods are frozen for over 2 days at 10.5 F/12C. Bacteria, however, will not be killed by freezing.
It’s best to avoid raw eggs, soft cheeses, and all types of raw seafood, fish, or meat to avoid any complications such as listeria or salmonella.
Raw fish, like the type used for sushi, must be frozen prior to consumption. Freezing fish intended to be eaten raw is mandatory in many countries now.
Remember freezing will only kill parasites but not bacteria and it’s wise for pregnant women to avoid it.
If you plan to eat sushi you haven’t prepared yourself, make sure you ask the chef about this, or read the label.
Another worry pregnant women have is the mercury levels found in fish and some shellfish.
Mercury is released into the air naturally and from industrial pollution. When it falls into streams and oceans, microorganisms transform it into the toxic form of methylmercury which builds up in fish.
As big fish eat small fish, levels of mercury increase according to how big the fish is. The mercury content in a tuna or in a swordfish will always be much higher than in a small fish or in little shrimp.
We also know bluefish is a very good source of omega 3 fatty acids, essential for good brain development. Pregnant women should take this into account. You can eat big fish but do not exceed the recommended amount of 150 gm per month.
For small fish, the recommended amount is at least three servings per week.
Canned tuna is albacore or white tuna – a much smaller fish than red tuna. This means you can eat a bit more so you can get your omega 3 fatty acids. Try to limit your intake to 300g per week.
You’ll find other sources in these healthy foods.
For more information be sure to check out What to Avoid During The First Trimester Of Pregnancy.
What happens if you eat shrimp while pregnant?
Eating shrimp during pregnancy is a great source of nutrients, protein, vitamin D, and B2. They’re also rich in magnesium, potassium, and iron.
Eating iron-rich foods will help with the extra production of red blood cells, which are so important for you and your baby during pregnancy.
Due to their size, there isn’t much mercury in shrimp. Pregnant women can eat yummy shrimp without worrying too much about this. Even if you like the shrimp’s cousins, such as king prawns, they’re quite small, too, and they feed on tiny fish.
If you’re buying shrimp frozen you can eat them without any problems.
Fully cooked shrimp are also safe for your pregnancy diet.
The US Food and Drug Administration and health organizations from any country will always advise pregnant women to avoid any type of raw seafood, due to the risk of listeria.
This is a serious type of food-borne bacterial illness and, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get listeriosis than the general population.
Can you eat shrimp fried rice while pregnant?
You might ask why am I writing specific titles about shrimp fried rice? Well, apparently our friend Bubba managed to miss this and pregnant women need to know.
Shrimp fried rice (or prawn fried rice in some countries) is a popular dish that perfectly complements your favorite Chinese, Thai, or Japanese takeout. Because the shrimp is fully cooked, the fried rice is fine to eat while you’re pregnant.
If you’re considering your pregnancy nutrition, try making a healthy version of shrimp fried rice at home, using brown rice instead of white, and adding plenty of delicious and nutritious vegetables.
Is it safe to eat shrimp ceviche while pregnant?
Ceviche is a famous South American dish that originated in Peru. It combines different types of raw seafood.
In order for it to be proper ceviche, the raw ingredients must be marinated in citrus juices, most commonly lime or lemon.
Although these juices will ‘cook’ the seafood and give it a cooked consistency, the citrus juices won’t kill any bacteria the seafood might carry. Therefore, it’s not safe to eat any type of proper ceviche during pregnancy.
However, you can always get creative when you cook and make a seafood salad following a ceviche recipe of your liking. You can use a variety of cooked ingredients and use lemon or lime juice in your dressing.
This is a wonderful, healthy way to eat a nutritious dish while eating seafood during pregnancy.