A pescetarian diet (also called a fish-eating vegetarian diet), consisting of a combination of fish and seafood, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and optionally dairy and eggs, provides a pregnant woman and her developing baby with good sources of important nutrients including quality protein, iron, and healthy fats.
Healthy Fats to Support Pregnancy
A diet rich in healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, supports a pregnant woman’s skin, as well as her baby’s optimal growth and development. The omega-3 fatty acids in safe fish and seafood maintain skin hydration, support elasticity, and minimize stretching during pregnancy, as well as reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, pre-term birth, and postpartum depression.
Oily varieties of fish, such as herring, salmon, and sardines, contain the highest levels of Omega-3 fats. Plants, seeds, and nuts, such as green leafy vegetables and flaxseed oil, also contain Omega-3 fats.
Nearly all types of fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury, as well as other toxins. For this reason, pregnant women are advised to limit their consumption of fish and seafood to low-mercury varieties, such as Pacific salmon, tilapia, herring, pollock, clams, and oysters.
In general, the higher up the food chain a fish species is, the higher its level of mercury. Fish to be strictly avoided during pregnancy include king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, tuna, and bigeye ahi.
Iron-Rich Foods to Prevent Anemia
Iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy is common. A pregnant woman with a developing placenta needs extra iron to support a rapidly increasing blood supply. Low iron levels increase the risk of hemorrhage during birth, low birth rate, and premature labor.
Iron-rich foods include red meats, liver, eggs, dried beans, cashews, dried fruits, potatoes, and leafy green vegetables. Foods containing Vitamin C increase iron absorption, while foods high in calcium inhibit iron absorption.
Fish and seafood sources of dietary iron include crab, oysters, mussels, sardines, oysters, and scallops. Other pescetarian diet sources of iron include dried fruits such as apricots, peaches, and figs, vegetables such as spinach and parsley, chickpeas, and nuts.
Vitamin B12 and folate (folic acid) deficiencies may be associated with iron-deficiency anemia. Folic acid and iron are found in the same types of foods. Vitamin B12 is found in animal products.
Pescetarian super foods, such as low-mercury fish and seafood, legumes, nuts, and green leafy vegetables, provide quality protein, iron, and healthy fats to support a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risks of a preterm birth or a low birth weight baby.