Pregnancy is a wonderful time, watching your belly grow, meeting your baby through ultrasound, and feeling her every little movement. There is much joy to be had during this time – but this also comes with a long list of indulgences that are off limits.
After nine months of self-restraint, your willpower muscle is as strong as it will ever be! And you probably have a built-in caution mechanism that has you asking a lot of questions about what you can and can’t do now you have given birth.
If you are breastfeeding then what you eat still matters! But the restrictions are far more relaxed.
The good news is that sushi is back on the menu…. But with conditions. We will lay these out for you in this article so you know what sushi you can safely eat while nursing.
Pregnancy Vs Breastfeeding
Your doctor will have warned against consumption of sushi – and other raw or undercooked meats – for the duration of your pregnancy.
An unborn baby will take in just about everything you ingest, so it is important to make healthy choices and avoided the risk of toxins or bacteria finding their way into your baby’s bloodstream.
If you’re like me, with a palate for sushi and medium-rare steak, this was easier said than done.
Now that your baby is on the outside, you don’t need to be as cautious when it comes to your diet. Your breast milk does not absorb everything you eat. Making it safer for you to consume some of your favorite foods.
You can start eating sushi again while you are nursing. But there are some risks to be aware of that we will outline further on.
There are, of course, still some things you should avoid when breastfeeding, such as alcohol and cigarettes, as they can negatively affect your milk supply and your baby.
Supporting your body with the right nutrition to promote breast milk production should also be a key consideration in your diet.
Benefits Of Eating Sushi
Fish is a healthy alternative to other meats (especially red meats) as it is low in saturated fats and high in vitamins and minerals.
Now that you have a newborn you may not be getting as much sun as you want. You can keep your vitamin D levels up by including sushi in your diet.
It is also one of the best sources for omega-3 fatty acids, which are key to healthy heart and brain activity (as well as weight loss).
Common additions to any sushi meal also come with some health benefits that are worth noting:
Ginger is well known for its medicinal properties and is used in a number of common home remedies due to high levels of antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties.
It is also great for cooking! The sweetened variety served with sushi retains these qualities and also includes elements of potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium
Anything spicy is usually good for you, right? This potentially eye-watering green paste is no different.
Not only does it bring to life your sushi dish, but wasabi is also rich in beta-carotene, glucosinolates, and isothiocyanates – which can act as an anti-bacterial agent.
Risks Of Eating Sushi While Breastfeeding
While it is relatively safe for you to eat sushi while breastfeeding, there are still some risks.
Being aware of the mercury content and origin of your fish are very important when selecting what and where to eat.
Mercury In Fish
Mercury is a neurotoxin, and when ingested in large amounts can attack the nervous system.
The symptoms can be severe with mercury poisoning impairing your ability to perform even the most basic everyday tasks such as walking, listening, and seeing clearly.
Since mercury can get into the bloodstream, it can also find its way into your milk. So there is a need to at least be aware of the mercury levels for the sushi that you do consume.
While most fish contain mercury to a certain degree, there are types that have a higher content. Some are relatively safe in moderation, while others should be avoided completely.
Check out the list below for a list of seafood commonly used in sushi dishes:
Low In Mercury:
High In Mercury:
- King Mackerel
Origin Of The Fish
There have been reports released over time updating consumers on findings in imported fish. Recently, there have been many cases of contaminated fish coming from China containing:
Traces of chemicals prohibited in the US for seafood
Antibiotics that can increase microbial resistance in humans
Keep yourself informed, always looking for the country that your fish has come from. Most packaging in supermarkets should have this printed.
When you are eating out, if the information is not printed on the menu, you can ask your server, who should be able to inform you.
Another piece of information that is helpful to know is whether your fish was wild-caught or farm-grown.
Origin is especially important to know when it comes to wild-caught, but you should also be aware of how your fish was raised if it was farm-grown.
How they were kept and what their diet consisted of greatly impact the safety of consumption.
Too Much Extra Sauce!
While this isn’t an immediate risk to anything other than your waistline! Some of the health benefits can be negated by overindulging in the sugary and salty sauces that come with your sushi.
The Importance Of Flash Freezing
When selecting your preferred sushi eatery, you should be aware of how they handle their fish.
It is required that fish intended for sushi be flash frozen before being shipped. This instantly freezes the fish, making it too cold too quickly for dangerous organic matter to grow.
Freezing at a normal, slower rate does not prevent bacteria from growing.
Some places use recently caught fish, claiming it to be fresh and having no need to be frozen.
The problem with this is the fact that there may already be various forms of bacteria and/or parasites present.
Flash freezing kills these, therefore making it safer to eat.
While there are more concerns about eating sushi during pregnancy for these reasons, there are still concerns with consuming fish while breastfeeding that has not been handled in line with these standards.
Parasites In Sushi
There are two conditions caused by parasites that are concerning for a breastfeeding mother.
The first is called anisakiasis, also known as herring worm disease.
It is a parasitic disease caused by parasitic larvae (nematodes), in which they attach to the wall of the esophagus, stomach, or intestines.
This then causes symptoms (usually within 24 hours) similar to food poisoning, including vomiting and diarrhea.
This is particularly dangerous for a breastfeeding mother as she is at risk for dehydration, which can reduce her milk supply.
The second is diphyllobothriasis, more commonly known as a fish tapeworm infection.
This parasite can grow inside of animals that ingest raw fish, and can then passed through their feaces, infecting any fish eggs it may fall on.
The parasite may be present within your body upon consumption of infected fish, but it takes between three to six weeks for it to become a full-grown tapeworm (which can grow up to 30 feet).
There may be few noticeable symptoms, but you may experience diarrhea, fatigue, or unintended weight loss.
This can cause lowered vitamin levels, which can affect the quality of your milk.
Bacteria In Sushi
Besides parasites, there is the risk of being affected by bacteria that may grow in the raw fish used in sushi.
These are especially harmful during pregnancy, as certain bacteria, such as listeria (potentially found in deli meats and unpasteurized milk and cheeses), have been known to cause birth defects and even miscarriages.
Some of the bacteria found in raw or undercooked seafood could affect you and your baby through your breast milk.
Campylobacter is a bacterium that can be found in raw or undercooked shellfish.
You may experience fever and body aches, followed by diarrhea (risking dehydration), and it can spread to your bloodstream, which means it can spread to your milk as well.
There is also the risk salmonella and vibrio vulnificus.
Both of which can result in blood infections and poses an even greater risk to pregnant women and their unborn children (possibly resulting in death).
Besides the bacteria that can be found naturally in the raw seafood, you also need to be wary of cross-contamination.
Many other foods, especially raw meats, can carry other bacteria that may, in turn, affect your sushi.
It is imperative that your sushi or sashimi be prepared on a clean surface, with clean hands, whether it is prepared by your chef or yourself.
Non-Fish Sushi Alternatives
It is important to reiterate that eating sushi is very safe when Breastfeeding. As long as some of these details are not ignored and you stick to reputable sources.
Most people will enjoy sushi their whole lives without fear or negative side effects.
For the extra cautious, the good news is that there are great alternatives to traditional fish-based sushi.
You can opt for vegetarian sushi, incorporating ingredients such as avocado, cucumber, or mushroom.
This allows you to enjoy the flavor of the nori (seaweed), vinegary rice, and wasabi you so desire without the fear of parasites and bacteria.
As with any questionable health choice, you should consult a professional before making the decision to indulge and eat sushi while breastfeeding.
Talk to your OB/GYN, or a lactation consultant or nutritionist about the risks.
They will be able to help guide you to the best conclusion for you and your baby.