Federal officials are now urging pregnant women and young children to eat fish that is low in mercury two or three times a week in order to gain important health benefits.

Previously, pregnant women and young children were told to limit fish consumption as it contains methylmercury, which can cause brain damage. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released research that shows that 21% of pregnant woman have not eaten fish in the last month. Many pregnant women who did eat fish only ate fewer than 2 ounces a week.

However, not eating fish at all is actually detrimental to a person’s health. Fish contains many heart-healthy oils, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Certain evidence also shows that fish oils may actually be healthy for a baby’s brain. Studies also show that fish oils may also help defend against cancer, depression, asthma and more. They are also rich in protein and important nutrients.

Although the FDA is urging more people to eat fish, it does suggest that pregnant women and children stay away from fish with high mercury levels, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico.

Most fish sold in the US have low levels of mercury. Even fish found in commercial products, like fish sticks, are low in mercury. Fish with low levels of mercury include: shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod. Fish with low mercury levels should be eaten two or three times a week in order to maximize the food’s health benefits.

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