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It’s been months since your baby was born, and you’re finally going on a date night. You and your partner discuss restaurant options and your partner suggests sushi. It dawns on you, however, that even though you’re no longer pregnant, you’re still nursing. You’re wondering if you can eat sushi while breastfeeding since it’s on the restricted list during pregnancy.
The short answer is nursing mothers can enjoy sushi without worrying if they follow a few guidelines for safe eating. Sushi is delicious food that everyone loves, but most moms fear whether it is safe to eat while breastfeeding.
And that is precisely what we have addressed in this article. Read everything from what sushi is to the alternative options for mums who do not like sushi but still wanna have a similar bite!
What Does Sushi Contain?
Sushi is a Japanese dish that uses a variety of ingredients such as seasonal fruits, raw seafood, and vegetables, along with vinegared rice. The ingredients vary, but all types of sushi are based on brown or white rice. Sushi with many ingredients has high nutritional value and is rich in minerals and vitamins.
Here’s how Sushi is different from other seafood:
- Sushi is wrapped in thin sheets of seaweed called nori, which is rich in iodine.
- Ginger, an ingredient in sushi, contains large amounts of antioxidants, compounds, and minerals. Ginger has a ton of antiseptic properties that help keep many infections at bay.
- Sushi is seafood rich in selenium plus omega-3 fatty acids.
- Soy sauce is added to sushi as a taste enhancer. It is high in sodium and rich in protein, magnesium, iron, and potassium.
- Sushi is typically made from fish rich in niacin, omega-3s, and vitamin D.
- Rice, the main ingredient in all sushi, is rich in carbohydrates. The sushi rice is also gluten-free, so people with wheat allergies can enjoy it without worry.
Can You Eat Sushi While Breastfeeding?
Yes, you can eat sushi while breastfeeding, but there are important caveats.
For one, you should be careful about the type of sushi you order, as certain types of fish used in sushi can contain high levels of mercury. Mercury can accumulate in fish, especially those that eat other fish or live longer. Studies have shown that mercury exposure can be particularly dangerous to developing babies in the womb and at an early age.
Lactating mothers should avoid sushi containing mercury-rich fish such as tuna, yellowtail, mackerel, and sea bass. For other low-mercury seafood options, see the FDA’s list of best seafood choices.
17 Types of Fish You Should Avoid as Sushi While Breastfeeding
Not all sushi poses a risk to nursing mothers, but sushi made with the following fish should be avoided:
- Ahi (yellowfin tuna)
- Inada (very young yellowtail)
- Buri (adult yellowtail)
- Aji (horse mackerel)
- Hamachi (young yellowtail)
- Saba (mackerel)
- Kanpachi (very young yellowtail)
- Makjiki (blue marlin)
- Kajiki (swordfish)
- Katsuo (bonito)
- Maguro (bigeye, bluefin, or yellowfin tuna)
- Shiro (albacore tuna)
- Meji (young bigeye, bluefin, or yellowfin tuna)
- Suzuki (sea bass)
- Sawara (Spanish mackerel)
- Seigo (young sea bass)
- Toro (bigeye, bluefin, or yellowfin tuna)
7 Types of Fish You Could Have as Sushi While Breastfeeding
Below is a list of some of the dangers associated with eating sushi while breastfeeding:
- Albacore or yellowfin tuna
Risks of Eating The Wrong Sushi While Breastfeeding
Eating raw sushi increases your chances of contracting food poisoning, such as listeriosis. Listeria monocytogenes is the causative agent of listeriosis. Here are some of the symptoms of Listeria infection:
- Muscle spasms
Another potential health risk from eating sushi is cross-contamination. Cross-contamination occurs when restaurant employees use the same utensils to prepare both raw and cooked fish. Bacteria and other pathogens from raw fish may have entered the cooked fish ordered by the customer.
High Sodium Levels
Canned fish is used more often than fresh fish in sushi preparations. Women who consume large amounts of canned fish should monitor their sodium intake to avoid exceeding the recommended limit. Even fish that are safe to eat, like anchovies, can be high in salt when canned.
So are There No Benefits to Eating Sushi While Breastfeeding?
Eating sushi can be beneficial for those who are breastfeeding, as seafood in general can be part of a healthy diet. High-mercury fish should be avoided, but low-mercury fish should be part of a healthy nursing diet. It’s a great source of nutrients.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in many types of fatty fish, are important for the development of your baby’s brain, eyes, and nervous system. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings (6-8 ounces total) of fish each week for optimal health. Fish species high in omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water wild fish such as
A lack of omega-3 fatty acids puts a growing baby at risk for developmental disabilities and lower behavioral scores. Studies have shown a positive relationship between the intake of fatty fish and the concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk. Therefore, if a nursing parent eats foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, it can benefit the nursing baby.
Fish contain micronutrients such as vitamin D, which help the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from food and support healthy bone development in babies. Without it, your body cannot store the calcium and phosphorus it needs to strengthen your bones.
Vitamin D helps prevent rickets, a condition that leads to weak and soft bones. Adequate intake of vitamin D is important even for adults because vitamin D contributes to bone formation and maintenance of healthy bones
Eating fish also provides vitamin B12, which helps your baby’s brain develop. This nutrient keeps the body’s blood and nerve cells healthy and prevents anemia. B12 is transmitted through breast milk, so nursing parents need to get adequate amounts of the vitamin. Babies whose parents are vitamin B12 deficient also become vitamin B12 deficient.
Sushi includes not only fish but also rice, and vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, avocados, and shiitake mushrooms. All of these foods contribute to a balanced breastfeeding diet of lean protein and vegetables, ensuring that the nursing person is getting the nutrients they need.
Sushi is also often served with nori, a type of dried seaweed that is a good source of iodine. Iodine is important for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, which produces hormones that support bone and brain development in infants.
Therefore, it is important that pregnant and/or breastfeeding women and infants get enough iodine. Breastfeeding requires more iodine than any other stage.
Things to Remember If You Want to Eat Sushi While Breastfeeding
Sushi is a raw food with all the risks of containing foodborne bacteria such as E. coli and listeria. These bacteria can cause infections, so you need to be very careful when eating sushi. It can cause diarrhea and vomiting, and in severe cases, dehydration in nursing mothers. It is possible and potentially dangerous.
Below are some simple tips to follow to make sure there is no contamination when eating sushi.
- Make sure the hotel or restaurant where you plan to eat or order sushi is truly sanitized. Eat from reputable places to avoid any kind of infection.
- If you prepare sushi at home, thoroughly clean all surfaces used for raw food preparation with an antimicrobial solvent.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw fish or meat.
- If you want to eat salmon, we recommend choosing organic or wild salmon.
- On the other hand, if you prefer canned tuna, choose light chunk tuna, which has fewer traces of mercury than albacore solids.
- Check the expiration date before buying canned food or canned fish.
Are There Any Alternatives To Eating Sushi While Breastfeeding?
Sushi-loving women who don’t want to eat raw fish while breastfeeding can choose from a variety of delicious vegetarian sushi options. Alternatively, if you want to make sushi rolls, you can use
- Soy wraps
- Rice wraps
- Cucumber wraps
- Tofu skins
Choose vegetables that are cut into small cubes the size of a grain of rice and steamed to cook.
The Bottom Line: Can You Eat Sushi While Breastfeeding?
YES! But, get your doctor’s approval before eating anything. Most doctors agree that breastfeeding mothers should eat sushi. Relax and start eating this nutritious food, even while breastfeeding. Babies need it as it contains all sorts of beneficial minerals and compounds that are good for both you and your mother.
Also, did you know that sushi rice is made with sugar?