Eggs / Liver / Dark Leafy Greens
I like to call out salmon because it is BY FAR my favorite fatty fish...especially salmon canned with the skin and bones. I love a nice salmon filet, but salmon canned with the skin and bones gives you even more nutrients than just the filet alone. Sardines are another great choice with similar health benefits, but I've already tried to convince you to eat liver, so I'm not gonna push my luck too much today. :) If you're reading this and still need a little guidance, check out my preconception, pregnancy and family nutrition and lifestyle coaching programs. I can work with you to help you meet your health goals before, during and after pregnancy! For now, let's stick with salmon and learn all it has to offer!
Salmon is super for reducing mom's risk of osteoporosis
Salmon is a great non-dairy source of calcium and one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D. Your body can manufacture vitamin D when you soak up the sun's rays and you can also take a high quality fish oil supplement, but you should always get as many real food nutrients in as you can and salmon is my go-to.
Vitamin D works with calcium to grow your baby's strong bones and teeth. Foods high in vitamin D increase your body's ability to absorb calcium in the foods you eat. The problem is that most of us don't get enough vitamin D and, during pregnancy, your body is transferring calcium and vitamin D to your baby to help her growth and development. This can deplete your stores of both calcium and vitamin D, leaving you at risk for osteoporosis during pregnancy and later in life.
The RDA for vitamin D during pregnancy is 600 IU (International Units) and 3 oz of cooked salmon contains 447 IU, almost all you need for the entire day!
Salmon is also a good source of those ever-popular omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s, notably DHA, are important during pregnancy for your baby's visual development. A 2011 study in The Journal of Pediatrics (1) found that DHA intake during pregnancy did have a positive impact on a child's visual system function at school age. I also write extensively about the beneficial effects of omega-3s and all of the other top nutrients for pregnancy in my book, The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book.
Salmon is super for boosting mom and baby's antioxidant levels
Salmon is a good source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant. The RDA for selenium during pregnancy is 60 mcg and a 4 oz serving of salmon provides about 80% of your daily needs. The selenium in salmon can help to protect your body, and your baby, against oxidative stress. The particular antioxidants in selenium are especially protective for cardiovascular health. Who knew?
Is it safe to eat salmon during pregnancy?
Contrary to what you may have heard...absolutely, yes! Selenium is a part of the reason why, as well. Selenium actually protects against mercury toxicity, which is the main concern against salmon (or other large, fatty fish) consumption during pregnancy. The health benefits of salmon far outweigh the scare tactics that are often used to warn women off of fatty fish during pregnancy. While it is true that you want to avoid large fish like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish because of their high mercury levels, most of the fish that people actually eat like salmon and tuna pose no risk of mercury toxicity. Nobody has researched this deeper than Chris Kresser, so I'll point you over to his blog post on this exact topic to learn more.
What is the best way to eat salmon?
I already mentioned salmon filets, which are WONDERFUL on the grill, but that isn't my favorite, or the simplest way to get more salmon into your diet. Almost every weekend, I make a large salmon salad using avocado instead of mayonnaise. I even stir in a can of sardines for a little extra nutrient boost. I'll add curry powder, mandarin oranges, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers...whatever I have on hand.
You can get the recipe for my Curried Salmon Salad in my FREE recipe eBook, Real Food for Real Families: Quick and Easy Meals Your Kids Will Love. Click here to get your copy today!