Can You Eat Sardines While Pregnant? (Quick Answer!)

By KidSpaceStuff •  Updated: 04/19/24 •  9 min read

Throughout my pregnancies, my cravings for seafood, especially sardines, often had me diving into the pantry for a can.

Packed with essential omega 3 fatty acids, sardines offer numerous health benefits. However, as a mother of several children, I’ve always been cautious about eating fish, particularly concerning mercury levels and the consumption of raw or undercooked varieties.

With so much emphasis on the importance of fatty acids for a baby’s developing brain, it begs the question: “Can I eat sardines while pregnant?”

Can I Eat Sardines While Pregnant?

canned sardines

Yes, you can eat sardines while pregnant just like with other canned meats.

Eating seafood when pregnant should always be approached with caution, but sardines are safe to consume during pregnancy since they contain very little to no mercury, making them an exceedingly safe and delectable source of nutrition for your baby. The consumption of sardines provides essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA and EPA, which are beneficial for the development of your baby’s brain and eyes.

However, it is important to keep in mind a few guidelines to ensure the safety of both you and your baby.

Pregnant women are advised to consume no more than 12 ounces of seafood every week. Sardines are safe during pregnancy up to three times a week when they are fully cooked. As with most other foods in your pregnancy diet, it’s better to vary the fish you eat, rather than stick to sardines every day.

In addition to sardines, other safe fish choices during pregnancy include anchovies, herring, freshwater trout, Pacific mackerel, shrimp, pollock, tilapia, cod, catfish, and canned light tuna. It is recommended to limit white tuna, also called albacore tuna, and tuna steaks to 6 ounces per week.

Following these guidelines will help ensure that you maintain a balanced and healthy diet during pregnancy, giving your baby the best possible start in life.

Health Risks Associated with Eating Sardines During Pregnancy

Listeria Risk and Raw Seafood

While sardines are generally safe to consume during pregnancy, it’s important to ensure they are properly cooked. Raw or undercooked seafood can pose a risk of Listeria, a type of bacteria that can lead to severe infections in pregnant individuals and their unborn babies. Listeria can be harmful to both your health and the development of your fetus, so always make sure to eat well-cooked sardines.

Possible Seafood Contaminants

Seafood, including sardines, can be exposed to various contaminants in their environment, such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and heavy metals. To reduce the risk of exposure to potential contaminants, be selective about where you source your seafood from and choose high-quality sardines. Practicing proper food handling and hygiene during preparation can also help minimize the risk of contamination.

Impact of Mercury Levels on Fetus Development

One of the main concerns for pregnant individuals when consuming seafood is the potential exposure to mercury. High levels of mercury can negatively affect fetal brain development and increase the risk of preeclampsia. However, sardines are considered to be low in mercury, making them a safer option compared to fish like swordfish, shark, and tilefish.

To follow seafood guidelines and protect your fetus, it is recommended that you limit your seafood intake to 8-12 ounces (2-3 servings) per week, which includes not only sardines but also fish like tilapia, salmon, and shellfish. Varying the types of seafood in your diet can help provide essential nutrients for a healthy pregnancy while minimizing the risks associated with any one particular type of fish.

Remember, maintaining a well-balanced diet is crucial for optimal pregnancy nutrition. Stick to the guidelines and enjoy sardines as a part of your healthy meal plan during pregnancy.

Types of Sardines: Raw, Canned and Cooked

Sardines can be consumed in various forms, such as raw, canned, or cooked depending on your preference. This section will discuss the benefits and differences of each type, focusing on the Omega-3 content, iron content, and a comparison of sardines to other seafood.

Omega-3 in Different Types of Sardines

The Omega-3 fatty acids found in sardines are essential for maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Here’s a breakdown of Omega-3 content in different types of sardines:

Iron Content in Sardines

Iron is a crucial nutrient during pregnancy, as it helps produce hemoglobin and prevents anemia. Here’s a look at the iron content in different types of sardines:

Comparison: Sardines Vs Other Seafood

When comparing sardines to other types of seafood, it’s essential to consider the nutritional benefits and potential contaminants:

Ultimately, including a variety of seafood options in your diet during pregnancy is important for ensuring a balance of nutrients. Remember to follow safe handling and consumption practices, especially when consuming raw or partially cooked seafood.

The Nutritional Profile of Sardines

Sardines are an excellent source of various nutrients, making them a valuable addition to your diet, especially during pregnancy. In this section, we will explore the essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals found in sardines and their impact on your pregnancy.

Essential Fatty Acids in Sardines

Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These healthy fats have been shown to provide beneficial effects during pregnancy, including:

A single serving of sardines can provide a significant amount of the recommended dietary intake of these essential fatty acids.

Importance of Vitamin D and Zinc in Pregnancy

In addition to healthy fats, sardines are also a good source of vitamin D and zinc, which are vital during pregnancy. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in:

Zinc, on the other hand, is essential for:

Including sardines in your diet can help ensure that you get adequate amounts of these important nutrients.

Impact of Fish on Calcium and Iodine Levels

Sardines also offer calcium, which helps build strong bones and teeth for both you and your developing baby. Moreover, they contain iodine that is essential for maintaining healthy thyroid function, which supports your baby’s growth and brain development.

It’s recommended to eat a variety of fish, including sardines, up to three times a week during pregnancy, according to the dietary guidelines for Americans. This not only allows you to reap the nutritional benefits of sardines but also helps you avoid large fish that may contain higher levels of mercury.

In summary, sardines are packed with essential nutrients that can support a healthy pregnancy. Including them in your diet can contribute to the overall well-being of you and your growing baby.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are canned sardines safe during pregnancy?

Yes, canned sardines are safe to eat during pregnancy because they are nutrient-dense, containing protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, they have less mercury than larger fish species, which is beneficial for pregnant women and their developing babies1. However, it’s important to ensure that the canned sardines are well-cooked, as consuming raw or undercooked seafood can pose a risk of bacteria and foodborne illness.

How often can sardines be consumed during pregnancy?

There are no specific guidelines on how often sardines can be consumed during pregnancy. However, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet and diversify the sources of nutrients for both maternal well-being and good pregnancy outcomes. Eating a variety of fish, including sardines, can provide essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. For guidance on fish consumption during pregnancy, consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian.

What are some healthy fish options for expecting mothers?

Aside from sardines, other healthy fish options for pregnant women include shrimp, Pollock, tilapia, cod, catfish, and canned light tuna. Freshwater trout and Pacific mackerel are also safe choices. However, it’s essential to limit the intake of white tuna (also known as albacore tuna) and tuna steaks to 6 ounces (170 grams) a week, as they contain higher levels of mercury. Always ensure the fish is well-cooked and avoid raw or undercooked seafood to minimize risks associated with foodborne illness.

Are you wondering how to make sardines more appealing? Check out the video below!

Final Thoughts

Navigating the waters of fish consumption during pregnancy can be tricky. But for those of us with a penchant for sardines, there’s good news.

Canned sardines, especially when cooked properly, are not only delicious but also provide a treasure trove of essential nutrients beneficial for both you and your developing baby.

It’s crucial, however, to be mindful of the source and preparation method to ensure maximum benefits and safety. So, fellow expecting moms, when that craving hits, you can confidently indulge in that protein-packed sardine salad, knowing you’re nourishing your baby’s brain and nervous system.

Have other pregnancy related questions? Check out these guides!