Eating a variety of whole foods from all major food groups can help you, as an expectant mother, meet the recommendations for essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, including protein, that nourish both mom and baby.
Unfortunately, “foods to avoid” is often the main focus of pregnancy nutrition. While a handful of foods are recommended to avoid during the gestational period, there are a lot of myths and confusion out there. Seafood is one area that leaves many wondering about what is and isn’t advisable, which is why we cover topics like mercury and seafood in-depth inside The Prenatal Nutrition Library!
You can also check out my post on “Safe Seafood During Pregnancy” for a list of several safe seafood options and their nutritional benefits for pregnancy! Today, we’re going to talk about all things crawfish!
As a popular regional delicacy, crawfish (also spelled crayfish) is a cherished part of Louisiana culture and cuisine. However, is it safe for pregnancy? Is it usually cooked? If you have questions about the food safety of crawfish, you’re not alone!
Today’s post will address whether or not pregnant women can safely enjoy crawfish as part of a nutritious diet. We will also explore guidelines from well-known health authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding crawfish consumption in pregnancy.
Can You Eat Crawfish While Pregnant?
The good news is that crawfish can be safely enjoyed as part of a healthy pregnancy diet when fully cooked. Boiling crawfish until they turn bright red and the meat is opaque all the way through kills potentially harmful bacteria, which reduces the risk to the expecting mother or baby.
Proper cooking to an internal temperature of at least 145°F significantly reduces concerns over foodborne illnesses from raw seafood consumption like Listeria or parasitic infection. This makes crawfish a low-risk indulgence when prepared following the appropriate food safety guidelines!
Not only is cooked crawfish safe to eat while pregnant, but it also offers essential nutrients that can benefit both mom and baby. It’s a high-quality protein source with 3 ounces providing over 10 grams of protein. Crawfish also supplies minerals like iron, which are essential for fetal development. It provides nutritional benefits and is a low-mercury seafood choice for pregnancy. Win, win!
To add the cherry on top, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and antioxidants in crawfish support the fetal brain and overall development. Plus, crayfish can have a robust and savory taste that some pregnant women find appealing due to its rich flavor profile.
All in all–when properly cooked and from a reputable source, crawfish is one of many healthy protein options pregnant people can feel good about enjoying in moderation!
Benefits of Crawfish During Pregnancy
Crawfish is high in quality protein, supplying over 10 grams per 3 oz serving. Protein fuels fetal growth and development as the baby grows with each trimester. Since expecting mothers’ protein needs increase as they move throughout pregnancy, and many are under-consuming it, you can count on crawfish to pack a protein punch!
Just 3 oz of crawfish provides a chunk of the daily requirement for iron. You can expect to find approximately 1.2 mg of iron per 3-ounce serving. Iron transports oxygen in the blood to nourish mom and growing baby. Consuming plenty of iron is essential during pregnancy, as iron deficiency can cause symptoms that range from fatigue to anemia. Crawfish, in combination with a diet that includes plenty of other high-quality iron sources, helps prevent iron shortfalls during pregnancy.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Crawfish contain heart-healthy omega-3s DHA and EPA, essential fats for general health and pregnancy. During pregnancy, omega-3s accumulate in fetal brain and retina cells, assisting directly in proper growth and development. They also aid in the baby’s nervous system and vision. When we say “essential,” we must get it from our diet.
A 3 oz serving of crawfish provides about 20% (or more) of the daily need for B12, which is crucial for DNA synthesis and blood cell formation. It’s an important vitamin in preventing fetal growth problems like spinal cord defects and affects heart health.
Adequate zinc levels support a healthy immune system to fight off or better recover from infections or illness. Plus, it’s required for cell division and growth. Feel free to indulge if you’re in the mood for crawfish, as crawfish dishes provide about 9% of the recommended daily value (DV) per serving.
How Much Crawfish Can You Eat While Pregnant?
The FDA and USDA advise pregnant women to consume 12 ounces of low-mercury, fully-cooked fish and shellfish per week, although research suggests eating more than this is beneficial. Incorporating seafood is highly recommended and encouraged to reap the benefits. In fact, if someone doesn’t eat any seafood, omega-3 needs won’t likely be met through food alone.
Crawfish meets the criteria to be considered a “low-mercury” seafood choice for pregnancy. It can absolutely fit into a well-rounded pregnancy diet. Remember to keep a focus on getting a variety of healthy proteins. This allows you to reap the benefits of incorporating a variety of nutrients, too.
It’s also important to source crawfish domestically in the United States from areas meeting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water quality standards. Before dining, check for any advisories from organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on local water contamination levels below the recommended 0.033 parts per million (ppm).
Here are a few more things to keep in mind:
- Imported crayfish can have an unknown amount of mercury. Stick with crayfish domestic to the USA.
- Only eat crayfish that have been fully cooked. It’s okay to eat it hot or cold.
- Avoid raw crawfish, as they can always harbor bacteria or parasites. Listeria or parasites can be dangerous for mom and baby during pregnancy.
- Crawfish must be cooked until the shells turn red and the meat is opaque all the way through.
- Proper preparation, like boiling crawfish for 5-7 minutes at a rolling boil until done, then immediately serving and consuming further ensures safety.
- Make sure that your handling areas are sanitized and cleaned often.
You can safely enjoy fully cooked crawfish while pregnant.
In conclusion, when prepared properly by fully cooking crawfish until the shells turn red and the meat is firm and opaque throughout this tasty crustacean can certainly be part of a healthy diet during pregnancy. Including at least 12 ounces per week of low-mercury seafood is safe and provides essential nutrients like protein, iron, omega-3s, and more to support the mother’s needs and the baby’s development.
Crawfish in moderation can absolutely be part of providing both mom and baby with wholesome nutrition during pregnancy. Following the FDA’s guidelines on seafood consumption by fully cooking before eating makes this Gulf Coast favorite’s unique taste and benefits a great choice. Bon appétit and happy cooking!
Get some meal inspiration by reading my post about the easiest healthy pregnancy lunch ideas for work. Swap the proteins in some of the recipes for the seafood of your choice, and voila, you have a great lunch or dinner that includes fish or shellfish.
To dive deeper into seafood intake during pregnancy (or thousands of other pregnancy nutrition topics), join The Prenatal Nutrition Library. We offer expert prenatal nutrition advice on fish, protein, supplements, and more at your fingertips with our easily searchable app. You can download the app for free in your Apple or Google Play Store on Android to check it out.