With the classic butterflies for an “evergreen” and practically irresistible first course. On avocado toast for a very “cool” brunch. On crackers, spreadable cheese and chives for a delicious aperitif. In a nice mixed salad on a hot summer day. Is there anything more versatile than smoked salmon? Perhaps, but it is an ingredient that lends itself to many preparations. With its delicate flavor, it is extremely inviting. But like so many other aspects of nutrition, with a big belly, the doubt arises spontaneously: can you eat smoked salmon when pregnant?
Salmon In Pregnancy
Let’s start with a consideration: fish during pregnancy should never be missing. It provides many nutrients and minerals that contribute substantially not only to the mother’s well-being but also to the baby she is carrying. Which to privilege? Undoubtedly the blue one is a very rich source, in particular, of “good” fatty acids, which have beneficial properties.
But if anchovies, mackerel and anchovies don’t drive you crazy, you will certainly find something you like on the fishmonger’s counter. The important thing is that it is fish and, above all, cooked well. If you respect this fundamental rule of cooking, go ahead with salmon during pregnancy. You can find it fresh, defrosted, canned (like tuna, natural or in olive oil) and smoked.
Why Is Salmon Good For You?
Salmon is a fish with a thousand virtues. First, the considerable amount of Omega 3, the famous fatty acids that are so good for health. Among these, a very important role in pregnancy is played by DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is often also used in pregnancy supplements. Among the various functions, DHA contributes to the development of the fetus’s brain and helps improve some metabolic pathologies that the mother could suffer from.
In addition, salmon contains vitamin D (basic for the growth of the child’s skeleton), a rather consistent level of so-called “noble” proteins (that is, of high biological value) and, if raised in the sea, also iodine (essential for the developing fetus and the thyroid). On the other hand, however, there is also a flip side to underlining: the high cholesterol content and salt in the case of smoked salmon. Both must always be controlled, especially when expecting a baby. The consumption of salmon should not be exaggerated. A few servings a week (about 250 grams of fresh salmon) will do. Also, we must remember that, like other large fish such as tuna or swordfish, it could accumulate mercury, a harmful metal.
The Properties Of Smoked Salmon
Let’s talk about smoked salmon, the subject of our in-depth analysis. Here are some nutritional values per 100 grams of product according to the Food and Nutrition Research Center (CREA):
- 147 calories.
- 25.4 grams of protein.
- 4.5 grams of lipids.
- 1,880 milligrams of sodium.
- 420 milligrams of potassium.
- 250 milligrams of phosphorus.
Some of these numbers (for example, those of proteins and potassium) are positive; on the contrary, instead of others, such as sodium, i.e. salt, cannot be defined as a cure-all.
Smoked Salmon In Pregnancy: Yes Or No?
We get straight to the heart of the matter and the answer to the question we asked at the beginning. Salmon in pregnancy: yes or no? The gynecologist or obstetrician of reference is the two professional figures who can give you the best and most qualified suggestions. In general, smoked salmon during pregnancy is not recommended. And now we tell you why.
In most cases, smoked salmon is raw and, as such, can easily be a vehicle for infections caused by various pathogenic microorganisms. The first is Listeria monocytogenes (bacterium), but there are also Salmonella (another bacterium) and Anisakis (a parasite). In pregnancy, all in all, harmless or, in any case, not excessively fearful infections (with due exceptions) could turn into something much more serious. Smoking salmon (a method used since ancient times to preserve food) reduces the risk of contamination but does not eliminate it.
So let’s say you can feel a little more relaxed if you find “hot smoking” written on the salmon packaging. Conversely, with the cold one, you are not 100% sure. Marinating doesn’t solve the problem, whether you use lemon or vinegar. The only way to peacefully consume smoked salmon when you are pregnant is to cook it. Heat is the most effective way to destroy potential pathogens. Sure, this way, the taste of the salmon won’t be the same, but at least you can bring it to the table without anxiety.
What Is Listeriosis?
The number one danger that could lurk in smoked salmon is Listeria monocytogenes which, if ingested, is responsible for food poisoning. The Istituto Superiore della Sanità (ISS) cites listeriosis as an increasingly significant public health issue, even if it is less frequent than other ailments such as salmonellosis. The bacterium is widespread in the environment, soil, vegetation and water. In the case of salmon, it can be found in farm waters and is resistant to smoking and even freezing: it dies only with cooking.
Also, the foods most often associated with listeriosis are smoked fish, meat products such as pates and hot dogs, soft cheeses, blue or slightly aged cheeses, pre-packaged vegetables and unpasteurized milk. The symptoms can vary from classic febrile gastroenteritis (they appear within a few hours of ingestion of contaminated food) to invasive or systemic gastroenteritis, which, in the most worrying cases, can have complications such as meningitis, septicaemia, encephalitis.
These severe forms have a long incubation (even 70 days). Listeriosis in pregnancy can be a significant problem because it could cause spontaneous abortion, intrauterine fetal death, premature delivery and neonatal infections. It can be contracted in any trimester but was seen more frequently in the third.
Does Smoked Salmon Increase The Risk Of Toxoplasmosis?
If you wonder if smoked salmon increases the risk of toxoplasmosis, this is the answer: no. Fish does not spread this infection that worries future mothers so much (and rightly so). Toxoplasmosis is caused by Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can infect various animals. Toxoplasmosis is transmitted through raw meat, raw salami, fruit and vegetables that have not been washed thoroughly. The microorganism can be found in the feces of infected animals (such as cats), which, in turn, contaminate the earth.
Through fecal-oral contact, therefore, it can reach humans. In pregnancy, the infection can cross the placenta, causing malformations, miscarriage or stillbirth. As mentioned, fish can be vectors of some infections but not toxoplasmosis. Just be careful of cross-contamination, i.e. contamination by other foods (for example, if fish and raw meat are kept in the refrigerator in the same dish) or by contaminated utensils or surfaces that have not been washed the best way.
Pregnant Salmon And Salt
In addition to the possibility of triggering food poisoning, another reason why smoked salmon is not recommended during pregnancy is that it is very salty food. Salt during pregnancy should be limited for various reasons, for example, not to raise blood pressure (predisposes to gestosis ) and to limit the onset of water retention, which is very common during pregnancy. Little should be taken regardless. The World Health Organization recommends a maximum daily consumption of 5 grams, equal to a teaspoon.
“A high consumption of salt increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension”. During pregnancy, “it is even more important to reduce its intake and prefer the iodized one”. In this period and during breastfeeding, the need for iodine increases and iodized salt is a solution to integrate. To reduce salt – during pregnancy, but not only – you can resort to some tricks, for example, using spices to season meat, fish and vegetables. Secondly, foods containing them should be limited, including smoked salmon.
Baked Salmon During Pregnancy
How to behave then? Salmon cooked during pregnancy is probably the best compromise to avoid pitfalls such as listeriosis. Fresh salmon can be cooked in many different ways, which do not change the intense and unmistakable taste of this fish but enhance it. Steamed, baked (have you ever tried it in a potato crust or with orange and pistachios ?), grilled or in first courses, there is certainly no shortage of ideas.