Best Omega-3s for Pregnancy : fish, food, or faux?

Clare V Liberes Les Sardines
Clare V supports omega-3s!

Getting your omega-3s during pregnancy may have a bundle of benefits.

Research suggests:

  • reduced risk of preterm labor. We think unexplained preterm labor may be associated with inflammation in general. Omega-3s decrease inflammation so may also decrease preterm labor associated with inflammation.
  • smaller incidence of low birthweight infants. I’m not exactly sure why, but omega-3s are vasodilators. More blood flow to baby equals more nutrients equals better growth.
  • reduced peripartum depression.
  • reduced risk of diabetes or high blood pressure related to pregnancy (gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension/ preeclampsia).

 

You need them. You want them.  HOW CAN YOU GET THEM?

There are 3 types of omega-3s: DHA, EPA, and ALA. 
  • DHA and EPA are found in seafood. You’ll see them referred to as marine omega-3s. ALA is usually found in plants. DHA, in general, is the one you want. ALA is not as potent as the marine omega-3s so you need more (a lot more) of it to get the same benefits.

Keeping this is mind, here are the MAIN SOURCES OF OMEGA-3:

  • Fish fish fish!! Salmon. Sardines. Anchovies. Herring. All good choices.

For an average 4oz serving of salmon, you’ll get more than 2000 mg! That’s wonderful!  In comparison, the largest study of omega-3 benefits in pregnancy used a supplement of 800mg daily. But a daily serving of fish is not the answer. Due to mercury content in fish, and the desire to avoid exposing the fetus to high and potentially dangerous levels, the CDC, your obgyn, and I all recommend about 12oz per week, on average, of low Mercury fish. That’s about 2-3 servings a week. Check out this article in Women’s Health (with a quote by yours truly) for more about fish consumption in pregnancy.

  • Plant food based sources
Flaxseed
Chia seeds
Walnuts
Soybeans

 

  • Supplements
I’m not big on supplements in general, EXCEPT omega-3s and folic acid. I believe there is no substitute for a healthy well rounded diet to get all your wanted and essential vitamins and minerals. Most vitamin supplements are absorbed so poorly it’s literally billions of dollars of waste. But … Folic acid has well known benefits for a developing fetus and is more bio available than its natural form, folate. As far as omega-3s, most of the studies that show health benefits used supplements (as a way to standardize intake). So, we know they work.

So, yes, supplement! Get your main source of omega-3s through your diet (fish, preferably, but plant based foods if you’re vegetarian). Supplement with an over the counter omega-3 (like cod fish oil, krill oil, or algae oil) to round out the rest. 

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