2023 Author: Anita Thornton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 18:44
Should pregnant and breastfeeding women limit their consumption of sushi, avoid it or eat it freely? Extenso unravels the question.
Sushi is gaining more and more followers. Indeed, these small bites offer a guaranteed change of scenery, original flavors… but also their share of concern for certain populations, including pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding. Several questions then arise.
It is not recommended to consume raw fish during pregnancy because of the he alth risks for the mother-to-be and the fetus. Why?
Firstly because raw fish can contain parasites called Anisakis which can cause vomiting and severe abdominal cramps. Then, because several bacteria can be found in sushi: Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes. In addition, sushi or uncooked seafood can cause hepatitis A or toxoplasmosis. These infections could threaten the he alth and development of the baby. For example, Listeria can, among other things, cause abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy, birth defectsin the second trimester and premature birth in the last trimester.
There is also evidence that various heavy metals (such as cadmium and lead) can be found in high concentrations in sushi. They represent a risk for the pregnant woman and the fetus, which reinforces the recommendation to avoid sushi.
According to several sources, freezing raw fish before consumption destroys parasites in species at risk. However, at the level of pathogenic bacteria, only cooking would eliminate them. Since pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to various poisonings, they should therefore avoid the consumption of raw fish and sushi.
Since bacteria and parasites are not transmitted in breast milk, breastfeeding women can consume raw fish (and therefore sushi!).
For everyone: the risks associated with eating sushi
Although raw fish brings its share of risks of contamination, rice also contributes to increase them. Yup, you read rice right! The sushi making process requires the use of room temperature rice to which vinegar is added. If the dosage of the amount of vinegar is adequate, it will inhibit the growth of microorganisms. Otherwise, there is a risk of developing food poisoning…
We must not forget that the risk of contaminationcrossed is also very important when making sushi. Indeed, each bite contains several ingredients: fish, seafood, rice, seaweed, vegetables, mayonnaise, cream cheese, etc. Handling these different food categories simultaneously increases the risk of transferring microorganisms from one to another. It is therefore necessary to be vigilant and alert as to the hygiene and sanitation methods put in place.
Let's talk about… hygiene
In order to avoid the possible risk of food poisoning, breastfeeding women, as well as the general population, should pay particular attention to the hygiene and sanitation of establishments serving sushi. The presence of clean work surfaces, the use of fresh food, the refrigeration of ingredients (or the use of ice), the wearing of a hair net and the frequent washing of employees' hands are some clues that allow to identify if good methods are used when making sushi.
For rice: what can be done?
Vinegar added to sushi rice gives it an acidic pH that inhibits the growth of microorganisms. Indeed, very few bacteria are able to survive at a pH below 4. Particular importance must therefore be given to the acidification of rice when preparing sushi, particularly those made at home, especially more than rice can stay at room temperature for a long time.
If you prepareyour own sushi at home, ask your fishmonger to find out which species of fish to use. He can then inform you about the species that must first be frozen in order to eliminate the possible presence of parasites. Also be sure to buy fresh fish, vegetables and fruit, use a clean work surface, don't leave your ingredients out at room temperature for a long time, and wash your hands frequently.
Most sushi contains fish. However, the benefits of fish have been demonstrated time and time again. These contain a range of nutrients essential to the development of the fetus and infant. Pregnant and breastfeeding women therefore benefit from consuming fish (cooked for pregnant women). In fact, most fish are a source of omega-3 fatty acids of marine origin, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are used, among other things, for the normal development of the eyes and of the brain. Fatty fish also contain vitamin D (useful for the formation of bones and teeth) and a multitude of other nutrients (selenium, iodine, magnesium, iron and copper). Fish therefore deserves to be eaten throughout pregnancy and lactation.
In addition, the nori seaweed used to make maki and hosomaki also contains several vitamins and minerals(copper, folate, manganese, vitamins A and C). Not to mention the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that are frequently incorporated into these small bites…
All equal, fish?
As mentioned earlier, fish provide several nutrients to pregnant and breastfeeding women. However, large amounts of mercury can be found in some fish. In addition to causing harmful effects in adults, this metal can cause harm to the fetus and infant… hence the importance of choosing the right fish. For more information, see our article Pregnancy: Choosing the right fish.
Sushis, nigris, makis… and patati
Since Japanese vocabulary is not a natural part of our linguistic background, it is normal to be a little confused by so much variety.
Let's define sushi first. This is a small Japanese bite that is made from vinegared rice. Sushi is a generic term that includes the different types available: nigris, hosomakis, sashimi, makis, etc.
Maki are usually the most common sushi on Japanese restaurant menus. To the vinegared rice is then added a sheet of nori seaweed and pieces of fish, vegetables, seafood, etc. Note that soy sheets can be used in place of nori seaweed. When it comes to sushi, you should know that creativity is key and that several restaurant plateslook like works of art. Something to delight both the eyes and the taste buds!
In short, these little bites of exoticism should not be eaten during pregnancy because of the risks associated with eating raw fish. When breastfeeding, sushi can be part of a balanced diet. Care must then be taken to respect the principles of hygiene and safety in order to enjoy them in peace!
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