Are you pregnant and craving your favorite sushi rolls? Wondering what types of sushi are safe for pregnancy? Today we’re talking all about whether or not it is safe to have sushi while pregnant, what the risks are, and the safe way to get your sushi fix while carrying your sweet baby. This post does not constitute medical advice. Always talk to your doctor.
I was born in Tokyo back in 1990 and so my mom was a pregnant American woman in Japan for 9 months. She tells the story of one particular business dinner where she was offered some sushi and declined, explaining she was pregnant. They looked at her incredibly confused. Did they not understand? Was there a language barrier? Was this an excuse because the foreign woman didn’t like sushi?
It turns out in Japan there is no blanket guideline for avoiding sushi while pregnant and women eat raw fish from reputable sources throughout their whole pregnancy. Let’s explore why the advice in America is so different.
Why people say not to eat sushi while pregnant:
There are a few concerns with consuming lots of sushi while pregnant. The first is the high levels of mercury in some of the fish in sushi. The other concern is increased likelihood of uncooked meat containing harmful bacteria or parasites. While pregnant women have a lower immune system and are more susceptible to infection like food poisoning.
The problem with that is (from the literature I’ve read) there isn’t actually data backing up the claim that raw fish has an increased likelihood of giving you a parasite (statistically you’re more likely to get a parasite from contaminated chicken than raw fish). Most sushi-grade fish has been flash frozen for transport which would kill any parasite (just like cooking it would).
Talk to your doctor, read “Expecting Better” by Emily Oster (a fantastic book for understanding the data behind common pregnancy recommendations), and stress less about sushi.
Here’s what I chose to do while pregnant:
But, as always, talk to your doctor and don’t consider this medical advice
- eat sushi from reputable restaurants (I skipped grocery store sushi while pregnant)
- avoid raw fish super high in mercury if having sushi more than once a month
- remind myself that in Japan sushi is considered an important part of a healthy pregnancy diet because of the omega 3 fatty acids
Sushi to avoid while pregnant:
- Anything where storage or transport of the fish is suspect (avoid lower quality sushi joints and grocery store sushi)
- king mackerel
- orange roughy
List of Sushi rolls safe for pregnancy:
If you’re still uncomfortable with having high quality sashimi (raw fish sushi) while pregnant, here is a list of rolls that are made of well-cooked fish or vegetables that you can order at a sushi bar while pregnant:
- Tempura rolls
- ebi roll (shrimp)
- California rolls
- unagi roll (cooked eel)
- spicy chicken sushi roll
- spicy crab roll
- spicy shrimp roll
- chicken katsu roll
- cucumber maki roll
- cucumber avocado roll
- shiitake mushroom roll
- Futomaki roll (vegan)
Sushi while pregnant FAQ:
If you skipped most of the article above, here is a quick guide for answers to common questions about eating sushi while pregnant. This is not medical advice. Always consult with your doctor.
Can I have cooked sushi while pregnant?
Cooked sushi avoids all the concerns about increased risk of parasite and bacteria exposure (no one wants food with small parasitic worms but it can be more harmful while pregnant) . Avoid fish very high in mercury content (listed above) and you are good to go. My favorite cooked sushi rolls are any of the tempura rolls!
Can I have vegetable sushi while pregnant?
You should be fine to eat any vegetable sushi rolls while pregnant.
Can I have tempura sushi while pregnant?
Tempura sushi is when the fish is fried in a tempura batter so everything is cooked. Tempura rolls are generally considered safe to eat while pregnant.
Can I have cooked sushi while pregnant?
Cooked sushi is generally considered safe to eat while pregnant.
Can I have salmon sushi while pregnant?
Cooked salmon sushi is considered safe to eat while pregnant.
Can I eat avocado sushi while pregnant?
Can I eat raw sushi while pregnant?
As discussed above, the FDA and American Pregnancy Association don’t recommend consuming raw fish while pregnant. However, in Japan pregnant women eat raw sushi all the time. The concerns are high mercury levels in some fish and increased chance of bacteria or parasites in the uncooked fish. If you’re eating sushi from a reputable source, it is safer.