If you're pregnant and the thought of smoked salmon with cream cheese and toast makes your mouth water, you may wonder if it's safe or if you should avoid eating it. Mainly because, unlike baked or grilled salmon, smoked salmon is prepared differently (either cold smoked salmon or hot smoked salmon), and it can be a little confusing to tell the difference.
So, can you eat smoked salmon during pregnancy? And is hot smoked salmon better than cold? Here's what you need to know about the safety and risks of eating this delicious fish while pregnant.
According to registered dietitian Caroline Young, MS, RD, LD, RYT, salmon is one of the most nutritious foods we can eat because it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and is a good source of protein. However, when it comes to smoked salmon, pregnant women should only eat hot-smoked salmon that has been heated to 165℉, as cold-smoked salmon can contain parasites and cause foodborne illnesses, says Young.
"Hot-smoked salmon (thoroughly cooked to about 165 degrees Fahrenheit) is safe to eat, while cold-smoked salmon is not, since eating the latter contains parasitic worms and can lead to food poisoning and foodborne illnesses like listeria," she tells Today's Parent.
"As with deli meat, ensure you cook smoked salmon until piping hot before eating it at home when pregnant."
While pregnant women can safely consume hot-smoked salmon as opposed to cold-smoked salmon, there are other ways to enjoy this nutrient-dense fish, says registered dietitian Kelsey Costa, MS, RDN.
"Given their high nutritional value and low risk of bacterial contamination, thoroughly cooked salmon dishes such as grilled or baked salmon are safe for consumption during pregnancy," she adds.
Cold-smoked and hot-smoked salmon are both types of salmon, but they are cooked at different temperatures, says registered dietitian Jennifer House, MSc, RD.
"Cold-smoked salmon is smoked at about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (producing a lighter pink and silky texture), while hot-smoked salmon is smoked at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit (producing a darker color and flaky product)," she tells Today's Parent.
Salmon (especially cooked) is always a good protein choice during pregnancy because salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential for fetal brain development, and is low in mercury, says House. That being said, eating smoked salmon while pregnant is possible, but you should ensure it is thoroughly cooked.
Likewise, smoked salmon, unlike fresh salmon, has a high sodium content, which is something to pay attention to, according to Costa. "During pregnancy, it's essential to consume salt-cured foods like hot-smoked salmon in moderation because of their high sodium content, which can lead to increased blood pressure or preeclampsia, which can be dangerous for mothers and their unborn babies," she says.
Although they may look the same, House points out differences between cold-smoked and hot-smoked salmon. "Cold-smoked salmon is smoked at about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (producing a lighter pink and silky texture), while hot-smoked salmon is smoked at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit (producing a darker color and flaky product)," she explains.
Always ensure your fish is thoroughly cooked to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and food poisoning.
House recommends opting for fully cooked, hot-smoked salmon while pregnant. You can tell if it is fully cooked by its color. "Look for hot-smoked salmon (darker pink and flaky) that has been fully cooked, or make sure you cook cold-smoked salmon before consuming in pregnancy," she tells Today's Parent.
There are other types of fish you can enjoy during pregnancy, as long as they are considered low-mercury fish, explains House. "These include shrimp, light tuna (not white), haddock, sole, and oily fish like herring," she says.
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