Are Crawfish Safe During Pregnancy?

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Pregnant women often have to adjust their diet for the benefit of their growing baby. Some foods should be avoided during pregnancy, and others need to be limited to prevent complications during pregnancy. There is a lot of dilemma about the consumption of seafood. Many people assume all seafood is unsafe to eat while pregnant because of concerns about mercury and its impact on your baby. However, eating fish and seafood low in mercury provides significant benefits during pregnancy, as long as they are prepared correctly.

Continue reading to find everything you need to know about crawfish to make it a part of your healthy pregnancy diet.

A. What is Crawfish?

Crawfish, also known as crawdad or crayfish, are freshwater crustaceans of the genera Astacus and Parastacus. 

Crawfish is a popular seafood dish in the Southern United States and is typically cooked as a spicy dish. They can be found in many different Louisiana hot sauces, served as fried patties or crawfish boils, and even tossed into gumbo for added flavor.

B. Can you eat crawfish while pregnant?

Crawfish are safe to eat when they’re fully cooked. You may have heard rumors about them being unsafe to eat, but this is not true if they’re cooked thoroughly. 

Crawfish are generally considered low-mercury seafood, with an average mercury content of 0.033 ppm. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), seafood with 0.1 ppm or less is “low” in mercury.

So can pregnant women eat crawfish? Yes, you can safely enjoy adequately cooked crawfish at any point during your pregnancy. However, by eating insufficiently cooked crawfish, there is a chance that you and your baby might be exposed to bacteria, pathogens, or even parasitic diseases.

C. Source of Origin of Crawfish is Important

Crawfish are a popular delicacy in the United States, but not all crawfish are created equal. Crawfish from US farms should be alright, but there are many requirements and regulations for them to be safe for consumption for commercially raised crawfish. However, if you are catching your own crawfish, those are less likely to meet those requirements and may have higher levels of mercury. You should check for marine advisories to confirm that the water you’re fishing in is pollution-free. Because cooking won’t be able to remove toxins already present in the crawfish. So if you have crawfish, you should be absolutely sure about its source and cook it properly to avoid consuming these toxins.

D. Health Benefits of Crawfish

Not only does crawfish have a delicate taste that lends itself to many types of cuisine, but it also has several health benefits.

  1. Crawfish is a low-fat, low-calorie, white meat. 3 oz or 85g crawfish hold just 65 calories and 0.8g of fats.
  2. Crawfish is a high protein food, containing 14 grams of protein per 3 ounces (85 gram) serving. This makes crawfish a perfect choice for individuals looking to build or maintain lean muscle tissue. Moreover, crawfish is a complete protein, with all essential amino acids in good proportions, making it a healthy choice.
  3. Crawfish are also rich in minerals such as calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc.
  4. Crawfish are a minor source of vitamin-A and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (PUFA), essential for healthy mucosa and skin.
  5. Crawfish are high in folates, niacin, vitamin B6, thiamin, and riboflavin.

E. How Much Crawfish Can You Eat When Pregnant?

According to USFDA, pregnant women or women trying to conceive should limit their weekly seafood intake to 8-12oz. Therefore, the safe limit allows up to two servings of crawfish per week. This is to avoid damage to a fetus’s developing nervous system due to higher mercury levels.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s more beneficial to eat a varied diet of fish when pregnant, rather than eating 8-12 oz of just one variety per week. Not only does this include benefits for the mother, but it may also have benefits for the unborn child. Fish of any kind, when not contaminated and consumed moderately during pregnancy, is actually beneficial for the fetus. According to a study, children whose mothers consumed more seafood during pregnancy had better comprehension scores than those who didn’t.

F. How Do You Know When Crawfish are Cooked Perfectly?

It’s essential to recognize when crawfish are cooked so you can enjoy them safely. If crawfish are adequately cooked, the tail meat should be firm and not rubbery. The head of the crawfish should be juicy but not mushy and should not fall apart.

G. Symptoms Developed after Consuming Unsafe Crawfish

Food Safety discussions often cover harmful effects observed by eating unsafe or contaminated food. However, some people might not know what the warning signs of eating contaminated crawfish are. The main risk is food poisoning, leading to diverse symptoms that can develop anywhere from 1 hour to as high as 28 days after eating contaminated food.

There are a handful of symptoms that can be indicative of eating undercooked or contaminated crawfish. One of these is diarrhea, often accompanied by nausea and stomach ache. Other symptoms include dehydration, headaches, fever, loss of appetite, and vomiting.

H. Pregnancy Safe Crawfish Dishes

Crawfish are a traditional part of Cajun cuisine. They are consumed boiled, steamed, roasted, or in stews and bisques. The crawfish is also the state crustacean of Louisiana. Here are some of the crawfish dishes that are pregnancy safe:

  1. Crawfish Sandwiches: If you’re looking for a quick lunch or dinner, why not try a crawfish sandwich? It is typically served on a french baguette with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato. The crawfish are boiled with allspice, vinegar, red pepper, salt, and black pepper. The crawfish are then placed inside the bread and topped with the other ingredients. If desired, onions can be added to the sandwich as well.
  2. Crawfish Boil: If you’re a Southern Louisiana native, you know that crawfish boils are the best way to celebrate any occasion. Crawfish boils consist of everything a Cajun’s heart desires: potatoes, corn, red beans, garlic, onions, sausage. There’s no better way to spend an afternoon with family than around a giant pot of boiling crawfish along with the spicy sausage.
  3. Crawfish Etouffee: Crawfish etouffee is a traditional Louisiana dish made with crawfish, onions, peppers, and a thick, tangy tomato-based sauce. It can be served with rice to soak up the flavor of the sauce or can also be used as an appetizer for guests. Crawfish etouffee is commonly prepared at home on holidays such as Mardi Gras and Independence Day.

I. The Bottom Line

Crawfish is a popular dish in the USA at both restaurants and family gatherings. Crawfish is usually fried as a snacking dish or boiled with a heavy spice mixture to create a Cajun-style crawfish boil. However, many pregnant women are hesitant to enjoy these delicacies due to their fear of eating seafood during pregnancy. However, this shouldn’t be the case as there are many benefits to eating properly cooked crawfish in a limited quantity.

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