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Can You Eat Sushi When You Are Pregnant?

by Kirstin Hendrickson

About Kirstin Hendrickson

Kirstin Hendrickson is a writer, teacher, coach, athlete and author of the textbook "Chemistry In The World." She's been teaching and writing about health, wellness and nutrition for more than 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Science in zoology, a Bachelor of Science in psychology, a Master of Science in chemistry and a doctoral degree in bioorganic chemistry.


There are many foods that you may enjoy that you should avoid during a pregnancy. There are two reasons for this: Some foods may have bacterial contamination and some foods may contain toxins. Certain kinds of sushi are not safe to consume during pregnancy, while other types are perfectly safe.

Pregnancy and Food

During pregnancy, your immune system weakens. This means you're at increased risk of becoming ill. Not only can you catch colds and other viruses more easily, you can also get food poisoning more readily than usual. Bacteria and toxins in some foods can cross the placenta, explains Dr. Miriam Stoppard in her book "Conception, Pregnancy and Birth." For this reason, there are many normally safe foods that you need to avoid during pregnancy.


Sushi is a kind of Japanese cuisine that typically includes fish and other seafood. While it's common to associate the word "sushi" with "raw," not all sushi contains uncooked fish. Typical offerings at a sushi restaurant can also include egg-based preparations, cooked seafood preparations and vegetarian options. If you're a fan of sushi, you'll need to avoid certain types.

Raw Sushi

One type of sushi to avoid entirely during pregnancy is sushi prepared with raw fish or seafood, explain Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel in their book "What To Expect When You're Expecting." This is because raw fish and other raw seafood can contain bacteria that put you at risk of food poisoning and can also cross the placenta, which puts your developing baby at risk. If you're unsure as to whether a particular type of sushi is cooked, you can ask your server.

High-Mercury Sushi

Even among the cooked sushi offerings, there are a few menu items you'll need to avoid. That's because some kinds of fish contain high levels of mercury, which is a neurotoxin. Neurotoxins can cross the placenta and damage your developing baby's nervous system and brain. Large predator fish are particularly high in mercury. AmericanPregnancy.org notes that even if cooked, swordfish and shark are among seafood types that you should avoid completely during pregnancy because of the risk of mercury contamination. Egg, shrimp and vegetable-based sushi preparations are among the safest.

References (3)

  • “Conception, Pregnancy and Birth”; Miriam Stoppard, M.D.; 2008
  • “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”; Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel; 2008
  • AmericanPregnancy.org: Sushi

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.