Mussels, with their mild flavor and nutrients, have proven to be one of the best, more versatile seafood. They can be incorporated into any dish, and the nutritional value is nothing to shake a finger at; so it isn’t a shock that mussels are a crowd favorite when it comes to seafood. They’re light, flavorful; and healthy—the perfect trifecta of great food. Cook them, steam them; fry them… the sky’s the limit with this delight!
But can the possibilities be truly endless if mussels—seafood delight and packed with nutrients—are harmful to pregnancy? In this article, we will delve and debunk myths and facts about mussels; and if they’re good to include in a diet when you’re expecting.
Mussels: what are they?
The mussel; or Mytilus edulis, is a medium-sized edible shellfish; which is sold worldwide for its commercial use and intensive aquaculture. Aside from being edible; mussels are filter feeders; which means they play a big role in consuming toxins and bacteria in estuaries. Their hard shells work as filters so they can “eat”, in turn making their shells a sort of net or harbor for bad bacteria.
Mussels; like other shellfish and seafood, are not exempt from an amount of mercury in them. Essentially the rule of thumb is: the bigger the seafood; the higher its mercury content is. Since mussels are smaller than most seafood; its mercury levels are very low; thus making it safe for human consumption.
Mussels and pregnancy: safe?
Pregnant women tend to have immune systems that have a lower defense, so their cells don’t attack the growing fetus. This is the body’s way of welcoming the baby’s growth inside of them. But due to this caveat, pregnant women are rendered more sensitive than average, so their diets have to be a bit more specialized.
Which brings in the question: are mussels (and other seafood) safe to eat for pregnant women?
The short answer to this is yes. Mussels are safe for pregnant women to consume as long as they are cooked thoroughly, and consumed in small amounts. When prepared properly and carefully, they can be a healthy treat for those who are expecting! Mussels can be a good source of vitamins and minerals, as well as protein, which can be good for a growing baby. They also contain omega-3 fats, which can aid in the healthy eye and brain development in the fetal stages.
Mussels also contain a good amount of iron in them, which is great for pregnancy. Since you’ll be needing more blood for the body to handle the baby-growing process, mussels can contribute iron which can help in generating healthy blood cells. Additionally, mussels also contain calcium, zinc, Vitamin C, and potassium. These can help not only your baby but you as well!
Preparing mussels for expectant moms
Preparing mussels for pregnant women—and this goes for all people who eat them, as well—requires an eye for freshness. Fresh mussels mean that their shells are closed and that they are still alive, in which case there could still be harmful bacteria in them that could cause food poisoning. This is why mussels are often cooked over medium to high heat so that their shells open up and the bacteria are killed through heat. Cooking them thoroughly eases the worry of accidentally consuming Vibrio vulnificus or the common bacteria found in raw shellfish such as clams and oysters.
If you spot mussels with shells that have been open even before the cooking stage, discard them immediately. This means that the mussel is dead long before it has been cooked, in turn becoming unsafe to eat and full of bad bacteria. This also goes for mussels whose shells have stayed closed during after cooking—don’t bother trying to “save” them by cooking them again. It is unsafe to consume them and could harm both you and your baby.
What do I cook mussels with?
Being pregnant is a feat in itself—it certainly isn’t easy, and a lot of things you used to be able to do just get crossed off the list of what you can do. This includes your eating habits. Sure, the cravings kick in and there’s an odd pickle with peanut butter in there sometimes, but your old diet won’t cut it if you want to stay healthy for your growing baby.
A healthy, careful diet that includes seafood can still be a part of your lifestyle during pregnancy! You won’t have to say goodbye to mussels entirely—you just have to alter the way you can prep and eat them. A popular, light way to prepare mussels is to pair them with a soup or broth. This way you can enjoy a warm hearty meal that’s good for days when the weather is cool and crisp.
Another way to cook mussels is to add garlic butter and rice to them! Paella can incorporate lots of flavors and can be made with affordable ingredients. You also won’t have to worry about not feeling full afterward—the combination of fluffy rice, mussels, and the light fat of the garlic butter is a guaranteed combo that will zap that hungry feeling.
If you want something simple and fresh, go for steamed mussels. Steaming allows the mussels to naturally cultivate their own light, earthy flavor. You can enjoy them with a dash of salt and pepper, and you’re done! It’s quick, simple, and easy, not to mention economical!
Pregnancy is an important, delicate event in a woman’s life, and it’s crucial to remember things like maintaining a healthy diet. Pregnant women are always at risk, more so in the later stages, so it’s best to always keep an eye on what goes into your body. Remember that too much of anything becomes a bad thing, and that excess will always lead to an illness of some sort. This applies to any and all types of seafood, mussels included!
Keep track of how your food is prepared and where it comes from! And always be up to speed on the science behind food myths—consult doctors and close friends and family if unsure of what to consume. Jeopardizing you and your baby’s health is not worth that extra serving, so take it easy and be careful!