Can You Eat Eel While Pregnant?

Yes, it is generally safe for pregnant women to eat eel. This is primarily because eel is always served cooked, negating risks associated with raw seafood. Being cooked, it falls among the few permissible sushi rolls for pregnant women.

While seafood can be nutritious, offering proteins and irons, moderation is very important. It is always advisable to rather incorporate them into balanced diets that ensure the best health for both you and the growing baby.

Always make sure your eel is fully cooked because uncooked or improperly prepared ones can have high risk of foodborne illnesses like salmonella or listeria infection which can be very dangerous to pregnant moms and their babies.

Additionally, some eel species, like freshwater (unagi) or European eel (Anguilla Anguilla), have been found to contain high levels of mercury which can be harmful to the baby when eaten to excess. Thus, the need to exercise a bit caution.

What are some guidelines for consuming eel during pregnancy.

Pregnant women are to keep these few caveats at fingertips whenever they need to eat eel:

Cooking it thoroughly

If you choose to eat eel during pregnancy, make sure it is properly cooked to kill any potential harmful bacteria.

Cooking it to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees is the best. Doing this will ensure it reduces the risk of potential bacteria drastically.

Avoiding raw eel

Sushi and sashimi preparations often include raw or lightly cooked eel, which should be avoided during pregnancy due to the risk of foodborne pathogens.

Checking for mercury levels

You may want to inquire about the source of the eel you plan to consume if you’re pregnant. Different eel species and sources may have varying levels of mercury contamination.

It’s crucial to source your eel from reputable sources. At the same time you should limit consumption just so you can be sure of staying safe.

Eating in moderation

Even if you crave and choose to eat cooked eel, it’s a good idea to eat smaller amounts. Bingeing on any seafood can lead to an increased intake of environmental contaminants, including mercury.

Can I eat eel sauce while pregnant?

can you eat eel while pregnant?

Yes, you can generally eat eel sauce while pregnant. It also known as unagi sauce or kabayaki sauce, and is typically made from soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. It does not usually contain any eel.

The possible concern might come from the mirin used in the sauce. Mirin  is a type of rice wine similar to sake but with a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content.

However, since the sauce is cooked, the alcohol present is almost taken off. This makes all the ingredients safe for pregnant women.

But given the high levels of sugar and salt that could be present, it’s advisable to consume in moderation to balance nutritional needs and avoid excess caloric intake.

Health benefits of eel for pregnant women

Eel offers numerous health benefits, making it a valuable addition to a pregnant woman’s diet, subject to moderation and proper cooking. The benefits include:

  • Improving Stamina and Enhancing Muscle Tone: Eel is reported to work well in enhancing muscle tone and improving stamina, which can be conducive to maintaining the energy levels required during pregnancy.
  • Vital Source of Protein and Vitamins: Eels are a rich source of proteins and a variety of vitamins. These nutritional components are essential for both the expecting mother and her baby, promoting proper growth and development.
  • Strengthening Bones: The consumption of eel can help make the bones stronger, which is beneficial for both the mother and her developing baby.
  • Helps develop baby’s eyes and brains: As a powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids, this fish, when eaten during pregnancy can support these functions.
  • Low in Saturated Fat: Eel tends to be relatively low in saturated fat, making it a heart-healthy protein option.

Is eel high in mercury?

The mercury content in eel usually vary upon factors like the specie and where it was harvested.

In general, larger and older ones tend to have high mercury content because they have had more time to accumulate mercury in their tissues.

While moderate levels of mercury consumption aren’t risky, it is still recommended to limit the intake of such fishes to reduce potential mercury exposure in high amounts.

Therefore, while eel can be eaten during pregnancy, it’s important to do so in moderation and balance your intake with other low-mercury seafood to maintain nutritious diet.

Is eel always cooked in sushi?

Yes, eel is always cooked when served in sushi. This is important due to the potential presence of toxins in the blood of eels, which need to be cooked out.

Eel, or “unagi” as it is often referred to, is typically grilled and steamed. This process not only ensures its safety for consumption, but it also enhances the flavor and texture of it.

In fact, preparing eel is considered a specialized culinary practice in Japan given its complexity.

The practice of cooking it for sushi gets rid of potential health risks, making it a safe choice of sushi even for pregnant women to eat at restaurants, provided it is consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

Can I eat eel while breastfeeding?

Yes, it is generally safe to eat eel while breastfeeding, subject to similar considerations to those during pregnancy. This includes ensuring the eel is properly cooked, and being mindful of its moderate mercury content.

However, moderation is key. As per suggested guidelines, a nursing mother can have 6 ounces of cooked seafood twice per week.

This helps balance the intake of beneficial nutrients like protein and omega-3 fatty acids, while also limiting potential mercury exposure.

What fish to avoid while pregnant?

Here are some types of fish that are typically recommended to avoid or consume in limited amounts during pregnancy due to their higher mercury content:

  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Marlin
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish
  • Bigeye tuna
  • Deep-sea perch

It’s important that even though seafood like fish can contain good nutrients, you should always choose ones that are low in mercury to maintain a safe diet.

With certain types of fish, even if they are generally safe, the current guidelines are to limit their consumption to 8-12 ounces per week.

As individual dietary needs and reactions can vary, always consult a healthcare provider for more personalized advice.


In conclusion, eel is generally safe to consume while pregnant, provided it is fully cooked and consumed in moderation.

As this fish falls under the category of fishes with moderate mercury levels, its consumption should be limited to reduce the potential risk of mercury exposure.

We also recommended that while pregnant, it’s best to balance eel intake with other low-mercury seafood to achieve a diverse and nutritious diet.

As always, individual dietary needs and reactions can vary, so it is essential to consult a healthcare provider for personalized advice related to seafood consumption during pregnancy.


American Oceans (Can You Eat Eel and How Does It Taste?) & National Institutes Of Health (The effects of contaminants in European eel: a review)

Georgina Austin

Georgina Austin

Georgina is a certified midwife, a seasoned writer and a mother of twins - Noel and Noelle. She brings to this blog eleven years of experience in maternity support, coupled with her personal motherhood adventures to give you factual information on women's health.

Aside writing on pregnancy and breastfeeding, she writes on sexual health concerns, birth control guides, egg donation, sibling dynamics, and balancing the demands of multiple children.