Pregnancy takes your body through a lot of changes, both physically and hormonally.

And hormonal changes don’t only affect mood — they can also affect what you like to eat. Some pregnant people have food aversions, where even the thought of eating certain foods makes them sick. Others, though, experience strong cravings for certain foods.

And what if you’re suddenly craving a plate of fried calamari (squid) with marinara sauce and a squeeze of lemon? Is that OK?

You’ve heard some seafood is good for pregnant people — omega-3s and all that. But is calamari safe to eat during pregnancy? The short answer is yes — let’s take a look.

Calamari and other seafood are excellent sources of nutrients, and part of a healthy diet while pregnant.

But especially when it comes to pregnancy, many people wonder about the mercury content in seafood. Fears about mercury can even prevent pregnant people from getting the great benefits of fish.

Mercury is a naturally occurring compound found in the environment. It’s in the air, water, and soil. As a heavy metal, though, high exposure can be toxic to humans. This can lead to mercury poisoning, which affects brain, kidney, lung, and heart function.

Some seafood is higher in mercury. Exposure to high levels of mercury during pregnancy — such as consuming polluted shellfish or grains contaminated with mercury — can have harmful effects on fetal development and lead to cognitive impairment and increase the risk of cerebral palsy.

But it’s important to note that recent research has found that there’s not a lot of solid evidence connecting moderate levels of mercury from seafood consumption in pregnant women with impaired fetal development.

And actually, fish consumption is known to benefit fetal development and helps promote maternal health as well, as illustrated in this 2018 study.

While it’s essential that you avoid seafood that’s known to be very high in mercury — including king mackerel, shark, tilefish, swordfish, bigeye tuna, and marlin — it’s unnecessary to avoid other seafood due to concerns over mercury exposure.

In fact, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that pregnant women consume between 8 and 12 ounces of seafood every week.

Again, mercury levels vary depending on the type of seafood, with some species containing more mercury than others. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pregnant women should avoid seafood containing the highest mercury levels.

The good news for calamari lovers is that this particular seafood doesn’t have a high mercury level, making it a safe choice during pregnancy — in moderation.

Calamari is actually included among one of the best seafood choices for women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant, also according to the FDA. Calamari contains 0.024 parts per million (PPM) of mercury, which is significantly less than the amount in shark, swordfish, tuna, and marlin.

Because of calamari’s low amount of mercury, you can safely consume two to three servings per week. A serving is the equivalent of 4 ounces.

Although squid is safe to eat during pregnancy, it’s only safe when cooked properly. Different ways to prepare this seafood include frying, sautéing, baking, and grilling.

Avoiding raw seafood

Squid is also eaten raw, and sometimes included as an ingredient in uncooked sushi. But if you’re pregnant, it’s best to avoid raw or uncooked seafood in preparations like sushi. Raw seafood can contain bacteria that’s harmful to you and your baby.

You can also sear squid, but avoid eating it this way while pregnant. While the outside might cook, the inside might remain raw, putting you and your baby at risk of illness.

Seafood needs to cook thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145°F (62.8°C). After cooking, it’s important to put any leftovers in the refrigerator soon thereafter. When left at room temperature, it only takes 1 to 2 hours for harmful bacteria to grow.

Calamari isn’t only tasty — it also contains nutrients that are beneficial during pregnancy. For example, calamari is a good source of omega-3.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential during pregnancy as they promote fetal brain development. Additionally, calamari is an excellent source of protein, vitamin E, copper, B12, zinc, selenium, and iron, all of which are important nutrients during pregnancy.

Calamari isn’t the only seafood that’s safe to eat during pregnancy. You can also safely consume other low mercury seafood, including other mollusks like scallops, oysters, shrimp, and clams.

Other low mercury fish include:

  • catfish
  • cod
  • crawfish
  • white fish
  • salmon
  • sardine
  • flounder
  • whiting
  • lobster
  • herring

You can eat two to three servings of low mercury fish a week.

Other good choices include grouper, mahi-mahi, snapper, white croaker, and bluefish. You can eat one serving of fish in this group per week.

When a craving for calamari hits during pregnancy, you can and should enjoy a plate of this nutritious seafood.

It’s one of the better types of seafood to choose while pregnant due to it being low in mercury and high in nutrients that are important for both your health and the health of your growing baby — bon appétit!