Can Pregnant Women Eat Mahi Mahi? Is It a Safe Fish?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Mahi Mahi, also called dorado or dolphinfish (even though it’s definitely not a dolphin) is a tasty, firm-fleshed fish found around the USA and Caribbean.

Mahi is one of my favorite fishes, so I thought I’d investigate its pregnancy safety, including the mercury levels in Mahi Mahi and the different ways of eating it.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Mahi Mahi? Low in calories and high in protein, Mahi Mahi is a safe, versatile choice in pregnancy depending on how it’s cooked. Mahi has a low to moderate mercury level, so it can be eaten as part of your recommended fish intake in pregnancy.

If you’re unfamiliar with Mahi Mahi or you just want to know how much you should eat, or how best to cook it for a healthier pregnancy dish, then read on.

Is Wild Mahi Mahi OK in pregnancy?

Unlike other large fish like salmon, Mahi Mahi isn’t commercially farmed yet, so in theory, all Mahi species are “wild”.

Some people also think that Mahi is a species of tuna (it isn’t) because it was caught as a tuna by-catch for years. They’re often found in the same waters where tuna are caught, but don’t worry – it’s a totally different fish!

When I talk about Mahi Mahi in this article, I’m referring to wild-caught Mahi, which is probably the only type you can find in stores or at fishmongers anyway. Or, of course, if you’re lucky enough to have caught one yourself.

mahi mahi fish fillet with rice

Is Mahi Mahi High in Mercury?

As a wild-caught fish, the mercury levels in Mahi vary according to the size of the fish. The bigger the fish, the more likely it has a higher mercury concentration (source: PubMed). Later in this article, I cover how to choose the best Mahi fish, and how to cook it the healthiest way.

Readings of Mahi Mahi mercury levels have been taken in several scientific studies over the years. Mahi Mahi is considered to have low to moderate mercury levels, on average.

The FDA measured an average of 0.178 PPM (parts per million) of mercury in Mahi Mahi, on average. To put this in perspective, 0.1PPM is considered ‘low’, so it sits just above this level, into the ‘moderate’ category (source: FDA).

The Environmental Defense Fund also goes a step further, specifying mercury levels in Mahi Mahi according to how it’s caught and where it’s fished. Mahi Mahi comes in as having “moderate” mercury across the board (source: EDF).

Finally, the American Pregnancy Association also class Mahi Mahi in the “lower mercury” category (source: APA).

These mercury levels impact how much Mahi you can safely consume in pregnancy:

plate of mahi mahi served vegetables, pineapple and oriental sauce

How Much Mahi Mahi Can I Eat When Pregnant?

Information on how much mahi mahi pregnant women can eat varies. The American Pregnancy Association recommended that you eat no more than six x 6oz of Mahi Mahi per month (source: APA). That’s about 9oz (255g) a week, on average, or two 4.5 oz (127g) portions per week.

However, the FDA advises to only eat a maximum of 4oz of mahi-mahi per week during pregnancy (source: FDA). To be on the safe side, it may be better to stick to this lower amount.

Bear in mind that restaurant portions of Mahi Mahi are likely to be a lot larger than a recommended portion size. One serving of fish like Mahi is usually about 4-5oz, or around the size of your palm.

It’s always better to eat a variety of fish and seafood in pregnancy, rather than sticking to one type, if you can.

If you can mix and match Mahi with other lower mercury fish, you’ll get all the benefits of fish consumption in pregnancy whilst also watching your mercury levels.

Is Mahi Mahi Good / Healthy in Pregnancy?

Mahi is a nutritious, lean, high-protein fish that is a good choice in pregnancy.

One average portion of 1 fillet boasts almost 38g of protein and fewer than 200 calories. It’s also a good source of some B vitamins (particularly B12), phosphorous, selenium and niacin (source: USDA).

The real bonus of mahi-mahi is that it’s versatile because it’s firm-fleshed and slightly sweet flavored. This means it suits almost any cooking method – some healthier than others.

Tips on Choosing and Cooking Mahi Mahi When Pregnant

Whether you’re buying it or catching it, here are some tips to look out for when sourcing mahi-mahi fillets to cook at home:

  • Buy as fresh as possible. The flesh should be firm and smell of the sea, rather than ‘fishy’. Frozen Mahi is fine, too – look for any signs of freezer burn, and check the packaging is adequate and well protected. Mahi tends to have a dark bloodline running through the center of the fillets, and this is where fish will spoil first, so check this too.
  • Choose smaller fish where possible. Smaller fish are likely to have lower concentrations of mercury than larger ones, as they’ll be younger specimens (source: PubMed). If you can’t see the fish because it’s already been prepped, choose smaller steaks.
  • If the Mahi was caught by you or another individual (e.g. sport fishing) rather than commercially, double-check for any marine advisories about the water or species. This will alert you to any pollutants that are affecting the area, usually temporarily.
baked mahi mahi with salad on a plate

When you’re cooking Mahi, or ordering it in a restaurant, here are some tips on making it healthier and more nutritious:

  • Pregnant women should not eat raw mahi mahi, for example, in ceviche or sushi. Raw or undercooked seafood should be avoided completely in pregnancy, due to the risk of foodborne illnesses and the potential contamination with parasites in raw fish (source: APA).
  • Choose broiled, grilled or baked Mahi dishes (my favorite is with blackened seasoning). These are far lower in calories and fat than deep-fried, sauteed or battered versions. You can have those too, of course, but they’re better in moderation.
  • Always make sure that the Mahi is fully cooked. Undercooked seafood can contain various pathogens that can cause foodborne illness, which can be serious in pregnancy. The flesh should flake easily and be an opaque, solid color when cooked. If you’re eating a big piece, cut it in half first and check it’s done all the way through.
  • Mahi goes great with salsas, salads and grilled on a bed of veggies. It makes awesome fish tacos, too! It’s also well suited to strong Asian flavors like ginger, which can help with nausea as well.

One of my favorite ways of serving it is with this ginger glaze, over a bed of wholemeal rice and stir-fried veg:

If you want more information on fish and seafood in pregnancy, you might also like: