Is Red Snapper or other Snapper Fish Safe During Pregnancy?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Although fish is a healthy part of any pregnancy diet, you should still exercise care when choosing which species to eat. This is why it’s wise to check if red snapper is safe during pregnancy before eating it.

Red snapper is generally safe during pregnancy. However, due to the mercury content of red snapper, this fish should ideally be eaten no more often than once a week. Other snapper species vary in their mercury content, and each one is described below, with some pregnancy guidance.

There are many kinds of snapper to keep up with – which ones are classed as red snappers, anyway? This article will run through how often you can enjoy red snapper and other snapper fish – as well as how to safely enjoy it.

Is Red Snapper Safe During Pregnancy?

Red snapper is safe during pregnancy but due to its mercury content, it should not be consumed too often so try not to eat this fish more than once a week. 

Red snapper – or any other snapper fish – should always be eaten fully cooked if you’re pregnant.

As always, raw fish is not advisable during pregnancy due to the risk of contamination from listeria and other bacteria and foodborne illness. Red snapper is no exception to this (source: PMC).

All kinds of snapper fish should be cooked to at least 145F/62.8C during pregnancy before eating (source: USDA). You can use a food thermometer to see if it’s cooked, or cut inside the thickest part of the fish and check for any jellyish or undercooked areas, especially if it’s cooked on the bone.

fresh red snapper with lemon and garlic on a cutting board

Is Snapper High in Mercury?

There are multiple species of snapper, each with their own variations in nutritional value and mercury levels:

Red snapper is often referred to as crimson snapper in Australia, the pink Hawaiian snapper, crimson jobfish or opakapaka as it’s found in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and right up to Hawaii. Therefore fish labeled as crimson snapper should be treated like red snapper (source: fish.gov.au).

Red snapper has the lowest amount of mercury out of many snapper species, with a mean PPM (parts per thousand) of 0.60. This is a moderate amount of mercury. However, this finding was based on a limited sample size so is not definitive, and means red snapper should still be consumed with caution during pregnancy (source: Perinatology). 

Lane snapper has an increased amount of mercury compared to other kinds of snapper which means that it should be avoided during pregnancy (source: EDF Seafood Selector). Even though the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported that it contained 0.182 ppm mercury (which is moderate), it’s best to err on the side of caution.  

Mutton snapper is another variety with what is considered an elevated amount of mercury which means this kind of snapper should also be avoided during pregnancy, or eaten very infrequently.

Vermilion snapper has a moderate mercury level which makes it safe during pregnancy but it should be limited to once a week at the most, just like red snapper.

Yellowtail snapper is another pregnancy-safe snapper but still should be limited to consuming once a week due to the moderate amount of mercury. 

Silk snapper has a moderate amount of mercury which means it is safe once a week during pregnancy but no more than that. It also scores poorly when it comes to how eco-friendly fishing this species is (source: EDF Seafood Selector).

Pacific red snapper is actually a Pacific rockfish. Most kinds of rockfish contain a moderate amount of mercury so consumption should be limited to one serving per week (source: EDF Seafood Selector).

A snapper bluefish is a small version of the adult Atlantic Bluefish (source: My Water Earth). This kind of snapper has a mean mercury PPM of 0.368 which is very high compared to other kinds of snapper, and should only be eaten in moderation during pregnancy (source: FDA).

Grey snapper is also known as mangrove snapper and has a mercury PPM of 0.175. This is a moderate amount so this kind of snapper should be consumed at most once a week (source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection). 

Golden snapper is also known as white snapper or tilefish and has a mean mercury level of 1.45 which is too high to consume during pregnancy, and is probably best avoided (source: Perinatology). If you’ve eaten golden snapper/white snapper already – don’t worry, just avoid it for the remaining duration of your pregnancy. If you’ve eaten it often, you might want to have a word with your healthcare professional and have your mercury levels checked, just in case.

Is Snapper a Good Choice For Pregnant Women? Are There Benefits?

As far as fish go, red snapper is fairly low in fat. A 100 gram serving of red snapper contains 1.7 grams of fat, 128 calories, and 26 grams of protein.

Snapper is also a good source of potassium with 15% of the recommended daily amount and has 3.1% of your daily calcium needs (source: Nutritionix).

Red snapper’s total omega 3 fatty acid content is 0.2 which is not the highest compared to other fish such as herring which has 2.5 (source: Oregon State University). Omega 3 is important during pregnancy for your baby’s brain development as well as cognitive function and vision.

Studies even show that omega-3 may ward off post-partum depression and lower the risk of pre-term labor (source: APA, Reviews in Obstetrics in Gynecology). Pregnant women should consume 1.4 grams of omega-3 per day (source: NIH).

The good news is that due to its high protein content and low fat and calories, snapper is a great choice for pregnant women who want to up their protein consumption without adding extra calories or fat to their diet.

During pregnancy, you need between 75 to 100 grams of protein per day which is important to keep both you and your growing baby strong (source: APA).

For some pregnancy recipe suggestions for snapper, see below!

close up image of baked red snapper

3 Healthy Ways to Enjoy Snapper During Pregnancy

Here are a couple of ways to add snapper to your pregnancy diet. Remember, most snappers should be eaten once a week, but you can certainly make it delicious when you do!

Baked red snapper is a healthy filing way to enjoy this fish without the additional fat and calories that would come with fried or battered fish. Baked red snapper can be seasoned with garlic, butter, seasoned breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese with veggies and potatoes on the side. 

Grilled red snapper is a delicious dish but make sure you’ve cooked the fish thoroughly. This recipe suggests grilling between 400 and 450F which is appropriate for pregnant women, as it will fully cook the fish.

The snapper can be seasoned with paprika, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, salt and cayenne and enjoyed with a choice of veggies and potatoes, rice or couscous on the side. 

Tomato red snapper is a more flavorsome way to enjoy this fish. The snapper needs to be fried and served with basic, garlic and saucy chopped tomatoes. You can learn all about tomatoes during pregnancy here too.

Overall, snapper fish species are a good quality protein to enjoy during pregnancy – so long as you eat it in moderation.