Fish is healthy food. Or so we think. Many nutritionists and dietitians recommend getting lots of fish in our diet. That’s because fish contains a lot of protein that’s practically the building block of our muscles, bones, skin, cartilage, and organs. Certain types of fish also contain a huge helping of omega-3, which are all-around fatty acids that help with everything—from helping treat mental disorders to keeping the heart healthy and preventing cancer.
And to top it all off, fish is the best dietary source of Vitamin D hands down. This means people who live in places that don’t get much sunlight can benefit largely from getting a lot of fish in their diet.
The FDA, however, warns all types of fish contain mercury.
But before you start hoarding all the yellowfin tuna for your sashimi dinners, think again. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency warn that almost all types of fish contain at least a trace amount of mercury.
As you very well know, mercury is toxic. The risk of mercury poisoning from eating fish is real, especially for people who are at highest risk. These include pregnant women, nursing moms, babies, and young children. Research shows mercury has an adverse effect on children’s developing brains, which means high-risk individuals should avoid eating fish known to have high levels of mercury. The FDA and EPA also recommend that women of child-bearing age, typically women who are 16 to 49 years old, also limit eating fish with high mercury levels.
High-risk individuals would do better to limit the amount of fish they consume to minimize the risk of mercury poisoning.
But exactly how much fish is allowed? Pregnant and nursing moms can eat up to three servings of fish with low levels of mercury a week. They can eat up to one serving of fish with high levels each week. Children aged two years old and below can eat up to two servings of fish per week.
And everyone else? Well, you can eat up to two servings of fish with high levels of mercury per month. That means tuna steak dinners should be limited to once every two weeks.
Don’t despair, though. There are plenty of options for fish and seafood with low levels of mercury. Check out the list of fish and their mercury levels, as advised by the FDA.
Low Mercury Levels
- Freshwater Perch
- Skipjack Tuna (Canned Light)
- American and Spiny Lobster
- Boston or Chub Mackerel
- American Shad
- Flouder, Fluke, Plaice, Sand Dabs
Moderate Mercury Levels
- Tuna (all varieties except bigeye and skipjack)
- Spanish Mackerel
- Chilean Seabass
- Weakfish (Sea Trout)
- Striped Bass
- Tilefish (Atlantic Ocean)
- Mahi Mahi
- White and Pacific Croaker
High Mercury Levels
- Moderate Mercury Levels
- Low Mercury Levels
- King Mackerel
- Tilefish (Gulf of Mexico)
- Orange roughy
- Bigeye tuna
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