Seafood: You either love it or you hate it. The flavor isn’t for everyone, but the nutrients make some serious waves. It’s high in protein, low in calories, and packed with omega-3’s. Yet, fish also contains mercury, so it’s wise to learn which ones are high-risk.
Mercury is an element that occurs naturally in the environment, but it’s also released due to pollution. When it collects in water, mercury turns into methylmercury, which is absorbed by fish. Technically, all fish have some mercury. Larger fish that eat other fish – or live longer – are bound to have higher levels. Mercury builds up in the tissue, so there’s no way to “clean” it out!
Why Is Mercury A Concern?
Methylmercury can also build up in your tissues. It’s a neurotoxin, so it’s dangerous for the central nervous system. With excess buildup, here’s what you might face:1
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Feeling pins and needles
- Poor movement coordination
- Problems with talking, hearing, and walking
- Muscle weakness
The dangers are even greater for a fetus. If a baby is exposed to methylmercury in the womb, they may have problems with the following:
- Cognitive thinking
- Fine motor skills
- Visual-spatial skills
Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers need to be extra careful! The same goes if you’re trying to conceive.
Fish With High Levels Of Mercury
To safely enjoy seafood, skip these five types of fish.
Love tropical seafood? Steer clear from swordfish, which can grow up to 7 feet long. They live for 9 years and eat both large and small fish, making the mercury risk very high.2
Eating shark might get you bragging rights, but they’re high in mercury.3 These big guys rule the food chain! Sharks live off of other fish, many of which may be contaminated.
3. Bigeye Tuna
Bigeye tuna can live up to 11 years, preying on smaller and potentially contaminated fish.4 It’s known as “ahi” in Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine. If you’re out for sushi, be careful.
4. King Mackerel
This predator fish is called “king” for a reason. It eats little fish like anchovies, herring, and menhaden. Unsurprisingly, its long lifespan of 14 years makes King Mackerel a high-risk fish.5
Geography matters when it comes to tilefish. Those caught in the Gulf of Mexico have high mercury levels, so stay away. Atlantic tilefish have a bit less, so you can enjoy one serving a week.6
Fish That Are Safe To Eat
Don’t let mercury scare you. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends enjoying 2 to 3 servings of these low-risk choices each week – with one serving about the size of your palm:7
- Atlantic mackerel
- Freshwater trout
- Canned light tuna
- Black sea bass
The following fish have a medium risk. The FDA suggests eating 1 serving a week:
- Spanish mackerel
- Atlantic tilefish
- Yellowfin tuna
- Ocean striped bass
- Albacore tuna
- White tuna
Have you been eating fish with high mercury levels? Rethink your diet and balance your love for seafood with these options over the next few weeks!
|↑1||Health Effects of Exposures to Mercury. The United States Environmental Protection Agency.|
|↑2||Swordfish. Florida Museum, University of Florida.|
|↑3, ↑7||Eating Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know. U.S. Food & Drug Administration.|
|↑4||Bigeye tuna. Australian Fisheries Management Authority.|
|↑5||King Mackerel. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.|
|↑6||Eating Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know. U.S. Food & Drug Administration.|