How to Avoid Mercury in Fish

Fish and shellfish are very good for your health. They’re high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and low in saturated fat. According to the American Heart Association, fish should be eaten at least twice a week. However, some types of fish contain high levels of mercury and should be avoided by children and pregnant and nursing women.

1) Don’t Be Afraid to Enjoy the Benefits of Fish

Eating fish regularly, at least twice a week, offers a number of benefits. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish are good for your eyes, brain and heart. Eating fish can help stave off depression and dementia. Eating fish helps diabetics maintain their blood sugar levels and can bring some relieve to those who suffer from inflammatory conditions like arthritis.

However, some types of fish and shellfish contain very high levels of mercury. Certain types of fish should be avoided altogether by pregnant and nursing women, as well as children. However, for most people, the benefits of eating fish regularly outweigh the risks of mercury consumption, especially when a variety of fish is eaten.

2) Avoid the Larger Fish

The larger the fish, the more likely that fish will contain high levels of mercury. Fish with high levels of mercury include:

  • Shark
  • King Mackerel
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • Albacore tuna

Young children, pregnant women, women who are trying to become pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid eating these fish. Others should limit their consumption of these kinds of fish to no more than six ounces per week–that’s one fish meal per week.

3) Choose Fish that are Low in Mercury

Doctors recommend that you eat fish twice a week for heart, eye and brain health. That means you should eat at least two 6-ounce servings of fish per week, no more than one of which may be fish that are high in mercury.

Avoid fish that typically contain higher mercury levels in favor of fish such as:

  • Canned light tuna
  • Shrimp
  • Pollock
  • Catfish

If you wind up eating a lot more than the recommended amount of fish, even fish that are high in mercury, in a given week, don’t worry.  You won’t be able to change your body’s mercury levels much just by eating a lot of fish in one week. If you wind up eating a lot of fish in a given period of time, cut back on your fish consumption for a while until you’ve reached an average of two servings of fish per week.

4) Check the Safety of Locally Caught Fish

Fish caught locally in streams, rivers, lakes or coastal areas may contain mercury. Fish and shellfish in your area may be higher or lower in mercury than normal, due to the mercury concentrations in your local water supply. Before you eat fish that have been caught locally, ask you local health department for information about mercury levels in local fish. Stick to eating those fish that are lower in mercury.



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