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Red Fish, Green Fish, Yes Fish, No Fish

Posted Aug 10 2011 4:39pm

Navigating the risks of mercury.

Every week or so, I see an article on the importance of fish for good health and how we all should eat more.  Then a line or two on how people should avoid mercury because it can be so dangerous, etc.  I suspect the take home message most people are receiving is “you should eat fish, but it’s risky.”

So let’s break it down and make it easy.  American Heart Association recommends 2 or more servings of fish a week, preferably fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, etc.  Aside from heart disease, there are so many reasons why fish can be beneficial–omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and may help with conditions from high triglycerides, rheumatoid arthritis, macular eye degeneration, high blood pressure, depression and the list just goes on.

Fortunately, a lot of the highest omega 3 fish are low in mercury, too.

  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Oysters
  • Flounder

Steer clear, or limit the big fish…they’ve accumulated a lot of mercury as they’ve eaten up the little fishies.

  • Shark
  • King Mackerel
  • Tilefish
  • Swordfish

Tuna is also moderately high, especially albacore tuna.  Limiting tuna to 4-6 oz a week, or if you’re eating canned, choosing a lower mercury variety like skipjack tuna is wise.  Or just trade in your tuna for canned salmon, which is usually wild-caught, higher in omega 3s and lower in mercury.

Check out a nifty calculator from and you can crunch the numbers based on what you’re eating and your size, and that can give you a good sense of where you stand in relation to the recommended limit.  Or you can check out the FDA listing of mercury in fish.

What about sustainability and the environment, wild/vs. farmed, etc.  That’s a whole different discussion!  The short answer is to check out a seafood guide, such as the one from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

If you’re vegan, allergic to fish, don’t like fish or have an inflammatory condition that might benefit from higher levels of omega 3s, omega 3 supplements may be helpful, and chatting with your doctor is wise.

Harris Whole Health offers individual sessions, family sessions and group classes to help people eat healthier and feel better! Whether you are dealing with Celiac Disease, food allergies, picky eaters, children on the Autistic spectrum, chronic illness, or if you just want to feel and look better, Cheryl can help you achieve your goals. For an appointment with Cheryl Harris, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, please click here or call 571-271-8742.

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