Mercury In Fish: Do You Really Need To Worry?

What’s The Real Deal With Mercury In Fish?

While fish and shellfish are high in protein, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and low in saturated fat, concerns over their mercury content have many of us steering clear of the fish counter at our local grocery store. But is it for good reason?

The fact is that nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury but, for most of us, the risk from mercury is not much of a health concern. (The most prominent risk is to babies and young children for whom the mercury can affect their developing nervous systems. So women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should be careful.)

That being said, if you eat fish regularly, there are a few things you should know…

What You Need To Know About Mercury In Fish

  • The risks from mercury in fish depend on the amount of fish you eat and the levels of mercury in what you consume.
  • The FDA and EPA recommend eating up to 12 ounces (approximately 2 servings) of fish lower in mercury per week.
  • Fish absorb mercury as they feed, so larger fish that have lived longer have the highest levels of mercury. (It’s obviously tough to determine this in restaurants or when buying a filet, but try to buy smaller and presumably younger fish.)
  • Swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish pose the greatest risk – so, if you’re going to avoid anything, avoid these.
  • Just as mercury accumulates in fish as they feed, if you regularly eat fish high in mercury, it accumulates in your blood stream as well.

Concerned you’ve been eating too much? Don’t be too concerned. Mercury in fish is removed from the body naturally; it just takes time, (sometimes over a year,) for the levels to drop significantly. Cut it out and you’ll be good to go in no time.