Those who need a low-mercury fish diet may choose from the following options: anchovies, clams, crabs, Herring, mackerel, oysters, salmon, scallops, sardines, shrimps, tilapias, squids, and trout. More choices are available and you can safely eat up to three food servings weekly of these low-mercury assortments. However, keep each portion at 12 ounces at most.
Fish may be one of the healthiest kinds of meat you can include in your diet. But not all fish is safe for you to eat. This is because fish vary in type and composition. That’s why you need to moderately consume some kinds of fish especially those that contain significant amounts of mercury. Let’s discuss more of this topic below.
Does Fish Always Contain Mercury?
No. However, most fish including shellfish will have trace amounts of mercury. Some will have low content. Others will register moderate levels of mercury. But there are types that contain high amounts of mercury. The FDA warns against consuming too much fish that contain moderate to high levels of mercury.
You may wonder what specific type of mercury is present in fish. It’s methylmercury. Mercury is present in the air first, then falls on land and water areas. As bacteria and microorganisms interact with mercury, it is then converted into methylmercury.
Unfortunately, marine life will absorb it in their bodies. Carnivorous fish, or, fish that prey on other fish, will have higher amounts of methylmercury. Likewise, large fishes and those types that have already been living for a long time will have a large buildup of methylmercury in their systems.
Who Shouldn’t Eat Fish That Has High Mercury Content?
Experts discourage specific people from eating high-mercury fish and shellfish. The list includes pregnant women and those who are expecting to get pregnant soon. Nursing mothers are part of the list. Young children also must avoid fish that contain high amounts of mercury.
There are several and valid reasons for avoiding high amounts of mercury in your food intake. Indeed, the body cleanses itself of toxic properties that enter your system. But it may take several months before your body gets rid of the mercury buildup. Consequently, the more toxicity it accumulates, the longer it takes for your body to flush it all out.
Here are some reasons why you should avoid high amounts of mercury. First, methylmercury poses damage to one’s spinal cord and brain. There is also greater damage with heavier exposure to the chemical. Unfortunately, the damage will be irreversible.
Hence, those with children or nursing a child should watch the kind of fish they eat. Those who are planning to be with child should also abstain from eating fish that has high mercury because this builds up over time. And they may not have enough time to flush this toxicity out of their body.
Besides the brain, the kidneys may get damaged too. Other serious effects of methylmercury toxicity include:
- cerebral palsy
- lung problems, and
- impaired mental functions
What are the Different Levels of Mercury Among Fish?
Fish register different amounts of mercury in their meat. Some will have either low, medium, or high levels of mercury traces. Let’s list some of them below.
Besides the fish types mentioned at the beginning of this article, low levels of mercury are also found in catfish, sole, crawfish, Pollock, flounder, mullet, Haddock, and whitefish.
Medium levels of mercury are found in carp, saltwater bass, halibut, snapper, lobster, canned tuna, freshwater perch, and Mahi Mahi. These are safe to eat up to 6 servings per month.
High levels of mercury are found in Spanish mackerel, sea Bass, ocean perch, yellowfin tuna, and grouper. These are safe to eat up to 3 servings per month.
Unfortunately, some fish may contain the highest levels of mercury. These are sharks, bigeye tunas, some groupers and King mackerel, swordfish, and marlins. It’s best to avoid consuming these types altogether.
For those who are confused or unsure about servings or portions, a good guide to use is the palm of your hand (excluding the fingers, of course), which is equivalent to 1 serving.
Is it Good to Include Low Mercury Fish in Your Diet?
Fish is a healthy choice for meat in your diet. As long as you observe dietary limits, you’re safe to consume low mercury fish types. There are health benefits to including fish in your weekly meals.
Fish is low in fat. This helps lower weight and risks for diabetes and hypertension. Fish is also high in protein and helps the body build and repair muscles, bones, and other tissues.
It also has Omega-3 fatty acids, which help support heart and brain health. It lowers your risks for blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. It even helps fight against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin D is in fish, which helps with the immune system and bone and teeth development. There’s also Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin, which helps with the body’s energy supply. Calcium is found in fish meat, which helps with bone as well as heart health.
Other healthy minerals and nutrients found in fish meat are:
- phosphorus, which helps the kidney flush toxins out of the body.
- iron, which helps with the body’s energy levels and body temperature regulation.
- iodine, which helps with thyroid health and normal cognitive functioning.
- zinc, which helps with the immune system and body metabolism, and
- potassium, which helps with the healthy functions of the nerves and muscles.
What Low Mercury Fish are Available All Year?
A lot of fish are available all year while other types are seasonal. For instance, trout is available all year in selected places. Generally, trout fishing season is from April to October.
As for tilapia, this is available most of the year. It’s known as a factory fish within the US and internationally, so you have both local and imported inventory available for buying.
Lastly, clams, scallops, crabs, shrimps, and oysters are available all year. You can mix up your meal plans to your liking. Just remember to space your consumption of these low mercury fishes to maintain personal safety.
What Are Healthy Ways to Cook Low Mercury Fish?
You can prepare fish in several ways. And you don’t have to break a lot of sweat. Fish is one of the easiest dishes to cook.
You can lightly fry your fish fillet in olive oil. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Finally, give it a squeeze of lemon, then serve over brown rice, chips, or roasted vegetables.
You can also lightly bake your fish at 200C for about 15 minutes. Lay a mixture of tomatoes, garlic, and herbs on the pan. Drizzle some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place the fish on top. Then lay a second mixture of tomatoes and other mentioned ingredients.
You can grill your fish if it has skin on. Season with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place skin down on the grill at 8 to 10 minutes per side.
Whenever possible, you should choose low mercury fish choices for your meals. These lessen the risks of getting methylmercury poisoning. Some of your dietary options include trout, shrimps, clams, oysters, and salmons. Remember to serve palm-sized cuts for each meal. And don’t go beyond six meals in a month.What Fish Are Low in Mercury?