Low-Mercury Fish That Are Safe to Eat

To eat fish or not to eat fish: that, it seems, is one of the most talked-about questions when it comes to our health. On one hand, fish is a great source of low-fat protein that’s high in the kinds of fatty acids that make you healthier. On the other, it’s dangerous to consume too much mercury, which can be found in many kinds of fish.


Fish aren’t born with mercury in their systems. Instead, it’s emitted by industrial centers worldwide and is leaked into our water supply. It’s soaked up by ocean foliage, which is eaten by small fish. Bigger fish that feast on many small fish a day end up with bellies full of mercury. And, when we eat these large fish, they carry mercury right into our systems.

You might be wondering why there’s so much of a fuss over mercury. If fish eat it and survive, could it really be that dangerous? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. If you’re pregnant, you’re probably well aware that too much mercury can stunt your child’s neurological growth and development. When mercury gets into the womb, it can have a negative impact on everything from memory to attention span and cognitive thinking. As an expectant mother, you’ll want to be extremely careful about the fish you eat in order to avoid such tribulations for your child in the future.

You don’t have to be a mom-to-be to be concerned with your mercury intake, though. It turns out that mercury can have negative health effects on adults as well. The Environmental Protection Agency has a laundry list of symptoms that might develop if you’re overexposed or poisoned by mercury. You might find your speech or hearing impaired. You could lose your balance. You could even find yourself unable to see out of your periphery. If you experience these symptoms after mercury exposure, you should seek medical assistance immediately.

If you’re ready to give up on fish, don’t do it just yet: while there are certain dangers involved with overeating mercury, the right fish can have a wealth of health benefits and minimized risk. Fish boast high levels of omega-3 fats, which, despite the name, do nothing but good for your heart and blood vessels. That’s why many people with heart problems or a family history of heart disease take fish oil pills or consume fish to ensure their ticker is running smoothly. By eating fish regularly, you can reduce your blood pressure, diminish inflammation and prevent your heart from developing an irregular rhythm.

Fish also enriches your body with a dose of nutrients, including vitamin D. You can even turn to fish if you’re simply looking for a lean source of protein that’s heart healthy, unlike ever-popular red meat.

At this point, you might be a bit confused: we’ve shown you how fish is bad for you, and we’ve shown you how fish is good for you. The truth is, though, that you can safely consume fish, so long as it’s low-mercury fish.

As previously mentioned, larger fish consume smaller fish that often feed on mercury-laden plants. This means that larger fish collect the most mercury in their systems after eating little mercury-filled fish for every meal. Clearly, you’re best off by avoiding larger fish.

Here are some of the biggest offenders to avoid:

  • Marlin
  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Mackerel
  • Ahi tuna

The next time you’re hungry for seafood, dig into the following fish, as they’re typically low on the mercury spectrum:


There’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to enjoy the foods you love — and that your body needs. With careful and thoughtful consumption, your affinity for fish can be safe and great for you. Anchors away!

Images: Jenny Downing | Consumer Reports

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