Seafood is a highly nutritious and popular food in many parts of the world. However, some types of seafood contain high levels of mercury, a toxic metal that can have harmful effects on human health. It’s important to be aware of which seafood is high in mercury to make informed choices about what to eat. In this article, we will explore some of the seafood that is known to be high in mercury and what you can do to minimize your exposure.
The Dangers of Mercury in Seafood
Seafood is a healthy and delicious source of nutrition. However, it’s essential to be aware of the potential dangers of mercury contamination in certain types of fish and shellfish. Mercury is a naturally occurring element that can be found in trace amounts in soil, water, and air. Small fish and shellfish absorb mercury from their environment, and larger predatory fish accumulate even higher levels of this toxic substance. High levels of mercury can lead to serious health problems, particularly in pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children.
How Mercury Affects the Body
Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage the nervous system, affecting our vision, hearing, and coordination. It can also harm the immune system, kidneys, and cardiovascular system. When pregnant women consume high levels of mercury, it can interfere with the development of the fetus’s brain and nervous system, leading to developmental delays, learning disabilities, and even cerebral palsy.
The Risks of Mercury Poisoning
The FDA and EPA recommend that pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children avoid eating certain types of fish high in mercury. The risks of mercury poisoning are highest for these vulnerable populations. However, even healthy adults can experience adverse effects from consuming too much mercury over time. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Mood swings and irritability
- Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or around the mouth
- Muscle weakness and tremors
If you experience these symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider.
Types of Seafood High in Mercury
Swordfish is a large predatory fish that lives in warm waters. Swordfish contains high levels of mercury and should be avoided by pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children. A 3-ounce serving of swordfish contains about 170 micrograms of mercury. The FDA recommends that adults limit their consumption of swordfish to no more than once a month.
Shark is another large predatory fish that contains high levels of mercury. A 3-ounce serving of shark contains about 150 micrograms of mercury. The FDA advises pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children to avoid shark altogether.
King mackerel is a popular fish in the Gulf of Mexico and the southern Atlantic Ocean. A 3-ounce serving of king mackerel contains about 90 micrograms of mercury. The FDA recommends that adults limit their consumption of king mackerel to no more than one serving (6 ounces) per week.
Tilefish is a type of fish that lives in the Gulf of Mexico. A 3-ounce serving of tilefish contains about 180 micrograms of mercury, making it one of the highest mercury-containing fish. The FDA advises pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children to avoid tilefish altogether.
Tuna is a popular fish that is enjoyed by many people around the world. However, some types of tuna contain high levels of mercury. Albacore (white) tuna contains more mercury than canned light tuna. The FDA recommends that pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children limit their consumption of albacore tuna to no more than 6 ounces per week. Canned light tuna is a better choice since it contains lower levels of mercury.
Low-Mercury Seafood Options
While it’s important to be aware of the types of fish and shellfish that contain high levels of mercury, it’s also important to note that there are many low-mercury seafood options available. Some examples of low-mercury seafood include:
These types of seafood contain lower levels of mercury and can be consumed safely by pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children.
Tips for Safe Seafood Consumption
When it comes to seafood, it’s important to practice safe consumption habits to reduce your risk of mercury poisoning. Here are some tips to follow:
- Choose low-mercury seafood options.
- Limit your consumption of high-mercury seafood.
- Follow cooking guidelines to reduce your exposure to mercury.
- Avoid raw or undercooked seafood.
- Consult with your healthcare provider if you have concerns about mercury poisoning.
FAQs – What Seafood is High in Mercury?
What is mercury and why is it a concern when eating seafood?
Mercury is a natural element that is found in soil, rocks, and water. When released into the environment, it can be converted into a toxic form called methylmercury, which can accumulate in fish and shellfish. This is a concern because it can be harmful to human health, especially to children and pregnant or nursing women. High levels of mercury in the body can cause serious neurological and developmental problems.
Which types of seafood are typically high in mercury?
Generally, larger and longer-lived fish tend to accumulate higher amounts of mercury. Examples of seafood that are typically high in mercury include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and bigeye tuna. Canned tuna, especially white albacore tuna, can also have high levels of mercury.
Is it safe to eat any seafood that contains mercury?
While it is generally safe to eat seafood in moderation, it is important to be aware of which seafood are high in mercury. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that children and women who are pregnant or nursing avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, and limit their consumption of other fish and shellfish to no more than 2-3 servings per week. The FDA also advises that women who may become pregnant in the future should follow these same guidelines.
How can I reduce my exposure to mercury when eating seafood?
There are several ways to reduce your exposure to mercury when eating seafood. First, you can choose to eat fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, salmon, sardines, and trout. You can also limit your intake of seafood overall, or opt for smaller portions. Another option is to choose seafood that is certified as sustainably caught, as these fish tend to be lower in mercury and other toxins. Finally, you can talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to learn more about safe seafood consumption and ways to protect your health.