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These Fish Are the Highest (and Lowest) in Mercury

Knowing which fish are low in mercury is a must when you're pregnant or nursing.

Unfortunately, pollutants and toxins found in water bodies get into the fish we eat and those toxins, such as mercury, can be harmful when ingested. Consuming small amounts of mercury is fine for many people, but can impair neurological development in babies and young children — which was found to lead to lower IQ scores in one 2011 study. Therefore, it’s important for pregnant and nursing women, women who may become pregnant, babies, and young children to stick with lower-mercury fish.

Highest Mercury Fish

Pregnant and nursing women and young children should avoid fish high in mercury, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). High mercury fish to steer clear from include:

  • Tilefish
  • King mackerel
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Ahi Tuna
  • Bigeye tuna

High Mercury Fish

While not the highest in mercury, you’ll still have to limit these mercury-containing fish to three 6-ounce servings (or less) per month, note the Natural Resources Defense Council and American Pregnancy Association.

  • Spanish mackerel
  • Gulf mackerel
  • Albacore tuna
  • Yellowfin tuna
  • Sea bass
  • Bluefish
  • Grouper

Low to Moderate Mercury Fish

These fish contain low to moderate amounts of mercury, so it’s generally safe to eat up to six 6-ounce servings each month.

  • Striped bass
  • Black bass
  • Saltwater bass
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Lobster
  • Fresh water perch
  • Sea trout
  • Canned light tuna
  • Skipjack tuna
  • Cod
  • Halibut
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Lowest Mercury Fish

If you’re concerned about ingesting mercury from fish, choose fish lowest in mercury — especially if you’re pregnant or nursing. Low-mercury fish are excellent choices for children as well. The FDA says you can enjoy up to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish per week if you’re pregnant or nursing.

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Haddock
  • Anchovies
  • Butterfish
  • Crab
  • Clam
  • Crawfish
  • Catfish
  • Croaker
  • Flounder
  • Chub mackerel
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Oysters
  • Pollock
  • Perch
  • Mullet
  • Muscles
  • Rainbow trout
  • Freshwater trout
  • Sardines
  • Shrimp
  • Scallops
  • Squid
  • Sole
  • Tilapia

Best for Pregnant Women

Not all low-mercury fish are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are fats needed for proper brain development in babies and children — and important for brain health in adults. Therefore, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides a list of the best overall fish options for pregnant women because they’re low in mercury and good source of omega 3s:

  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Oysters
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Muscles
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Rainbow trout

Bottom Line

Choose mainly low mercury fish, especially when you’re pregnant or nursing, and stick to recommended amounts. But do keep fish in your meal plan, as it provides a variety of essential nutrients and is beneficial for heart and brain health.

[Image via Getty]

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