Seafood contains a host of important nutritional benefits that are difficult to find in other foods. To start, it is arguably the best source of omega 3 fatty acids; essential substances that help maintain our physical and mental health. Aside from this, fish and shellfish is rich in protein, and happens to be a much healthier source of this essential nutrient than red meat or chicken because of its low saturated fat content. This food would be nearly perfect if it were not for one serious problem: most seafood contains traces of a dangerous substance known as mercury. That being said, fish and shellfish can still provide amazing health benefits if it is consumed in a responsible manner. In today’s article, we’ll discuss how much seafood is appropriate for an individual’s diet, and also cover which species of marine life are generally safe for consumption.
To start, it is important to note that pregnant women are the ones who need to be the most concerned about consuming fish or shellfish. This is because the fetus is extremely sensitive to any substance which enters the body, especially if it is a potentially toxic one such as mercury. On the other hand, not having enough omega-3 in one’s diet also post serious health risk for the yet unborn child. The key, not just for women, but for any individual looking to include fish and shellfish in their diet involves striking a balance in their consumption.
How much seafood one can include in their diet largely depends on the individual. For pregnant women to keep within the EPA’s recommended guidelines, they should consume no more than two cans of light tuna per week. Keep in mind that albacore, also known as white solid tuna is more likely to have higher concentrations of mercury. Pregnant women should stick to the chunky, light variety to minimize their consumption of this potentially dangerous substance.
As for children, it is generally recommended that they get one ounce of fish for every twelve pounds they weigh. As an example, this means that a 60 lb child should be getting no more than five ounces of fish per week, which is about the size of most small chunky light tuna cans. Children should try and avoid eating albacore, since as we mentioned before it tends to have higher mercury content.
As for everyone else, the standard recommended amount is 12 ounces of fish per week, consisting of fish or shellfish that have naturally low mercury levels. For the most part, you should aim for eating the following species of seafood:
- Canned Tuna, preferably light
Make sure to avoid all the following species, as their high mercury levels make them too dangerous even to consume on occasion:
- King Mackerel
- Tilefish, also known as golden bass or golden snapper
If you are concerned about your current levels of fish consumption, and would like to get your mercury levels assessed simply speak with your primary care physician. If they cannot test you for this substance, then they can still recommend you to another doctor who will, or at the very least provide dietary recommendations to minimize your mercury intake.
Note: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice for any questions regarding a medical condition or changes in your treatment.