Which fish have lower mercury levels?

Do fears about mercury keep you from reeling in the health benefits of fish? If so, you could be missing the love-your-heart boat.

For most people, the healthy fats in fish provide a huge benefit to your heart and overall health -- even with a little mercury. Skeptical? Get this: Eating one to two 6-ounce servings of omega-3-rich fish each week reduces your risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent! And your all-cause mortality rate drops by 17 percent.

Soon-to-be or currently breastfeeding moms need to be especially careful to avoid excess mercury. Still, most people can do their heart and body right by eating one or two servings a week of omega-3-rich fish that is relatively low in mercury. Unfortunately, most fish contain some mercury, thanks to industrial processing. But the less time fish spend simply living in a mercury-laden environment or eating other fish containing mercury, the lower the contamination levels will be. So for low-mercury fish, we're talking small fish that don't eat many other fish (or fish meal) and don't have a long lifespan.

Here are five delicious options in heart-healthy, low-mercury fish:
  1. Salmon (wild): one gram of omega-3 fatty acids per two ounces of fish; 0.014 parts per million mercury concentration
  2. Herring: one gram of omega-3 fatty acids per one ounce of fish; 0.044 parts per million mercury concentration
  3. Sardines: one gram of omega-3 fatty acids per two to three ounces of fish; 0.016 parts per million mercury concentration
  4. Trout (freshwater): one gram of omega-3 fatty acids per three to four ounces of fish; 0.072 parts per million mercury concentration
  5. Pollock: one gram of omega-3 fatty acids per six and a half ounces of fish; 0.041 parts per million mercury concentration
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

As a general rule, fish that are larger and caught when they are older have the most mercury. Salmon, which are usually caught around the age of three, have some of the lowest levels (plus the highest levels of omega-3s), making them a great choice. Other small, young fish include herrings and sardines.

Among the fish with the highest levels are tuna (especially albacore), tilefish, swordfish, king mackerel, and shark. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that people eat albacore tuna once a week at most and chunk tuna no more than twice a week. Pregnant women or those trying to conceive should avoid high-mercury fish as much as possible.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.