According to researchers, many popular types of fish contain high levels of mercury, which can be dangerous to a fetus or infant.
So Consumer Reports analyzed recent research to find out what varieties are safest to eat.
Eating fish can be a great choice. It’s an excellent, low-fat source of protein and other nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, which might help protect your heart, and, if you’re pregnant, boost your baby’s brain development.
But there’s a catch. Some seafood contains high levels of a form of mercury, called methylmercury.
“Mercury can damage the brain, and it can damage the nervous system, especially when that exposure occurs in the womb,” Dr. Michael Crupain said.
The government advises young children, and women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or might become pregnant, to avoid the four fish with the highest mercury levels: swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also considering adding marlin and orange roughy to the list.
Consumer Reports’ food-safety experts agree but have additional concerns about tuna. Tuna accounts for 40 percent of our mercury exposure.
Most of that is from canned tuna.
Fresh tuna, popular in sushi, can also be especially high in mercury.
“To be safe, Consumer Reports recommends that pregnant women not eat any tuna at all. And children and anyone who eats a lot of fish should really limit the amount of tuna they eat,” Crupain said.
So how can you eat seafood without exposing yourself to too much mercury? Some good choices include: wild and Alaska salmon, canned or fresh; shrimp; sardines; tilapia; scallops; oysters; and squid.
The FDA and other experts say this isn’t reason to cut fish out of your diet completely. Just choose a variety with less mercury and eat at least 8 ounces per week.