Seafood Scale: Mercury Levels in Your Favorite Fish

Bookmark this guide so you can stay safe when choosing your next fishy dish.

Seafood Scale

Confusion about mercury has some seafood lovers wondering if their favorite meals may be making them ill. We took a deep dive into the research to find out what's safe and what's not.

The Mercury Cycle

  1. Mercury is released into the atmosphere via volcanic eruptions, the burning of coal, and more.
  2. Rain or snow flushes the mercury into oceans, rivers, and lakes.
  3. Bacteria convert mercury into methylmercury — the most toxic form
  4. Methylmercury accumulates in microscopic plankton, which larger plankton feed on.
  5. Little fish eat the plankton and bigger fish eat the smaller ones, sending increasing amounts of mercury up the food chain until it reaches your table.
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High Mercury Risk Fish

Bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish.

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Moderate to High Mercury Risk Fish

Albacore tuna (fresh or canned), bluefish, Chilean sea bass,grouper, halibut, sablefish, Spanish mackerel, striped sea bass, yellowfin tuna.

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Low to Moderate Mercury Risk Fish

Carp, chunk light canned tuna, cod, ­mahi mahi, monkfish, snapper.

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Low Mercury Risk Fish

Anchovies,* catfish, clams, crawfish, crab, flounder, herring,* mackerel (North Atlantic),* oysters,* pollock, salmon (canned or fresh),* sardines,* scallops, shrimp, sole, tilapia, trout (freshwater)*.

*try to include at least some of these heart-healthy choices in your diet

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Sushi Mercury Risk

Tuna sushi is a major source of mercury — and a sneaky one at that, because it goes by many names at restaurants, such as ahi, maguro, meji, shiro, and toro. Limit how much you eat (or order the salmon roll instead).

This story originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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