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Guide on what fish to eat and how often you can eat them

You’ve probably heard that fish is a healthier food choice than processed meat, like bacon, or too much red meat, like beef. But you may not know that there are some fish that you should eat less frequently than others, and some that you shouldn’t eat at all in certain situations. Read on to find the recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) on what fish to eat and how frequently you can eat certain types.

Minnesota fish consumption guidelines

Fish are a great source of low-fat protein, and there are a lot of different types, tastes and textures. Many fish contain mercury, a toxic metal, but for most people, the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks if you choose the right types. Others, like young children and pregnant people, should avoid or consume less of certain types of fish as mercury can be more harmful to them.

The MDH guidelines are specific to Minnesota and include most fish that Minnesotans can buy in stores or find in Minnesota lakes and rivers. The below recommendations are for people who are or may become pregnant and children younger than 15. The MDH guidelines state that people 15 and older who are not and will not become pregnant can eat these fish about 3 times more often than the guidelines below.

These guidelines indicate how many times you can eat a specific fish in one week or one month, or if you shouldn’t eat it at all. Each week, you can have either two servings of fish from the very low mercury list or one serving of fish from the low mercury list. In addition to those servings, you can also have one serving of fish per month from the medium mercury list.

Fish with very low mercury

These fish can be eaten every week, twice a week:

From stores and restaurants

  • Catfish (farm-raised)
  • Cod
  • Herring*
  • Mackerel (Atlantic)*
  • Pollock
  • Salmon (Atlantic and Pacific, not Great Lakes)*
  • Sardines*
  • Shellfish (such as shrimp and crab)
  • Tilapia
  • Fish sticks and sandwiches

*These fish are higher in Omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart.

Fish with low mercury

These fish can be eaten once a week, every week:

From stores and restaurants

  • Canned light tuna
  • Halibut

From Minnesota lakes and rivers

  • Bullhead
  • Crappie
  • Inland trout (brook, brown, rainbow)
  • Lake herring (Cisco)
  • Lake whitefish
  • Sunfish (such as bluegill)
  • Yellow perch

Fish with medium mercury

These fish can be eaten once a month:

From stores and restaurants

  • Canned white (albacore) tuna
  • Chilean sea bass
  • Grouper
  • Marlin
  • Tuna (fillet and steak)

From Minnesota lakes and rivers

  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Lake trout
  • Northern pike
  • Walleye
  • All other Minnesota species not listed

Fish serving size guidelines

In recipes, restaurants and nutrition guidelines, there are a variety of serving sizes. The MDH guidelines are based on a portion size of 8 ounces (raw fish) for someone who weighs 150 pounds and are determined with guidance from the Great Lakes Consortium for Fish Consumption Advisories protocols. The EPA and FDA guidelines are based on a serving size of 4 ounces (raw fish) for someone who weighs about 165 pounds.

Information about fish found in other states can be found in the guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The only differences between the national guidelines and the MDH guidelines are the assumptions about meal size and body weight.

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