High-Mercury Seafood You Should Avoid
There are certain types of seafood you shouldn't eat. Whether it's for health reasons, environmental ones, or you haven't been able to eat it since you grew attached to the supporting cast of The Little Mermaid, perhaps it's best to leave certain sea creatures alone. To find out which, we spoke with Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization "dedicated to protecting human health and the environment," to help you make better choices at the fish counter and seafood restaurants.
Why this seafood is bad for you
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch looks at which fish are "fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment." Basically, it's not cool to eat endangered species on land, so maybe don't eat the panda bear of the sea, either.
Then, the good folks at the EWG take the Monterey Bay data and overlay on top of it whether or not it's healthy to consume the selected fish, based on their mercury content. Mercury, according to the EWG/science, negatively effects your heart, nervous system, and general well-being.
Keep in mind that how much you can safely consume varies highly on whether you're a man or woman, your weight, and if you have heart disease, so check the group's handy Seafood Calculator to find out what's right for you. We're going to give you general guidelines, because not all of us are ripped 25-year-olds with 5% body fat. Just those of us who work at Thrillist.
Not only should you avoid the Halle Berry/John Travolta 2001 movie Swordfish (it only has a 26% from Rotten Tomatoes!), you should also stop eating the fish of the same name. While the Monterey Bay folks say it could be sustainable depending on where you source if from, the EWG says it's not worth eating, as one serving makes up 211% of the max amount of mercury you should consume per week.
You don't have to avoid all kinds of sea bass, similar to how you don't have to avoid all tuna. Black and striped sea bass are safe to eat once a week, as long as you eat no other seafood. But the Chilean sea bass -- which was rebranded after its original name of Patagonian toothfish didn't exactly cause it to fly off fish counters everywhere -- is one to avoid. It does have a moderate amount of omega-3s, but it also has 86% of a safe amount of mercury to consume in a week.
Luckily, not all kinds of tuna are packed with mercury and overfished. Canned albacore tuna is high in omega-3s and is safe to eat once a week if you have no other seafood, according to the EWG. But only a 4oz serving size contains 81% of the amount of mercury that's safe to consume in a week, so eat it on a limited basis. As for the kinds of tuna to straight-up avoid altogether, they are many, including bluefin and bigeye.
The Twin Cities love their walleye (and their Prince), but the EWG says it's best to avoid it, though it haven't weighed in on Prince yet. The good news is that there are sustainable sources of the fish, but the bad news is that one 4oz serving supplies you with 119% of your week's mercury allotment, and it's not a particularly good source of omega-3s.
Atlantic tilefish is a moderately good source of omega-3s, and the EWG says you can eat it twice a week if you have no other seafood. But tilefish from the gulf is potentially harmful. A 4oz serving provides you with a whopping 345% of your max weekly mercury allotment, along with a lot of omega-3s. The tradeoff is likely not worth it.
Whether it's the blue, striped, or just plain ole marlin variety, you should avoid consuming it. You should also avoid the Florida Marlins, as they're horrible to watch. While it provides a moderate amount of omega-3s, it's super high in mercury too, particularly blue marlin, with 604% higher than the maximum amount of mercury you should consume in a week.
Good news: it's got a cool name for a fish, a decent amount of omega-3s, and it's harvested in a sustainable way! Bad news: it's got 261% of your weekly mercury allotment in one 4oz serving. A brilliant man once said that "the king stay the king," but only when it comes to mercury.
This fish was formerly known as slimehead, which is only a good name if you run a business that supplies green goo to Nickelodeon's You Can't Do That on Television. But even though it's got a new, marginally fancier-sounding name, no matter what you call it, orange roughy's packing not a whole lot of omega-3s, no sustainable way of catching it, and just a 40z serving contains 135% of the maximum amount of mercury you should consume in a week.
The only sea creature worth naming an entire week of TV programming after, the shark also has the distinction of packing in 209% of your weekly mercury allotment. And it's pretty much impossible to find a sustainable source of it, probably because people can only kill sharks by launching scuba tanks into their mouths and then shooting those tanks with a gun.
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