Seafood and Health
Your Customized Advice
Your Goal is to continue to eat at least 2 to 3 meals of a variety of different types of fish and shellfish from retail stores and restaurants to obtain the health benefits of omega-3s for you, your baby or young children. If you eat a great deal more than this recommended amount, you should evaluate both the amount and types of seafood you are eating to be sure that you are following basic dietary principles that emphasize variety and moderation for all foods including your seafood choices. You should avoid eating four kinds of fish (Shark, Swordfish, King mackerel and Tilefish) that have higher levels of mercury.
Seafood contains special healthy fats called omega-3s that are good for your heart and brain. Current scientific research has shown that one type of omega-3, called DHA, is especially important for normal brain and nervous system development during pregnancy and in infants and young children. When you eat less than 2 to 3 meals (8 to 12 ounces) of seafood each week, you and your baby may be missing out on these benefits. Age appropriate portions should be served to children.
All fish and shellfish contain omega-3s, but some types have more. To maximize health benefits, continue to eat the types of fish and shellfish you enjoy but try to eat fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, mussels, trout and sardines more often because they contain more omega-3s.
Current scientific evidence appears to indicate that as you continue to increase the amount of omega-3s in the diet to higher and higher levels there may not be a corresponding increase in the health benefits that these omega-3s can provide. What is important is that you include a regular source of omega-3s in your diet over time. This can be best achieved by eating a variety of different types of fish and shellfish at least 2 to 3 times each week, and making sure that you don’t frequently consume fish with higher levels of mercury.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under age 12 should eat 2 to 3 servings (8 to 12 ounces) of a variety of different kinds of fish and shellfish each week. There is a large variety of different types of fish and shellfish in the marketplace. The most frequently consumed items, including shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna, flatfish, tilapia, oysters, crab, pollock, catfish, clams, scallops, lobster and basa or swai, all have low mercury levels.
The FDA recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women and young children should not eat four kinds of fish, Shark, Swordfish, King mackerel and Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, because they contain higher levels of mercury. Consumption of canned “white” or albacore tuna and fresh tuna steaks should be limited to 6 ounces per week because they can have slightly more mercury.
If you eat fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas you should check for any sportfish consumption advisories issued in your state. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don't consume any other fish during that week. Advisories are available from local and state health departments and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Customized Resources for More Information
Use the links below to obtain more information on seafood nutrition, omega-3s, healthy preparation methods, seafood choices, handling seafood and eating raw seafood products.