Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A | What should I eat?

Get the good, avoid the bad

What should I do if I am worried about mercury?

In the chart with the story at left, stick with the species that have the highest numbers on the left side. You can eat a lot of salmon without worrying, but not much orange roughy.

What if I want to load up on the omega-3 fatty acids that benefit fetal development and cardiovascular health?

Look for species that have the largest numbers on the right. Again, salmon is a great choice.

Why not eat salmon every day?

Government experts stress the importance of eating a variety of seafood. You will get different nutrients, such as selenium, which is important to brain function. Variety also lowers the risk of contaminants that might be present within certain species. Imported shrimp and catfish, for example, have occasionally contained carcinogens and antibiotics. Some farm-raised salmon may contain PCBs and dioxins, though that has fallen off since industry controls went into place.

Why not get omega-3s from nuts?

The two types of omega-3's that seem to be most beneficial occur mainly in seafood. In some circumstances, the body can produce the same omega-3s from nuts and vegetables.

What about fish oil and other supplements?

Fish oil, enriched eggs and other supplements that contain DHA and EPA fatty acids may deliver omega-3 benefits similar to seafood. Excessive use in diabetics may reduce sugar control. Some obstetricians recommend supplements as an acceptable omega-3 trade­off for pregnant women.

How long will mercury stay in my body?

Half of the mercury now in your body should be gone in 60 to 90 days if you don't take in any more. It should all be gone in 10 months. The more you sweat, the faster it goes.

Stephen Nohlgren and Stephanie Garry, Times staff writers

>>fast facts

Market trends are lowering mercury

Despite the increasing popularity of sushi, mercury levels in the U.S. population are dropping. One explanation is that we are eating more species low in mercury. Here are the top 10 seafood selections in 1996 and 2006, along with their mercury content. The amount consumed is per person, per year. The mercury level is parts per billion in the serving.


1. Canned tuna, 3.4 pounds, 118 ppb

2. Shrimp, 2.5 pounds, 0 mercury

3. Pollock, 1.62 pounds, 41 ppb

4. Salmon, 1.44 pounds, 14 ppb

5. Cod, .92 pounds, 95 ppb

6. Catfish, .86 pounds, 49 ppb

7. Clams, .52 pounds, no data

8. Flounder, .38 pounds, 45 ppb

9. Crab, .33 pounds, 60 ppb

10. Scallops, .27 pounds, 50 ppb

Top 10 equals 83 percent of all seafood consumed


1. Shrimp, 4.4 pounds, 0 mercury

2. Canned tuna, 2.9 pounds, 118 ppb

3. Salmon, 2.03 pounds, 14 ppb

4. Pollock, 1.70 pounds, 41 ppb

5. Tilapia, 1 pound, 10 ppb

6. Catfish, .97 pounds, 49 ppb

7. Crab, .66 pounds, 60 ppb

8. Cod, .51 pounds, 95 ppb

9. Clams, .44 pounds, no data

10. Scallops, .31 pounds, 50 ppb

Top 10 equal 90 percent of all seafood consumed

Sources: National Marine Fisheries Service, FDA

Get the good, avoid the bad 03/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa girl, 4, dies of gunshot reaching for candy


    TAMPA — One day last week, 4-year-old Yanelly Zoller reached into her grandmother's purse looking for candy, her father says.

    Nelly Zoller snuggles with her grandfather's dog, Venus. Her father says she went looking for candy in her grandmother's purse and found a gun instead. [Facebook]
  2. Mikhail Sergachev begins real Lightning audition vs. Carolina Hurricanes

    Lightning Strikes

    RALEIGH, N.C. — The spotlight will remain on Mikhail Sergachev throughout the Lightning preseason.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) on the ice during hockey training camp in preparation for the 2017-2018 season in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  3. Tampa police search for man in connection to Sunday killing (w/ video)


    TAMPA — Police released surveillance video of a man they believe might have information about a Sunday morning fatal shooting.

  4. Pinellas announces Hurricane Irma make-up day


    The Pinellas County school district has announced how it will make up one of the seven school days missed by Hurricane Irma.

    Residents make their way into Joseph L. Carwise Middle School to shelter ahead of Hurricane Irma Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 in Palm Harbor. The storm is forecasted to affect the Tampa Bay area overnight with winds subsiding Monday.
  5. Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection


    Everyone ends up with a favorite.

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]