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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]
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