Seafood is highly praised for its health benefits, but even with all its protein and healthy fats and omega-3s, some consumers still worry about seafood’s mercury content. Is salmon high in mercury and, if so, is it something you should worry about?
How Mercury Impacts Salmon and Other Seafood
Mercury naturally exists in the world, but the mercury found in seafood is often the result of industry and pollution.
As the Scientific American explains, industrial activity creates airborne mercury that ends up in the world’s waterways, where it then finds its way into your favorite fish. As mercury-containing larger fish eat mercury-containing smaller fish, the total amount of mercury in the larger fish increases. While the U.S. government is actively working to reduce the amount of mercury emissions that impact our waterways, the mercury content one consumes in their favorite seafood dishes is still a concern, as increased mercury levels can cause a range of health issues.
How Much Mercury is in Salmon?
How much mercury a fish contains depends on a few things, including geographical origin and species. High-mercury fish include several very popular seafood options, like bluefin tuna, walleye, king mackerel, tilefish, snapper, albacore — the list goes on and on. Mercury levels in fish are measured via parts per million (ppm), with some of the highest offenders, such as swordfish and shark, exhibiting mercury levels of more than 0.9 ppm.
The Environmental Defense Fund has put together a Seafood Selector tool that helps consumers make smart seafood decisions based on factors like mercury content. So where does salmon lie on that list?
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, salmon across the board is considered low in mercury, making it one of the safest fish to eat. The only popular seafood options that are lower in mercury than salmon are anchovies, sardines, oysters, scallops and shrimp.
Salmon mercury levels come out to approximately 0.022 ppm — a far cry from the high mercury levels found in swordfish and shark.
However, beyond rating fish according to their mercury content, the Environmental Defense Fund also ranks fish according to the amount of Omega-3s they contain, as well as their environmental friendliness. At the top of the list of best salmon to consume, you’ll find wild Alaskan salmon.
Wild Alaskan Salmon Makes All the Difference
Whether it’s Chinook/King, Keta, Pink, Sockeye or Coho salmon, the Environmental Defense Fund says wild Alaskan salmon is the way to go if you're looking for the best salmon for both your body and the planet. Among the best-managed fish stocks in the country, wild Alaskan salmon is low in contaminants like mercury. Sustainable fishing practices like what we strongly hold make wild Alaskan salmon an environmentally-friendly seafood option.
It’s not only the Environmental Defense Fund that gives wild Alaskan salmon its approval, though. The Monterey Bay Aquarium also recognizes the healthiest seafood choices on its Super Green List. Included on that list is wild Alaskan salmon, again thanks to the low mercury levels and high levels of Omega-3s.
Just remember as you’re shopping for salmon — not all salmon is the same. You have choices from wild caught salmon to farm-raised salmon like Atlantic and Pacific salmon. Wild Alaskan salmon is the safest, healthiest, most environmentally-friendly salmon among other types of salmon.Other salmon options on the Environmental Defense Fund’s list just don’t rank as highly, including farmed or Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon.
How Much Salmon Can I Eat Per Week?
According to the FDA, since salmon mercury content is so low, you can safely eat two to three servings per week of salmon and feel no harmful effects. It is, though, important to note that some consumers are at a larger risk of mercury toxicity than others. Children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers are particularly susceptible and should adjust the amount of seafood they consume, salmon or otherwise, accordingly.
How to Safely Eat Salmon
While mercury in our waterways and seafood is an overall worry, it should rarely be a worry for those eating wild Alaskan salmon. So long as you eat two to three servings per week while also avoiding high-mercury fish, and paying attention to where your fish is coming from (a reputable seller is key) as well as the process before the fish gets to your kitchen, you should have no concerns.
Don’t Buy Just Any Salmon
If you’re even slightly concerned about the mercury content in your seafood, don't settle for just any salmon. Our wild Alaskan salmon is among the lowest low mercury content in the seafood list. It is also healthy for your body due to its high omega-3 content. Not to mention, it tastes great.