Fish: How Much is Too Much of a Good Thing?

September 21, 2015 Edited by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns, Meat, Protein


In nutrition, we often learn about the hazards of under consuming certain foods or nutrients:

  • The typical American only eats 12-15 grams of fiber per day instead of the recommended 25-38 grams
  • Americans fall short of intakes of nutrients of concern like potassium, vitamin D and calcium
  • Eating too many refined grains with added sugars and fats is crowding out optimal fruit and vegetable intake

But what about the upper limits? When it comes to fish, perhaps you have wondered how much is too much?

With fish, the notion is for every fish meal you’re having means you are in turn likely not eating a high saturated fat meat or other animal protein meal. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say to eat fish 2-3 times per week. But what if you eat it every day?

That was the question recently posed to Harvard researcher and professor Eric Rimm in a article. He posits that it’s probably ok for most people to eat fish every day – certainly moreso than beef or other types of protein.

Rimm and other dietitians and healthcare professionals warn against high or daily fish consumption for some high risk populations: namely pregnant and breastfeeding women and small children. Although the omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish are essential for brain and growth development, high levels of fish in those populations could increase risk for mercury toxicity.

Instead, pregnant and breastfeeding women and children are recommended to follow the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2014 revised guidelines of consuming 8-12 ounces of fish per week. That’s 2-3 regular sizes of fish or roughly 1.5-2 cans of tuna per week.

For the rest of you not in those populations: the benefits of eating more fish likely outweigh any potential drawbacks…so eat up!

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