Fish, shellfish, and seaweed contain omega-3 fatty acids that aren’t found in other foods and that can improve heart and brain health for people of all ages. Pregnant and breastfeeding women who eat fish pass these nutrients to their baby, supporting healthy brain and eye development. Seafood also contains high levels of protein and other nutrients.
Women of childbearing age should eat two to three servings each week and children older than age two should try to eat about two servings of seafood from the "best choices" list each week. Other adults should eat at least two servings of seafood. RIDOH has developed guidance on what fish are best to eat often and what fish should be eaten less often. Learn more by reading this guidance on eating fish safely.
Seaweed and algae are another good option because they have many of the same nutrients as fish, including the same omega-3 fatty acids, and are less likely to have pollutants.
Supplements, such as cod liver oil, prenatal vitamins, and those added to baby formula, are also a good alternative. These supplements provide the long chain omega-3 fatty acids the body needs, but do not provide the other benefits of dietary fish consumption.
Fish are good to eat, but some have higher levels of toxins than others. Mercury and other pollutants can build up in the bodies of living things, especially larger fish people often eat.
Mercury can harm brain development at relatively low levels and can be toxic to adults at high levels. Mercury is found in nearly all fish and is the biggest concern for eating fish. Other pollutants that are sometimes found in fish can cause cancer or other health problems. The levels of these pollutants are low enough that the health benefits of fish consumption outweigh the risk of health effects, except in extreme cases. Different types of fish have different levels of pollutants. You can further limit the risk by considering the types of fish you eat.
Saltwater fish from Rhode Island waters has the same benefits and similar levels of pollutants as fish you buy. The list of best choices, good alternatives, and seafood to avoid also applies to saltwater fish you catch yourself. more
Freshwater fish caught in rural areas of Rhode Island can have mercury levels that are a concern. Fish from urban areas of Rhode Island sometimes have other contaminants. The type of fish you catch and where you catch it is important. Avoid fish from the Woonasquatucket River south of Smithfield and limit consumption of top predators like Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, or Pickerel. Trout and Sunfish (e.g., Pumpkinseed, Blue Gill) you catch from Rhode Island lakes and streams are generally safe to eat.
Shellfish you buy are nutritious and low in chemical pollutants. They should be properly cooked or they can make you sick (bacterial infection). Only gather shellfish from areas that are approved by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM)for shellfishing. Visit RIDEM website for more details on safe shellfish consumption.