While tuna was a lunch box staple in my house growing up, eating it these days feels like tiptoeing through an environmental and health minefield. Many varieties are considered a big “no no” according to the folks at Seafood Watch because of overfishing and the methods used to haul in the goods. Perhaps more pressing for moms, though, are the often harmful levels of mercury in tuna. Mercury is an environmental contaminant that can lead to all sorts of health trouble you don’t even want to know about. All that being said, tuna happens to be an inexpensive source of protein that is rich in those coveted omega-3 fats. Plus, a good tuna sandwich is hard to beat.
Here are a few guidelines to help you find you way amongst the myriad choices in the seafood aisle.
• Opt for chunk light tuna over other varieties. It has the lowest levels of mercury, as much as six times less than albacore. Be sure not to confuse chunk light with chunk white, the latter being much higher in mercury.
• Limit albacore and white tuna. The Environmental Working Group advises women of childbearing age and children under five to avoid it altogether. Depending on age and gender, the mercury levels in even a single serving can exceed EPA recommendations. If you are pregnant, confer with your doctor regarding tuna safety.
• Look for pole caught albacore tuna, available in organic and specialty markets. These are smaller fish with significantly less toxic build up than conventional albacore. It’s a little pricier, but if you like the taste of albacore, is a better option than the standard variety. It’s also a more environmentally friendly choice.
• Consider using wild sockeye salmon in place of tuna. It has plenty of protein and omega-3s, without the same concerns about mercury.
Sources: Consumer Reports, Natural Resources Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, Center for Science in the Public Interest