what is the safest seafood to eat according to the Environmental Working Group

What’s The Safest Seafood For Your Paleo Diet?

I grew up with Washington State’s Puget Sound practically in my backyard, so fish – especially wild-caught salmon – has always been a big part of my diet since I was a tadpole… 

For all you paleo seafood lovers like me, you should take a minute to look over the Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guide to Seafood that rates the best and the worst fish and shellfish choices based on their independent research.

This summer, the federal Food & Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency issued new fish consumption guidelines aimed primarily at pregnant women and nursing moms encouraging them to eat more fish – eight to 12 ounces per week of a “variety of seafood types.”

As you probably know, many varieties of fish are rich in “good fats,” especially polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. The two most common, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), have been proven to reduce inflammation and the severity of heart and retinal diseases. Studies have also shown moms who ate low-mercury seafood during pregnancy tend to give birth to children with better functioning brain and nervous systems – their kids scored two to six points higher on intelligence tests than children of moms who ate little or no fish during their pregnancy (Oken 2005). 

A diet rich in omega-3s has also been shown to lower blood triglycerols, reduced arrhythmias, and lessen the chance of sudden death from heart disease (USDA 2010). Plus fish and shellfish are high in protein and are a good source of iodine, vitamin D and selenium – nutrients often lacking in the traditional Western diet.

In an effort to clarify which seafood offers the best nutrition with the least amount of risk, the Environmental Working Group organization came up with a list of recommendations based on their independent research into the government’s data.

Choosing which fish to feed your family is definitely a balancing act – you want the highest levels of healthy omega-3 oils you can get while avoiding those species often found to contain higher levels of mercury.

The EWG seafood guide helps sort this all out with advice on which fish is best for you, what species you should consume less of, and which you’d be wise to avoid altogether.

Their report is more detailed, but I’ve summarized the main findings here for you so you can make smarter paleo seafood choices for you and your family.


  • Wild Salmon • Sardines • Mussels • Rainbow Trout • Atlantic Mackerel
  • 1-2 four-ounce servings a week
  • Exceptional levels of omega-3 fatty acids with the lowest levels of mercury


  • Oysters • Anchovies • Pollock • Herring
  • One four-ounce serving supplies 25 percent or more of the recommended weekly intake of omega-3. Three four-ounce servings per week suggested
  • Favorable concentration of omega-3 fats with a low risk of mercury


  • Shrimp • Catfish • Tilapia • Clams • Scallops • Pangasius 
  • An adult would need to consume anywhere from five to 20 four-ounce servings to meet the omega-3 recommendation for pregnant women and people with heart disease
  • Low on beneficial omega-3 fats. However, these species are still healthy sources of protein and other beneficial nutrients and generally contain low levels of mercury


  • Tuna – Canned Light and Albacore • Halibut • Lobster • Mahi Mahi • Sea Bass
  • The quantity of these fish that can safely be consumed depends on your age, weight and health status according to the EWG
  • Due to the higher levels of mercury generally found in these fish, these species should not be part of a regular diet for pregnant women or children


  • Shark • Swordfish • Tilefish •  King Mackerel • Marlin •  Bluefin/Bigeye Tuna •  Orange Roughy
  • Generally high levels of mercury…should never be consumed by pregnant women and children, according to EWG’s analysis and federal government warnings
  • Everyone else should eat these species infrequently or not at all


1 reply
  1. Evelyn @ CapetownHealth
    Evelyn @ CapetownHealth says:

    This is weird, but I have never liked seafood. I would much rather eat chicken and beef.

    However, I do know that many people like seafood and your diagram will make it a lot easier for people to eat foods that are better for them while on the paleo diet. Kudos!


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