When it comes to sushi, you either love it or hate it. Sure, there are those rare people who claim they will eat sushi but only occasion (usually they are lying and never eat sushi), but the majority have a strong opinion. Of course, even if you love sushi, it is important you remain aware of the potential health risks of eating too much.
Like any other fish, this delicious food contains a fair amount of mercury and depending on your sushi ingredients may contain even more still. So, why exactly do you need to avoid mercury? More importantly, how much sushi can you safely enjoy without fearing the side effects of mercury poisoning?
Mercury is a naturally occurring element and, up there with arsenic, it’s one of the best ways to bust the argument, “if it’s natural, it’s good for you.” Though it once was used in thermometers and is found naturally in its elemental form, most humans never get anything beyond the methylmercury found in fish and other seafood. Unfortunately, those who do not monitor how much fish they consume can get entirely too much at once.
There are a wide variety of negative side effects you might experience if you consume too much mercury. These negative effects can damage the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and even impair your immune system. How serious these side effects can be depends on more than just the dosage too, your unique genetic factors, age, and a variety of other variables all play a part. Most notably, infants and pregnant women should avoid mercury all-together, as it can cause permanent issues in the development of a young child, most notably in the brain.
One of the best ways to avoid too much mercury in your diet is to pay attention to the fish you eat and make sure you do not consume too much of a high mercury option. The National Resources Defense Council has a handy reference guide if you are unsure, helping to guide you through what sushi might be the right one for you. From low mercury like Ebi (shrimp) to high mercury Ahi (yellowfin tuna), this list shows some of the most common sushi ingredients and could help you decide on the right mixture to ensure you do not overload your body. As with anything else, you might not know you have had too much until it is too late to do anything about it.
Keep in mind, mercury can be extremely dangerous in high amounts and though methylmercury likely won’t lead to that “mad hatter” effect people think of when they consider mercury poisoning, it could cause severe and irreversible damage if not kept in check.
Knowing this may make it somewhat difficult to enjoy delicious uncooked fish, but the truth is, you will normally be just fine if you mind your own limits. Despite the potential risk, most people will never be able to consume enough sushi to really cause harm. Unless you start eating sushi every day, or more likely every meal, you shouldn’t have to worry about the buildup. With that said, don’t tempt fate and take that as a free pass. Sushi might be delicious, but you probably shouldn’t be eating it every day.