Fish consumption and health
Fish consumption recommendations
Recommendations according to Canada’s Food Guide
Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating a variety of nutritious foods every day. This recommendation applies to several types of foods, including protein foods. Fish and seafood are examples of protein foods that can be eaten as part of a healthy diet.
Canada’s Food Guide also suggests choosing foods that contain healthy fats, in particular fatty fish. For example:
To make sure you get the best nutritional value from fish, choose fresh or frozen fish or seafood that has not been fried or breaded. Canned fish with little or no added salt is also a good choice. Use low-fat cooking methods such as poaching, grilling or baking.
Eating two servings of fatty fish a week provides the equivalent of 300 to 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids a day. This is the amount recommended by the World Health Organization.
Omega-3 fatty acid content
Source: Data taken from the Canadian Nutrient File (CNF) (Health Canada)
Atlantic salmon, farmed
Atlantic salmon, wild
Smoked Atlantic herring, raw
Sockeye salmon, canned
Greenland halibut (turbot)
Rainbow trout, farmed
Rainbow trout, wild
Smelt (rainbow smelt)
Mussel (blue mussel), raw
Oyster (common oyster), raw
Gulf of St. Lawrence shrimp, cooked
Light tuna, canned in water
American lobster, cooked
Fish and seafood that can be eaten in unlimited amounts
The following fishes and seafood contain very little mercury. They can be eaten in unlimited amounts.
Species of fish and seafood that can be eaten in unlimited amounts
- Game fish
- American shad
- Smelt (rainbow smelt)
- Lake whitefish
- Brook trout (speckled trout)
- Other types of trout (except lake trout)
- Atlantic tomcod
- Atlantic salmon
- Marine fish
- Atlantic mackerel
- Plaice (sole)
- Tuna (canned)
- Farmed fish
- Other farmed fish
Fish that should be eaten in limited amounts
Consumption of some types of fish is restricted because of their mercury content. They can be eaten but in limited amounts. Make sure you only eat the amounts shown in the table. These recommended maximum amounts apply to people who eat fish frequently and regularly. They are valid in most cases unless advised otherwise by public health or environment authorities.
Recommended maximum amount
(1 serving = 90 g before cooking)
230 g a week
Large marine fish:
180 g a week
115 g a week
(about 1 serving)
Eating game fish
If you eat game fish regularly, you can consult the MELCC’s Guide de consommation du poisson de pêche sportive en eau douce [Guide to eating freshwater game fish; available in French only]. This very detailed guide shows recommended maximum amounts based on fish species, size and fishing site.
Precautions when preparing wild fish
Wild fish may contain various contaminants and parasites. To reduce the risk of contamination, it is recommended to follow these precautions:
- eviscerate fish as soon as possible after their death, or after registration for salmon;
- keep only the fillets that are free of the skin and the base of the fins. These parts are less likely to contain contaminants;
- avoid using cooking juices to prepare other foods such as soups and sauces;
- avoid eating highly infested fish. When preparing fish, manually remove all visible larvae;
- avoid eating fish with abnormalities such as tumours and various malformations;
- cook or smoke fish properly before eating (fish should have an internal temperature of at least 63°C for 15 seconds);
- freeze fish at -20°C for at least seven days if you want to eat it raw. Be careful: not all domestic freezers can meet these conditions.
Pets may also be affected. Thus, wild fish waste should never be given to them unless it has been properly cooked or frozen beforehand.
Women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, breastfeeding women and young children
The following recommendations apply to women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, breastfeeding women and young children:
- Do not eat species of wild fish that are most likely to be contaminated frequently. It’s preferable to choose fish and seafood that can be eaten in unlimited amounts.
- Do not eat raw or partially cooked fish or seafood. Thorough cooking prevents diseases caused by certain microbes or parasites these foods may be contaminated with.
- Limit the amount of canned albacore tuna (white tuna) (not to be confused with canned light tuna, which can be eaten in unlimited amounts) to no more than:
- 300 g a week for women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding
- 150 g a week for children age 5 to 11
- 75 g a week for children age 1 to 4
- Limit the amount of fresh or frozen tuna (including bluefin tuna), shark, swordfish, orange roughy and marlin to no more than:
- 150 g a month for women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding
- 125 g a month for children age 5 to 11
- 75 g a month for children age 1 to 4
Last update: January 28, 2021