Benefits and Risks of Eating Fish

Watch our video on the Benefits and Risks of Eating Fish.

 

Benefits of eating fish

Fish are an important part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. They provide a good source of protein and vitamins, and are a primary dietary source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids can:
    • lower risk of heart disease
    • lower triglyceride levels
    • slow the growth of plaque in your arteries
    • and slightly lower blood pressure
  • Omega-3 fatty acids may also provide health benefits to developing babies.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women can pass this nutrient to their baby by eating the right kind of fish.
  • Fish species that have higher levels of omega-3s are shown with a heart icon (heart healthy) when OEHHA recommends that they can be eaten at least once a week.

 

Risks of eating fish

While eating fish has nutritional benefits, it also has potential risks. Fish can take in harmful chemicals from the water and the food they eat. Chemicals like mercury and PCBs can build up in their bodies over time. 

  • High levels of mercury and PCBs can harm the brain and nervous system.
  • Mercury can be especially harmful to fetuses, infants, and children because their bodies are still developing. 
  • PCBs can cause cancer and other harmful health effects. 

 

Reduce your risk

There is no way to tell the level of chemicals in a fish by simply looking at it or tasting it.  Fortunately, there are easy things you can do to reduce your risk, and enjoy the health benefits of eating fish:

  • Check if there are advisories for water bodies where you fish.

While there are potential risks to consider, there are many health benefits of eating fish. If you avoid eating fish entirely, you won’t benefit from the nutrients that fish can provide. By following our fish advisories and properly cleaning, preparing, and cooking fish, you can safely enjoy the health benefits of eating fish.

Fish Advisory Map

View maps of current statewide and site-specific advisories

Advisory Map

Fish, Ecotoxicology and Water Section

Sacramento Office
1001 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 423-7572
fish@oehha.ca.gov

Sign up for our email updates