I love sardines. They’re good for cardiovascular health, joints, skin, memory, and energy levels. But also, they’re sustainable and low in mercury.

Endive boats, photography by Marija Ivkovic

In my I Quit Sugar Cookbook I feature the above recipe – my favourite endive boats. You can buy my cookbook by clicking on the button below.

I know a lot of you are confused about the mercury thing. I’ve recently been told I have really high levels of it in my system.  If you have auto-immune disease, it’s VERY important to check your heavy metal levels. I kind of think that heavy metals can cause AI, but they can also mean we are less able to process them when they do enter our system. Either way, it’s something we have to be mindful of.

I’ve now had every possible test done (blood, urine and hair mineral) and the results are the same – I’m hanging on to mercury. And lead. Not good. So avoiding high mercury fish is crucial. (What do I do about it? At this stage I’m not chelating…it will muddy the waters. Instead I’m trialling a course of glutathione recycler called Cellgevity made by Max International. Heavy metal toxicity affects our glutathione levels…which is what causes oxidative stress…which is the thing that makes you feel like crap when you have AI…so I’m figuring if I fix the symptoms, the cause will eventually dissipate. It’s a theory. And I’ll be reporting back in a few months.)

The What Fish is Sustainable issue is equally difficult to work out. I know I get confused when I go into a fish shop. So this post might help you make better choices. (A tinned tuna fan? Check out my post on the best brands to buy here)

Some things to know about mercury in fish

Once mercury enters water, bacteria absorb it, and convert it to methyl mercury. This is important to note, because humans absorb methyl mercury easily, and are especially vulnerable to it’s effects.

This methyl mercury then works it’s way up the (sea)food chain. Instead of dissolving or breaking down, mercury accumulates. Predatory fish such as large tuna, swordfish, shark and mackerel can have mercury concentrations in their bodies that are 10,000 times higher than those of their surrounding habitat.

Humans risk ingesting dangerous levels of mercury when they eat contaminated fish. Since mercury is odorless, invisible, and accumulated in the meat of the fish, it’s not easy to detect and can’t be avoided by trimming off the skin or other parts. Once it’s in the human body, mercury acts as a neurotoxin – interfering with the brain and nervous system.

What to eat

Below is a list of the healthiest (and still sustainable) fish to eat. You might like to cut it out and keep in your wallet – it’s designed for it! You can find the full card here.

While you’re there, is farmed salmon safe?

Farmed salmon may also contain PCB’s, chemicals with serious long-term health effects.

How do I know if it’s sustainable?

Check out this canned tuna guide.

Or check out AMCS’s sustainable guide .

Another cool thing

Check out NRDC’s Mercury Calculator.

Hope this helps…let me know your thoughts on mercury…I need to learn more!

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Melissa

    I wanted to like sardines. I bought “Cape Le Grande” brand from Western Australia – but they are loaded with bones 🙁 I tried cooking them in a tomato stew (hoping the acidity would break down the bones!) no such luck………. so disappointed. My son and I could feel sardine bones stuck in our throat – not very nice.
    I’ve heard sardine bones break down and are fine to eat – but trust me you couldn’t eat these!!!!

  • Melissa

    I have pcos too. But metal cans are still not a good option – even bpa free

  • jamesallegro

    How often per week or per month can you eat fish that is in the least mercury category?

  • Tara

    Sarah, you might benefit from doing some research on sardines and arsenic contamination. Mercury is not the only heavy metal to be concerned about in our seafood. Sardines are high in arsenic as are other types of seafood listed as low in mercury. If you are only watching mercury levels you can run into problems with other heavy metals.

  • target2009

    No discussion of Mercury would be complete without considering dental amalgams probiotics and Selenium and other minerals.

    Mercury Amalgam fillings are a significant source of chronic Mercury exposure. It is now known that they release Mercury on chewing and in the presence of other dental metals like copper gold and nickel

    Probiotics provide a Mechanism which allows the body to chelate and remove significant amounts of Mercury ingested through the diet. Rat studies have shown the rats with sterile guts absorb significantly more mercury than those with healthy gut flora.

    Selenium is know to bind to Mercury allowing it to be harmlessly excreted from the body. This is one reason why people are not poisoned by the levels of Mercury present in some fish. The selenium is what protects the fish from the Mercury they ingest.

    If this was not the case the fish would be dead long before we could eat them. Mercury is a potent nerve poison and fish nervous tissue is similar to our own..

    It is also important to have adequate trace minerals as heavy metals can mimic certain minerals and be absorbed in place of them.

    A pretty good article, and I too love Sardines.

  • Stephanie

    the bones are an excellent calcium source. Just gobble them up. Its a fabulous example of a whole food 🙂

  • Jo

    Hi there, I am wondering how long you have been on the cellgevity and if it is helping with the side effects of metal detoxing. I am using an infra red sauna daily to try to bring my levels down. I find the DMSA chelation tablets give me an immediate migraine and make me feel sick. I have decided to just do the infra red sauna for awhile to see if I can get the levels down but am wondering about supporting with cellgevity? Thanks