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Fish Consumption Guidance- EH: Minnesota Department of Health
Fish on a plate

Fish Consumption Guidance

Put Fish on Your Plate - Follow the Safe-Eating Guidelines to choose fish low in mercury and other contaminants.

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Eating fish is good for you - benefits outweigh risks when eating fish low in mercury and other contaminants.

Fish are an important part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. They provide a good source of protein and vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin). Fish are rich in calcium and phosphorus and are a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.

Eating fish is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential nutrients keep our heart and brain healthy. Two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Our bodies don't produce these omega-3 fatty acids so we must get them through the food we eat. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in every kind of fish, but are especially high in fatty fish. Some good choices are salmon, trout, sardines, herring, canned mackerel, canned light tuna, and oysters.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  • Help maintain a healthy heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of sudden death, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes.
  • Aid healthy brain function and fetal development of vision and nerves during pregnancy.
  • May decrease the risk of depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and diabetes.
  • May prevent inflammation and reduce the risk of arthritis.

Health experts recommend that fish be included as part of a healthy diet:

For recipes and other information about eating fish, go to Choose Your Fish.

For more information on fishing in Minnesota, visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s Fishing page.

Safe-Eating Guidelines

Fish from all sources can contain contaminants. You should consider store-bought and locally-caught fish when making choices about eating fish. Minnesota Safe-Eating Guidelines for eating fish depend on the fish you eat and who you are. If you are pregnant, planning to be pregnant or have children, you and your children need to be more careful about the kinds of fish you eat and how often you eat fish.

By following these guidelines, you can lower your exposure to contaminants in fish, and still get the benefits of eating fish.

  1. First check Statewide Safe-Eating Guidelines.
  2. Next check Waterbody Specific Safe-Eating Guidelines to see if there are more restrictive guidelines for fish species you catch in MN lakes and rivers.

Statewide Safe-Eating Guidelines are based on mercury and PCB levels measured in fish throughout Minnesota and on levels of mercury found in commercial fish. They also take into account findings of low levels of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) in fish throughout Minnesota. Not all waters in Minnesota have been tested for contaminants in fish.

Tommy at Lake Lida.

Waterbody Specific Safe-Eating Guidelines provide advice for lakes and rivers where fish have been tested and contaminant levels in some fish species are higher. Follow the MDH Statewide Safe-Eating Guidelines, except for species listed in the Waterbody Specific Safe-Eating Guidelines.

Some lakes and rivers in the East Metro Area of the Twin Cities have advice to not eat fish due to high levels of PFOS in fish and/or water.



Lake Superior

When choosing which fish to eat, some people need to be more careful than others. It's important you make your fish choices based on who you are.

little girl catching fish

Young children (under 15 years old) and fetuses are more sensitive to mercury. Too much mercury can cause lasting problems with understanding and learning. However, studies show children benefit developmentally when moms eat fish low in mercury during pregnancy.

Video: New information for women to choose the best fish

How clean a lake looks is not a sign of how safe the fish are to eat

Mercury is found in most fish – both locally-caught and store-bought.

  • How much mercury is in fish depends on:
    • Species. Some fish have more mercury than others because of what they eat and how long they live – Bass, Northern, and Walleye have higher levels than panfish.
    • Size. Smaller fish generally have less mercury than larger, older fish of the same species. Unlike people, fish do not get rid of mercury.
  • Fish from lakes in northeastern Minnesota generally have more mercury than in southern and central Minnesota.
  • Fish bought at a store or restaurant also contain mercury. Farm-raised fish, such as salmon, are low in mercury but can contain other contaminants that may be found in fish feed. The amount of contaminants is small enough that farm-raised salmon are still good to eat 2 times a week.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) is found at low levels in fish throughout the state. Higher levels have been found in fish from some waters in the metro and Duluth areas.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are highest in fatty fish such as Carp, Catfish, and Lake Trout from major rivers and Lake Superior.

See Contaminants and Minnesota Fish for more information.

Image of salmon on a dinner plate

A typical fish meal is made up of 1 serving of fish. MDH's Safe-Eating Guidelines give advice for the number of servings of fish to eat per week or month.

Body Weight Weight in ounces
of uncooked fish
Approximate weight
after cooking
50 3 2.25
70 4 3
90 5 3.75
110 6 4.5
130 7 5.25
150 8 6
170 9 6.75
190 10 7.5
210 11 8.25

  • One piece of sushi is about one ounce.
  • A fast food fish sandwich is typically between four and five ounces of cooked fish.
  • A serving of fish is based on the body weight of the person eating the fish. For example, ½ pound (or 8 ounces) of uncooked fish is one serving for a 150-pound person. Eight ounces of uncooked fish is equal to about 6 ounces of cooked fish.
  • To adjust meal serving size for a heavier or lighter weight person, add or subtract 1 ounce of fish for every 20 pounds of body weight.

Monthly fish menu ideas

Month 1
1 meal of halibut AND
Month 2
1 meal of canned white tuna AND
Week 1
2 meals of salmon
Week 1
1 meal of salmon AND 1 meal of catfish (farm-raised)
Week 2
1 meal of MN-caught bluegill
Week 2
1 meal of MN-caught crappie
Week 3
1 meal of canned light tuna
Week 3
1 meal of MN-caught crappie
Week 4
1 meal of catfish (farm-raised) AND 1 meal of tilapia
Week 4
1 meal of herring AND 1 meal of tilapia
Month 3
1 meal of MN-caught walleye
(less than 20 inches) AND
Month 4
1 meal of tuna (steak) AND
Week 1
1 meal of shrimp AND 1 meal
of tilapia
Week 1
2 meals of salmon
Week 2
1 meal of MN-caught bluegill
Week 2
1 meal of salmon AND 1 meal
of crab
Week 3
1 meal of pollock AND 1 meal
of cod
Week 3
1 meal of light canned tuna
Week 4
1 meal of salmon AND 1 meal
of scallops
Week 4
1 meal of catfish (farm-raised)
AND 1 meal of tilapia

Note: Where the guidelines recommend one meal per week or month, you may prefer to have two smaller sized meals over that week or month.

Cooking fish demonstrations (videos)

Fish Consumption Information in Other Languages

"Talk about Fish and Way of Eating Fish"
Produced by Foung Heu, Filmmaker
Narrated by John Ny Vang, Executive Director of the Capitol Sportsmen Chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association

Shorter segments of Hmong Video: "Talk about Fish and Way of Eating Fish"

Updated May 2021

MDH Statewide Safe-Eating Guidelines for the General Population have changed from unrestricted to four servings per week for the panfish group of fish species.

  • This change was made to clarify what is meant by “unrestricted” and to take into account findings of low levels of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) in fish throughout Minnesota.
  • Past statewide guidance was based only on levels of mercury and PCBs in fish across the state.

Updated March 2021

Advice for eating Smelt from Lake Superior is now 1 meal per month based on levels of PFOS.
WI News ReleaseNew Smelt Consumption Advisory for Lake Superior

Updated Thursday, 20-Oct-2022 09:48:16 CDT