How much seafood is recommended?

The NH&MRC (2013 Eat for Health Educator Guide) recommends including around two serves* of fish or seafood a week. Many Australians will need to increase their intake to achieve these recommendations.

*A serving of fish (or seafood) is given as 115g raw, or 100g cooked.

Depending on age and sex, health benefits may be seen with consumption of 1.4 to 2.8 serves (140–280g) of fish per week for adults, with proportionately less for adolescents and children.
- The Dietary Guidelines (NH&MRC 2013 Providing the scientific evidence)

Eating seafood during pregnancy is associated with better developmental outcomes for the baby. To reflect this, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to eat up to 3-4 serves per week, provided the mercury content of selected species is within safety limits (EFSA 2014).

Promote the goal of eating seafood twice a week

How much seafood should we eat for sustainability?

Food in the anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems (Willett et al 2019) brought together 19 Commissioners and 18 coauthors from 16 counties in various fields of human health, agriculture, political sciences, and environmental sustainability. A key objective was to develop scientific targets based on the best evidence available for healthy diets and sustainable food production. These global targets define a safe operating space for food systems and allow the assessment of diets and food production practices that will help meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement (to combat climate change). In it, they developed a Healthy reference diet for an intake of 2500 kcal/ 10,500kJ per day. This reference diet includes 28g of seafood a day. (with a range of 0-100g to account for regions without access to seafood and higher amounts for added health benefits). This is equivalent to 196g per week - roughly equivalent to the two serves a week (200g) recommended for good health in Australia and elsewhere.

How much are we eating?

The most recent 2011-12 Australian Health Survey (ABS 2014) found only 17% of people consumed seafood on the day of the survey. The population average consumed was 26.7g of seafood or seafood-based dish on the day of the survey.

According to dietary modelling, Australians on average need to increase their intake of fish and seafood by 40% to meet current Dietary Guidelines recommendations
- (NHMRC 2013. Providing the scientific evidence).

Influences on seafood consumption

Australian research found the leading drivers of seafood consumption are health, taste, and convenience, while the main barriers are price, availability, concerns about quality, and a lack of confidence in selecting and preparing seafood (Christenson JK et al 2016). One of the ways suggested to increase seafood consumption in Australia is to take better advantage of currently undervalued and well-priced Australian seafood species, and to provide cooking instructions and recipe ideas.

People of higher education and socio-economic status are more likely to eat seafood, and to consume more nutritious (higher in omega-3 fats) species (Farmery et al 2018). It is a public health challenge to increase seafood consumption across the population but especially in socially disadvantaged groups.

To increase consumption in disadvantaged groups, recommend cheaper options such as less premium species, frozen and canned seafood and suggest including them in familiar recipes.

See our collection of tasty, simple and appealing recipes using sustainable species you can share with your patients, clients and communities on the Healthy family-friendly recipes page.

Seafood for women

Women in their childbearing years can benefit by increasing their fish and seafood intake. Seafood contains essential nutrients important during pregnancy and breastfeeding that are typically under consumed. For example, the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey showed women of childbearing age were not consuming enough iodine, (ABS 2014) essential during pregnancy to support baby’s brain development. They are also not consuming optimal amounts of long chain omega-3s, with only 10% meeting the Suggested Dietary Target (SDT) (Meyer B 2016).

International research suggests recommendations around seafood in pregnancy focus on the risk of mercury intake rather than the positive nutritional benefits (Taylor 2018) and this may be deterring women from consuming the recommended amounts. Women may also avoid raw fish (such as sashimi and sushi) due to the risk of listeria. Health professionals are in a prime position to promote seafood in pregnancy for optimal maternal and child health.

Encourage women to enjoy 3-4 serves of seafood per week, particularly during pregnancy and breastfeeding - within safety limits for mercury content.