Can you eat swordfish?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat swordfish?” and discuss what are the risks and benefits related to the consumption of swordfish. Swordfish fishery is one of the most important fishing activities in the Mediterranean Sea, in particular in South Italy.

Can you eat swordfish?

Yes, you can eat swordfish. Swordfish is consumed in many parts of the world and may be eaten occasionally. However, due to the possible high amounts of mercury in this fish, it is not advisable to eat it regularly.

Pregnant women, women who want to get pregnant, and young children should avoid eating swordfish, shark, mackerel, and tilefish, which are listed as containing high amounts of mercury, according to the FDA (1).

What are the risks of eating Swordfish?

The risks of eating Swordfish are the high concentrations of methylmercury found in this fish. As a predatory fish, Swordfish accumulate heavy metals and may contain high levels of Hg, Cd and Pb.

The FDA advises eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish not more than once a month and to avoid it during pregnancy, due to the risks related to mercury ingestion (1).

Mercury is converted into methylmercury and the accumulation of this toxin in vital organs of the human body such as kidneys, liver, and especially the brain, can cause a variety of pathologies, including cardiovascular, renal, reproductive, and neurological disorders. 

Children are identified as a particularly susceptible population group to the toxic effects of mercury, especially to the risk of neurologic impairment due to greater sensitivity during the early stages of brain development (4).

The neurotoxic effects of methylmercury are, in fact, well documented with several articles of neurobehavioral modifications in children with pre-or early postnatal exposure, including cognitive deficits, effects on motor skills, attention deficit, language competence deficit, and decreased learning and memory abilities (4).

Because of this, the FDA have advised vulnerable population groups, such as pregnant women and young children, to avoid the consumption of some types of fish, especially large predators, prone to accumulate Hg high levels (4).

On the other hand, they also contain high levels of Selenium. Several studies also showed that Se may protect against the toxic effects of Hg, particularly organic methylmercury. Accordingly, the Hg:Se ratio could be a useful tool to better assess the risk associated with fish intake, especially in predatory species such as tuna and swordfish (3).

What are the benefits of eating Swordfish?

The benefits of eating Swordfish are its nutrients. Fish and other seafood products, namely molluscs, crustaceans and echinoderms, consumed directly or processed provide nutritional benefits for humans (3).

Fish contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3), which are known for their anti-inflammatory effects and their protective effects against cardiovascular disease. Fish also contains vitamin D and calcium, both necessary to prevent osteoporosis and improve bone health. 

With a high concentration of the mineral selenium, swordfish may help reduce the risk of cancer and autoimmune and thyroid diseases (6). It also contains Niacin, vitamin B12 and zinc. 

A swordfish is also a good source of proteins since it’s low in fat. Proteins provided by fish are of high biological value and easy digestibility and favors body growth and brain development (3). 

Moderate-to-high intake of fish has been associated with a decrease in the prevalence of chronic diseases associated with obesity, namely CVD, diabetes and some cancers (3).

How to safely prepare Swordfish?

To safely prepare Swordfish, you should be able to follow good hygiene practices by handling and cooking the fish, in order to reduce its microbial contamination and to avoid further contamination.

Fish can carry microorganisms and parasites and therefore should be carefully chosen, handled and cooked. In addition, fish should be kept under refrigeration during transportation and storage, while by freezing fish, temperature fluctuations should be avoided.

When buying fish, it’s important to look for certain qualities. Fresh fish should have a pleasant, mild odor rather than a strong fishy, sour, or ammonia-like smell. The eyes of the fish should be clear and shiny, indicating that it’s still fresh. 

When looking at the whole fish, check that the flesh is firm and the gills are red without any odor. For fresh filets, the flesh should also be firm and have red blood lines or red flesh for tuna. Additionally, the flesh should bounce back when pressed and there should be no discoloration, darkening, or drying around the edges of the filets (5).

Refrigeration of fish is to be carried at 40°F or 4°C for a maximum period of 2 days. When preparing, wash hands, cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with soap and hot water before and after the preparation. Cook at a temperature of 145°F or 74°C till the flesh is clear and easily separable with a fork.

The proper selection, storage, preparation and cooking of fish is crucial to avoid the ingestion of contaminated fish, which can lead to food poisoning. The common symptoms of food poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, and flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body ache.

Other FAQs about Fish that you may be interested in.

Can you eat swordfish rare?

Can you eat swordfish raw?

Can you eat tarpon?


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat swordfish?” and we discussed what are the risks and benefits related to the consumption of swordfish. 


  1. US Food and Drug Administration. Advice about eating fish.
  2. Ferrito, Venera, et al. Swordfish or shark slice? A rapid response by COIBar–RFLP. Foods, 2019, 8, 537.
  3. Gil, Angel, and Fernando Gil. Fish, a Mediterranean source of n-3 PUFA: benefits do not justify limiting consumption. Brit J Nutr, 2015, 113, S58-S67.
  4. Barone, Grazia, et al. Levels of mercury, methylmercury and selenium in fish: Insights into children food safety. Toxics, 2021, 9, 39.
  5. Selecting and Serving Fresh and Frozen Seafood Safely. United States Department of Agriculture.
  6. Marushka, Lesya, et al. Importance of fish for food and nutrition security among First Nations in Canada. Canadian J Public Health, 2021, 112, 64-80.