Used to be eating fish seemed like a no-brainer. That was before we learned that our oceans were becoming polluted with mercury, dioxins and PCB’s.
And we found out that farmed fish are even worse for us due to poor sanitary conditions and being fed unhealthy and unnatural grains.
This made many people wonder if eating fish and sea food was a health risk.
Let me say for the record that I do eat fish – quite a high amount of it since I do not consume beef, pork, lamb or other “red” meats. Here is why I still eat fish and why I decided the health benefits outweigh the risks.
Let’s begin with some facts about wild caught fish that are contrary to what you may have been lead to believe:
Studies we have read that warn of high mercury content only measured mercury – nothing else. There is another important mineral that is protective that was not measured called selenium.
Wild fish and sea food contain an abundance of selenium. Selenium is very protective and binds to mercury in fish. This means it plays a protective role against mercury.
Interestingly, when both mercury and selenium are found together, they connect, forming a new substance. This new substance makes it hard for the body to absorb the mercury separately. Simply put, when selenium binds to mercury, mercury is no longer free to bind to anything else – like brain tissue. Studies have shown that relevant amounts of selenium can prevent oxidative brain damage and other adverse effects associated with mercury toxicity.
So the fact that fish contain one of the highest sources of selenium is good news for us fish lovers!
A study conducted by the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also found that an estimated 97% of the freshwater fish from lakes and rivers in the western U.S. are safe to eat. This study measured both mercury and selenium levels in the tissues of freshwater fish. here’s the link to the study newsitem.aspx?id=343
As for PCB’s and Dioxins the news is not so good for other favorite protein sources. The highest dietary sources of PCBs and dioxins are not fish, but beef, chicken and pork (34%), dairy products (30%) and vegetables (22%). Fish constitutes only 9% of our dietary intake of these chemicals. One way to help protect yourself from these toxins is to buy organic and grass fed animal products such as those listed here – and to eat more fish!
So how much fish is safe to eat?
- Moderate mercury: Alaskan halibut, black cod, blue (Gulf Coast) crab, cod, dungeness crab, Eastern oysters, mahimahi, blue mussels, pollack, tuna (canned light). (Children and pregnant or nursing women are advised to eat no more than one from this list, once a month.)
- Low mercury: Anchovies, Arctic char, crawfish, Pacific flounder, herring, king crab, sanddabs, scallops, Pacific sole; tilapia, wild Alaska and Pacific salmon; farmed catfish, clams, striped bass, and sturgeon. (Children and pregnant or nursing women can safely eat two to three times a week.)
- Take note, though, that low-mercury but overfished or destructively harvested species — such as Atlantic cod, Atlantic flounder, Atlantic sole, Chilean sea bass, monkfish, orange roughy, shrimp, and snapper — should be avoided for the environment’s sake.
- Low POPs: Wild Alaska and California salmon (fresh or canned). Source: safe-fish.cfm
- Environmental Defense Fish Safety link Click on this link to download a pocket guide
- safefish.html Click on this link for a DHHS list of fish and consumption advisory
More on Selenium:
Combined with proteins, selenium makes antioxidant enzymes that help regulate thyroid function, help the immune system and may play a role in preventing cancer and heart disease, maintains The National Institutes of Health. The recommended daily allowance of selenium is 55 mcg per day for adults, 60 for pregnant women and 30 for children 4 to 8 years old. Tuna, and cod are high in selenium but Brazil nuts are the highest.
Health Benefits of eating wild caught fish
- The Omega 3 essential fatty acids help keep healthy blood pressure levels and reduce overall cardiovascular risk.
- Eating fish also helps decrease your risk of stroke and heart attack.
- These healthful EFA’s found in fish are a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Anyone who suffers from depression or has ADHD or concentration problems will reap benefits from brain healthy fish. This is due to a special type of Omega 3 fatty acid called DHA which is essential for healthy brain development. Maybe that’s why fish has always been called “brain food”!
- Importantly these healthy essential fatty acids are vital to us on cellular level. Without the correct, healthy essential fatty acids found in fish and seafood our cells cannot “signal” each other and health suffers. Anyone who is fatigued or has a compromised immune system should include essential fatty acids and those found in wild caught fish are a natural source.
- Fish also produces important minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus. It is also a good source of calcium for the bone health and strong bones. It contains Iodine and fluorine that boost the growth and development of one’s body and enhances metabolism.
- Fish is an excellent source of protein. It easily repairs and maintain lean tissue and used for body building.
I hope this helps to convince you that eating fish is still safe and very beneficial to our health.