How to navigate the murky waters of healthy fish consumption

The 2015 government Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee–which recently admitted the government’s decades-long advice to cuts fats and cholesterol was complete bunk–also made a ruling about seafood. It wants Americans to eat more of it.

Unfortunately, fewer than 20 percent of Americans eat the recommended minimum of two servings of seafood per week. About 30 percent eat one serving weekly. And about 50 percent eat very little seafood or none at all.

Truthfully, that’s a shame.

Seafood contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin D, iodine, and selenium. So you should try to eat more of it.

Just stay away from farmed fish, such as salmon, that come from the Atlantic. Today, any kind of Atlantic salmon you buy at the grocery store comes from fish farms. And these sick fish have about one-tenth the vitamin D and other nutrients as wild-caught fish.

Unfortunately, heavy metal contamination is also a major concern when it comes to farmed fish. And the government’s new report acknowledges this risk. The Dietary Guideline Advisory panel wants us to watch out for mercury exposure from fish consumption.

But their warning made me shake my head.

Is it just me, or does the government’s “warning” about mercury seem a little fickle?

Federal and state environmental regulations forbid dumping mercury in landfills. Yet the government requires we replace good incandescent light bulbs with “energy-efficient” light bulbs full of mercury.  Drop one in your house and you’ve got mercury everywhere. How are you supposed to get rid of them safely?

Furthermore, dentists can still use mercury amalgam for permanent fillings in your teeth. If you’re over 40 years old, chances are you have one of these silver fillings in your mouth. How about that for unsafe mercury exposure.
Without a doubt, the issue of mercury contamination is a moving target. Many politicized environmentalists groups make claims about mercury, but they don’t know or understand the real science. Nevertheless, they influence politicians who, in turn, influence half-blind bureaucracies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

But back to the recommendations regarding mercury and seafood…

Mercury is a particularly big concern when it comes to tuna, which is second only to shrimp in U.S. popularity.

The FDA and EPA warn pregnant and nursing mothers to limit tuna consumption to six ounces per week because of mercury exposure. But the government Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee wants these two agencies to reevaluate their stance. It says the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks of mercury exposure.

Dr. Steve Abrams, a committee member involved in the seafood recommendations and medical director at Baylor College of Medicine, recently told the New York Times, “The benefit of having (omega-3 fatty acids) in your diet really exceeds the likely risk of (mercury) contamination. The point is that you should have a variety of types of seafood and not limit yourself to one type, and variety includes canned tuna.”

It all comes back to the old observation that fish is “brain food.” Strong evidence shows fish consumption is good for the brain. The benefits of having more omega-3 fatty acids, and the other nutrients found in fish like tuna, are very powerful.

The science continues to show all these benefits consistently. Pregnant mothers who eat one serving a week of fish have babies with higher visual recognition and memory. The babies who scored highest were born to mothers who consumed two or more servings of fish per week. On the other hand, the mental development scores of babies are lower among women with more mercury in their bodies, as detected in their hair samples.

So where to do we go from here? How can you safely improve your fish consumption, while keeping mercury exposure low?

Well, last fall Consumer Reports issued a list of safe seafood with the lowest mercury levels. It’s a good plan to stick with these fish on a regular basis.

The seafood with the lowest mercury in alphabetic order is:

-oysters

-sardines

-salmon

-shrimp

-squid

-tilapia

Also low in mercury are Atlantic croaker, Atlantic mackerel, crab, catfish, crawfish, flounder, haddock, sole, and trout.

Consumer Reports also suggested limiting fish with higher mercury levels, including:

-bluefish

-black cod

-Chilean sea bass

-fresh tuna

-grouper

-halibut

-mackerel

-marlin

-orange roughy

Just remember, look for wild-caught seafood whenever possible. Especially when it comes to salmon. Wild-caught salmon from the Pacific are much healthier than the farmed fish I mentioned earlier. It will say “wild caught” on the package. And if it doesn’t, you can assume it comes from a farm.

 

Source:

  1. “Should pregnant women eat more tuna? New York Times (www.nytimes.com) March 2, 2015.

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