Should You Be Eating Fish?
Science Says, Yes!
All the waters on Earth have been polluted, and sadly, a most vital source of protein, vitamins, and minerals—humans have contaminated the fish. Sharks, swordfish, king mackerel, bigger fish accrue mercury over their long lifespans and this is bad news—particularly for those who eat them.
Mercury is dangerous when ingested in large quantities over time. Known to cause heart complications, cancer, and neurological issues, it’s no wonder some people have feared eating fish for so long. But what about all those fish oils? The infamous omega-3? And that “good fat” everyone keeps talking about? Popular advice is conflicting and can be confusing when people are left to their own devices; i.e., Google.
It’s Healthier to Eat Fish Than It Is Not to Eat Fish
From choosing a neighborhood to grow our families to choosing what kind of fish is on the plate for dinner tonight, we make our best decisions in life when we are best informed. Some fish we should not eat. But according to a Harvard medical team, there are fish we definitely should eat—and incorporating those fish into our diet is far healthier than excluding all fish from it.
So with all that mercury lurking in the waters, where do we start? Offering guidelines and material online, consumer advocacy organizations (listed as resources for you at the bottom of this article) go so far as to provide mercury calculators to estimate the risk of contamination in certain fish. But if math isn’t your strongpoint, here are three simple guidelines you can follow:
#1—That Infamous Omega-3
From the brain development of infants to protecting the elderly against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, some stuff is just good for us—no matter where we are in life. Studies indicate eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids is healthy for every age as it helps to prevent the ailments associated with them. You can find omega-3 in rainbow trout, sardines, mackerel (but not king mackerel as it is a larger fish abundant in mercury), shellfish, such as oysters and mussels, herring, and everyone’s favorite—salmon.
Omega-3 is just one well-known member of a much larger family of fatty acids. N-3 polyunsaturated acids are essential in developing healthy neonatal nervous systems, and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA is so vital to the development of infant cognition and the health and maturation of the visual systems, that it is now a prominent ingredient in baby formula. DHA is produced naturally in breast milk, so eating fish with plenty of DHA is highly beneficial for nursing mothers.
#3—Plenty in the Sea
Recommending anywhere from two to four servings every week, scientists advise against eating the same fish for every meal. Instead, it’s suggested that eating an eclectic assortment of fish improves your likelihood of making the right choices—safeguarding against a build-up of contamination.
Mercury and other contaminants are not consistent in every fish. Some fish are contaminated in such scarce, low levels that consuming them in moderation is far healthier than it is harmful. But the key word is moderation—so controlling exposure by eating many different species of fish is a wise choice. After all, when there are so many fish in the sea, who wants to eat the same one for the rest of their life?
Iron, vitamins A, B6, and D, calcium, niacin, and zinc—fatty acids are not the only healthy elements in fish. Particularly good for the liver, research suggests eating fish actually helps to protect against fatty liver diseases (excluding those resulting from substance abuse).
Good for the heart, regular fish-eaters are 36% less likely to die from heart disease. Furthermore, fish has been demonstrated to weaken propensities for depression, improve symptoms of lupus and asthma, and protect against breast cancer.
While mercury contamination is undoubtedly a concern, there are plenty of knowledgeable resources available to help filter through the danger and reap nothing but the benefits. Sources of protein, vitamins and minerals, and those dynamic fatty acids, fish are mighty full of all the right stuff.
Seafood Consumer Advocacy Groups
Oceans Alive: www. oceansalive.org
Environmental Working Group: www. ewg.org/issues/mercury
Natural Resources Defense Council: www.nrdc.org/health/eff ects/mercury/guide.asp
Seafood Choices Alliance: www.seafoodchoices.com
Got Mercury: www.gotmercury.org