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One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Mercury-Filled Fish

Filed Under: Health Foods at 5:42 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
FishFish – we are constantly told to make it a part of our balanced diet. It offers us a, possibly, healthier alternative to red meat, providing much-needed protein. It comes with a delightful dose of omega-3 fatty acids, is low in saturated fats and promotes heart health as well as child growth and development. It is a wonderful food, rich in variety and nutrients. Consuming it can lead to nothing but an intake of goodness, oh, and mercury.

Thanks largely to coal-burning power plants our lakes, streams, rivers and other aquatic ecosystems are contaminated with mercury, which the fish eat. We eat the fish, so . . . Yeah, we eat the mercury too. For most healthy adults, that doesn’t cause too much of a concern. However, for children and pregnant women or women who may become pregnant, it does. High levels of mercury in the blood stream can affect the brain and neurological system in unborn and small children. It doesn’t leave the body quickly, so if it’s allowed to build up over time and a woman conceives, that child could still suffer.  The good news is studies have found that removing mercury from the power plants could lead to decontamination within a few years.  The bad news is that’s not likely to happen immediately, but that doesn’t mean you should shun fish.

Seafood consumption can be done safely.  When selecting your entrée, avoid the large, predatory fish, such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and albacore tuna. They are bigger and have lived longer, so more mercury has had the opportunity to build up. Your best bets are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, Pollock and catfish.  The National Resources Defense Council has a list of the best fish to eat and the best to avoid, if you want further options.  Also, as with all foods, consume in moderation. Have no more than 12 ounces of fish and shellfish a week. If you’re having locally caught fish, consult your area health department for advisories. If none are available, cut your seafood intake in half. Nearly all fish have mercury in them. You can’t avoid it entirely, but you can limit yourself thus limiting the risk.

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