Fish is one of the healthiest protein sources you can find on the planet. Plus, some species are ideal sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Study after study has shown that omega 3 has all kinds of benefits, including fighting heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and supporting immune system and brain function.
But, as man has continued to contaminate the environment, there are now precautions you need to take. Mercury contamination is a serious issue. But if you do your homework, you can continue to enjoy a wide variety of fish and all the health benefits that come with it.
While everyone should be concerned about mercury, pregnant women, those considering future pregnancy, and children, need to be extra careful. So what can you do to ensure that you enjoy seafood without a health scare?
Know Your Risks
So, why do you need to worry about mercury? Because once it’s in your body, mercury acts as a neurotoxin, interfering with the brain and nervous system. It can also cause damage to the kidneys and lungs, and result in several diseases, including acrodynia, Hunter-Russell syndrome, and Minamata disease.
Mercury is a deceptive and elusive poison. It’s odorless, invisible and accumulates in the meat of the fish. Most symptoms of mercury overexposure are hard to pin on the poisoning, since symptoms have a wide variety of possible causes. Symptoms include shakiness, depression, joint pain, and headaches, to name a few. The one symptom that may be the most obvious is a metallic taste in mouth.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a recommendation for the safe daily mercury intake. As long as your intake stays at or below 0.1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, you will be fine. So for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can consume approximately 7 micrograms on a daily basis.
Here’s a list of some of the more popular seafood items and their corresponding risk for mercury poisoning:
Least Mercury (Safe to eat):
Mackerel (Northern Atlantic, chub)
Salmon (Canned, or fresh. Farmed salmon may contain PCB’s, chemicals with serious long-term health effects.)
Moderate Mercury (Eat six servings or less per month):
Bass (striped, black)
Halibut (Atlantic or Pacific)
Tuna (canned chunk light, skipjack)
High Mercury (Eat three servings or less per month):
Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf)
Sea Bass (Chilean)
Tuna (canned albacore, yellowfin)
Highest Mercury (Avoid eating):
Tuna (bigeye, ahi)
Unless you’re a pescetarian (only eat seafood as your animal protein), it’s fairly easy to stay within your healthy limits of mercury intake. With just a little due diligence, you can safely enjoy fish as a healthy part of your diet. Even the fish with moderate amounts of mercury allow you to have up to six servings a month, which is an ample opportunity to enjoy them. Just remember: a well informed consumer is a health consumer.