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Fish and Health: Should We Be Eating Fish?

Posted Sep 14 2008 6:10pm

USA Today recently posted Eating Fish: There's a Catch, about the risks of eating mercury-contaminated fish. According to government and environmental reports, certain fish are "mercury-filled time bombs." Fish with the highest mercury content include the older, larger predatory fish such as tilefish, shark, swordfish, and mackerel, followed by grouper, orange roughy, and tuna. The Food and Drug Administration has advised that pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and children should eat no more than one tuna meal a week, because just two servings a week poses too much exposure to mercury.

So, should we eliminate fish from our diets? Clearly, the answer is no. Fish is rich in omega-3, an essential fatty acid (EFA) that is crucial for mental health and well-being. Americans consume 11 to 30 times more omega-6 than omega-3, when the ratio should be 1:1. Americans are eating far too many polyunsaturated oils that are heavy in omega-6, and not enough fish oil that is rich in omega-3.

How can you reduce your mercury exposure and still eat fish? One way to avoid mercury contamination is to choose smaller, younger fish. That's because older, predatory fish accumulate mercury by eating other mercury-contaminated fish during their lifespan. A good choice is wild salmon (not farm-raised). Farm-raised salmon contains very little omega-3 due to the fact that they are fed land-based diets that don't contain omega-3. Fish obtain omega-3 naturally through their wild diet. Also, farm-raised fish tend to have high levels of PCBs and other environmental contaminants, which should be avoided.

Another option is to look for companies that offer minimal-mercury fish and fish oil. Jigsaw Health offers Carvalho mercury-minimal tuna, and fish oil to ensure that you're benefiting from healthy omega-3 without having to worry about the toxic effects of mercury contamination.

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