Friday, April 13, 2012

Is There a Catch to Eating Fish?

Fish and shell fish are an important part of a healthy Diet. They contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients and they are low in saturated fat, and contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Humans cannot make omega-3 fats, so we must get them from the foods we eat. All three types of omega-3 fats have long names: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). The first two are found in fish, especially oily fish, while ALA is in certain plant foods.
Along with benefits to the brain, nerves and eyes, omega 3 fats also reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. A well balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can also contribute to children’s proper growth and development. It is easy to see the nutritional benefits of including fish or shellfish in your diet. So what is the catch?

Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. Mercury occurs naturally in the environment, but can also be released into the air through industrial pollution. Mercury falls from the air and can accumulate in streams and oceans and can turn into the type of mercury that can be harmful to an unborn baby or young child. The risk depends on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the amount of mercury they contain. Choose varieties of seafood that are higher in omega-3’s and lower in mercury such as salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, Pacific oysters, trout, and Atlantic and Pacific (not King) mackerel. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advise women that may be pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to avoid certain types of fish and eat fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Women and young children should avoid eating Shark, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend 8 oz per week of low mercury seafood for adults and up to 12 oz per week for pregnant women. Further references are posted on the Nutrition Links website:

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