My patients and I are lucky. We live in an area surrounded by the ocean and several big lakes. Not only is it a beautiful environment but it is home to one of the best foods you can eat, fish, which is abundant here. There are many great fish restaurants in this area that are always packed with customers who love it. In fact, fish is one of the best foods you can eat for good health. It is full of protein, potassium, and heart and joint healthy Omega-3 fats.
However, because my patients like to eat fish so much, it’s important to make them aware that not all fish are equal – in their health benefits that is. While they can be full of good nutrition, some have the ability to absorb too much mercury and pass it along when consumed.
Let me share with you my advice to patients about what kind, and how much, fish you can safely eat to be sure you are getting the most health benefit from it.
Choosing The Most Beneficial Fish
Fish is naturally one of Nature’s perfect foods. It’s lean, full of protein, and an excellent source of omega-3 oils that reduce inflammation in your body and protect against cardiovascular disease and arthritis. Fish also keeps your skin and joints lubricated and reduces cholesterol. One fish oil, in particular, DHA, helps babies neuro-pathways and cognition to develop correctly.
Fish like wild Alaskan salmon, tiny krill, and yellowfin tuna, have high levels of these beneficial Omega-3 oils. In addition, they are good sources of potassium, a mineral many people do not get enough of! Potassium aids energy and muscle function as well as prevents metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
With all of these good nutritional, health preserving things that fish has going for it, just like my patients, you may be tempted to eat a lot of it, thinking if a little is good, more must be phenomenal! Well, with fish, not so much.
In fact, when I talk to my patients about eating fish, I like to emphasize two important concepts – moderation and avoidance. Now, those two terms may seem contradictory, but in eating fish there are many that you can eat in moderation and other fish that you should avoid altogether. Why? Because of their mercury content.
All fish contain a certain amount of mercury which you process as a toxin that eventually clears from your body. Light to moderate consumption of certain types of fish should pose no problem for you. As I counsel my patients, your risk of Hg (mercury) toxicity increases with the types and amounts of fish you consume.
Here’s a list I pass along to my patients from what the US EPA and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommend to decrease your mercury exposure from eating fish:
➢ Avoid shark, King mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, grouper, Marlin, orange roughy, lake bass, walleye – these have the highest levels of Hg.
➢ Limit white albacore tuna to 18 oz a month – it contains more Hg than light tuna.
➢ Limit saltwater bass, croaker, halibut, bluefin tuna, sea trout, Maine lobster to 18 oz a month. These have moderate levels of Hg.
➢ Limit Carp, Mahi-Mahi, crab, snapper, perch, cod, monkfish to 24 oz a month. These have lower levels of Hg.
➢ Shrimp, sardines, canned light tuna, wild Alaskan salmon, pollock, whitefish, and catfish, black cod – these have the lowest levels of Hg. You can enjoy up to 12 ounces a week.
Get The Most Benefit From Your Fish
If you stay within the guidelines recommended above for what types and how much fish to consume, you’ll be getting a lot of benefit out of your fish-eating experiences. However, there are several other things you can do to optimize the benefits of eating fish and to help neutralize some of the drawbacks of eating it:
➢ Add some fermented foods to your diet – things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, help remove toxins, like mercury, from your body through creating good gut bacteria.
➢ Adequate amounts of antioxidants like Vitamin C, E, and resveratrol – help prevent damaging oxidation effects of mercury.
➢ Add some natural chelators to your diet – things like garlic, selenium, cilantro, and chlorella. These substances bind to toxins like mercury and move them out of your body.
➢Adequate fiber intake– sweeps the colon clean and lessens levels of mercury accumulation.
➢ Supplement – you can get the good benefits of eating fish with none of the bad by taking Omega-3 fish oil supplements, like those that come from fish such as krill, which are abundant in these oils.
Eating a variety of fish is a delightful experience, which delivers a lot of health benefits. We need to follow the guidelines listed above, though, to avoid mercury toxicity, which can cause a multitude of health problems, including depression, kidney disease, fertility problems and Alzheimer’s. With a little common sense, however, we can still enjoy eating the seafood we love so much without concern of toxicity!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
Photo Credit: graur razvan ionut