For years Doctors and Health Officials have been telling us to eat fish because of the health benefits associated with it.  Fish and other varieties of seafood are rich in Omega-3’s, is high in protein and low in fat.  Fish and the vitamin supplement fish oil have proven in studies to lower the risk of heart disease, yet in recent years there has been speculation that eating too much fish can make you sick.  It turns out it isn’t speculation at all.  Recent studies have found that eating too much fish can result in Mercury poisoning.  No need to panic, while those studies showed it was possible, they also showed it wasn’t extremely likely.  Like anything in your diet, it all comes down to balance. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Recommend:

For Women who are Nursing, Pregnant, Want to become pregnant and Children:

•Don’t eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish (sometimes called golden bass or golden snapper) because they contain high levels of mercury.

•Eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish are low-mercury fish. Albacore (“white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So limit your intake of albacore tuna to once a week.

•Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don’t consume any other fish during that week.

For the rest of the Population:

•Eat 2-3 servings of fish per week.  (That includes Sushi!)

If you follow the guidelines above, the risk of getting Mercury Poisoning is extremely minimal.  The health benefits of eating fish are far greater than the risks.  If you absolutely hate fish, you can find Omega-3’s in a variety of other foods like flaxseed and Omega-3 enriched eggs.  Smart Balance just came out with Omega-3 enriched peanut butter, available in markets now!

***Information obtained from Harvard School of Public Health

-Jana Gersten

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