Fish and seafood have a wide variety of health benefits. Yet, you want to be sure your seafood is safe to eat from contaminants and high levels of mercury, which can be dangerous to your health. Here’s a list of the fish never to eat and what you can eat instead to stay healthy.
Why eat fish?
Heart disease is a growing problem around the world. It’s estimated that 40% of deaths across the globe are due to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, angina, arterial diseases. An unhealthy diet, lack of physical exercise, and smoking all contribute to heart disease. The benefits of adding fish to your diet are huge. Fish is packed with fatty acids, vitamin D, iodine, selenium, all key to improved cardiovascular health.
Is it safe to eat fish?
Fish and seafood are a great source of protein and omega3s fatty acids, but because fish can contain mercury and other toxins, eating too much fish may not be good for you. You could avoid eating fish to avoid mercury contamination, but that isn’t the best health option. One study calculated that out of 100,000 people eating farm-raised salmon twice a week for 70 years, there were 24 deaths due to cancer, but 7,000 deaths from heart disease were prevented.
Plus, the amount of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB), a group of human-made chemicals of carbon, hydrogen, and chlorine atoms that are no longer made in the United States, but they’re still in some older products, is about the same in the meats, eggs, vegetables, and dairy products you buy. Surprisingly, most of today’s PCBs in the United States come from non-seafood sources.
So, because of all the health benefits of fish, just as you continue to eat vegetables, dairy, and meat, you should keep eating fish. One caution, though, is that if you eat local freshwater fish caught by family or friends, be sure to check with local authorities about the limit of fish to eat regarding contaminants in the area.
Which fish have the highest levels of mercury?
Eating fish is still a good health choice, depending upon what fish you choose since some fish contain higher mercury levels.
Here’s a list of thirteen fish never to eat (or to consume only moderately) since they are high in mercury.
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Ahi tuna
- Bigeye tuna
- Albacore tuna (not more than once a week)
- Bass (eat in moderation)
- Pike (eat in moderation)
- Muskellunge (eat in moderation)
- Walleye (eat in moderation)
Safeguards for eating fish
Fish is packed with amazing health benefits, but there are important practices to follow when you’re eating fish.
- Eat only 12 ounces of fish a week. This is around two meals a week. Choose tuna, catfish, salmon, and pollock since they are low mercury fish.
- Light canned tuna has less mercury than albacore tuna.
- Always check with your local authorities before eating freshwater fish caught by friends or family in lakes, rivers, or ponds. If you’re unsure, limit your consumption to no more than 6 ounces per week of this fresh-caught fish.
- Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and kids should eat fish only once a week, avoiding higher mercury.
Sadly, almost all types of fish are contaminated to some degree due to environmental pollutants. Despite this, don’t stop eating fish because the health benefits outweigh the risks of contamination. So limit your intake of fish to no more than twice a week.
What should I eat instead?
Don’t stop eating fish, but be picky about what fish you choose to eat. The best fish choices are those high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are fatty acids. DHA and EPA are two omega 3s fatty acids found in some fish. Fatty acids health benefits include
- Lower your triglycerides (bad cholesterol), which helps fight against heart disease
- Pain: Helps fight stiffness and joint pain.
- Depression: Can help curb depression
- Asthma: Eating a diet high in omega3 helps lower inflammation, which is involved in asthma.
- ADHD: May reduce symptoms of ADHD in kids.
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia: May protect from these diseases.
Seafood and fish
Here’s are several lists of the best Omega 3 rich fish and kinds of seafood.
High in omega 3s seafood products include the following:
- Atlantic mackerel
- Pacific chub mackerel
- Wild trout
- Wild and Alaskan salmon
Lower in omega 3s, but still healthy choices are these:
- Canned light tuna
- Atlantic croaker
- Sole (flatfish)
- Squid (wild)
What are the healthiest ways to prepare fish?
Once you purchase your seafood, there are many ways to prepare it. Here are the healthiest cooking options.
Steaming your fish keeps it moist and doesn’t add extra fat to the cooking process. If you have a steaming basket, you can use it to steam your fish. Set the fish in the basket and put it over the pot of boiling water. A thick fillet will probably take 15 minutes.
Broiling is another way to prepare your fish. Salmon is best for broiling since it has a lot of oil. Other oily fish that are good to broil include tuna, sea bass, and mackerel. Broil for 6 to 9 minutes for a medium and 12 minutes for well done.
Grilling is a direct heat method to prepare your fish. Grilling has its heat source underneath the fish rather than above like broiling, but it can still dry out your fish so choose the same oily fish for grilling as you do for broiling. To grill, marinate your fish in olive oil and lemon juice. Then grill it for 8 to 10 minutes per side, depending upon how the filet’s thickness.
Prepare your fish with olive oil, herbs, lemon, and a little kosher salt. Place on a parchment-lined pan and bake. A good rule of thumb is to bake the fish for 7 to 10 minutes per inch of its thickness.
Here are some interesting tips to help you choose seafood
Besides know the fish never to eat, don’t shop without knowing these things.
Is your seafood fresh or not?
The sign at the grocery said the fish is fresh, but do you really know if that’s true? Here’s a little test you can do yourself to check the freshness of your fresh fish. Fill a pot with cold water. Put your piece of fish in the water. If the fish floats to the top, your fish is fresh. It was probably caught recently. If it sinks, it’s not as fresh as the sign says.
Milk for your fish
If you want to thaw your fish and enhance the flavor, thaw it out in a dish of milk.
Steak versus sardines
If you’re comparing protein sources, eating just 100 grams of sardines has more protein than a seafood filet or steak that weighs the same amount.
If you eat a lot of fish, it can help fight the negative effects of the sodium you eat.
Tuna and halibut are the safest fish to eat if you compare which items have the least amount of bacteria.
Other foods high in omega 3s
Fish isn’t the only food source that contains omega 3s. Plants have alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) rather than EPA and DHA. Eating foods with ALA may not have the same health benefits, but studies show ALA can lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases, especially if you don’t eat omega 3s rich fish. Other sources of omega 3s include:
- Chia seeds
- Soybean oil
- Canola oils
- Hemp seeds
- Kidney beans
What about Omega 3 supplements?
Omega 3 oil supplements aren’t as good as eating fish, but if you don’t eat fish, you should probably take a supplement. Be sure you talk to your doctor before taking an Omega 3 supplement. They can react to other medications. There may be a few side effects such as
- Digestive problems: gas, diarrhea, and indigestion
- Bleeding: Omega 3 supplements can cause you to bleed if you cut yourself. People with a bleeding problem or who take medication that thins their blood shouldn’t take omega 3supplements. It’s okay to eat fish, though.
- Increase your blood sugar: Because Omega 3 stimulates the production of glucose, which causes high blood sugar.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Acid reflux: Many people have trouble taking Omega 3 supplements because it causes acid reflux. If you experience this, reduce the amount of omega-3 oils supplements you take every week.
So, should you take Omega 3 supplements? Yes, especially if you don’t eat fish or eat plants high in omega 3s.
There’s no doubt about it. Fish is super healthy. Of course, all fish have some contamination, mostly due to environmental pollutants like PCBs and mercury. But there are some types of fish that don’t have as much mercury, so they’re okay to eat. Be aware of the fish you should never eat because of their high levels of mercury.
Generally, it’s thought that eating a fish high in omega 3s twice a week is best. Omega 3s help fight your risk of cardiovascular diseases such as strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and arteriosclerosis, which is also called hardening.
If you hate fish, you can take an Omega 3 supplement if your doctor gives you the okay. Plus, you can add plants, seeds and nuts, and plant oils in your diet to give your ALA omega 3s.