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Casting Your Net On Seafood Safety

Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?
  -- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
Take heart, fish lovers! While the safety issues surrounding the consumption of fish are legitimate, don’t let them spoil your seafood catch.

The Benefits
There are many health benefits from eating seafood. It is an exceptional source of high quality protein and essential vitamins and minerals, but is generally low in calories, saturated fat and sodium. Many varieties of fish contain the very beneficial polyunsaturated fat called Omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight heart disease and stroke by lowering blood pressure and triglycerides. New research is beginning to show that these healthy fats may also reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, asthma and colitis, as well as help treat depression and bipolar disease.

The Dangers
For most individuals, commercial fish and recreationally caught fish are safe to eat. However, many fish contain varying levels of substances that are thought to be toxic to the body. These substances include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and methylmercury (MeHg).
Guidelines for Those at Risk 
While most fish are safe to eat, consumption of some types of fish may present serious health concerns for women who might become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children. Therefore, the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Environmental Protection Agency have issued the following guidelines for these individuals. By following these guidelines, these women and young children can receive the benefits of eating fish and shellfish, yet reduce their exposure to the harmful toxins: General Guidelines for Others 
Don’t be scared away from the vast fish and seafood smorgasbord. Indeed, nothing in life is risk-free. Limit the "big fish" (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish), enjoy tuna in moderation, and watch for local fish advisories. Reel in and enjoy the rest, for you can’t beat the taste and healthy benefits!