Nutrition Articles

Best and Worst Fish Choices

A Guide for a Healthy Body & Planet

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General Fish Guidelines for Health
Considering all of the nutritional, contamination and environmental concerns that surround fish, it's easy to see why adding more fish to your plate can be confusing. Based on the research and information currently available on all of these issues, here are my nutritional recommendations regarding fish:
  • Pregnant women, women trying to conceive and families with young children should follow the EPA/FDA fish consumption guidelines.
     
  • Other adults should simply eat fish. The data shows that the health benefits of eating several 3- to 4-oz. (cooked) servings weekly outweighs the risks of ingesting contaminants in fish.
     
  • Eat a variety of fish species and be sure to include smaller-sized fish in your selections, for they contain a lesser amount of contaminants.  Examples include:  catfish, cod, haddock, Atlantic mackerel, ocean perch, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, and whitefish. 
     
  • If you are mostly vegetarian or a pescetarian (a person who relies on fish as your primary protein source), most of the fish you eat should have a ''lower level of mercury'' as indicated in this chart from the FDA.
     
  • If you are an angler, check with the local authorities for contaminant levels where you fish.  Limit your consumption if those levels are high.
     
  • When purchasing fish, check with your grocery store or supplier to assure that they are selling only sustainable fish and seafood products.  
 
Within the field of food, nutrition, and health it is easy for consumers to get mixed messages that result in confusion and frustration.  Sensationalism sells and the fear of harm often overshadows the science of health benefits. However, by following the steps above, you can easily develop your own individualized plan for fish consumption that will allow you to reap the health benefits while decreasing your risk of ingesting contaminants.
 

Sources
 
Environmental Defense Fund. ''Complete List of Seafood Eco-Ratings,'' accessed April 2012. http://apps.edf.org.
 
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. ''Seafood Recommendations,'' accessed April 2012. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org.
 
United States Environmental Protection Agency. ''What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish,'' accessed April 2012. http://water.epa.gov.
 
United States Environmental Protection Agency. ''Advisories Where You Live,'' accessed April 2012. http://water.epa.gov.
 
United States Food and Drug Administration. ''Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2010),'' accessed April 2012. http://www.fda.gov.
 

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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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