What Are the Safest Fish to Eat?

What Are the Safest Fish to Eat?

Kristie Leong M.D., Yahoo! Contributor Network
Jan 21, 2010

It seems every time you open a health related magazine an article pops up about the health benefits and risks of eating fish. It’s true that fatty fish such as salmon is high in protein and rich in heart healthy fatty acids, but they can also be a source of things you don’t want such as mercury and cancer causing contaminants such as PCB’s and dioxins. This presents a real dilemma. Should you or shouldn’t you eat fish; and what are the safest fish to eat?

Are Fish Oil Supplements the Best Option?
Some people choose to take a fish oil supplement instead of eating fish. This may be a good option for people who don’t enjoy the taste of fish or don’t have time to prepare it. Most fish oil supplements that come from reputable companies are purified through a distillation process that removes most impurities. You can even buy pharmaceutical grade fish oils that undergo the most extensive purification process available. These ultra-pure fish oils have extremely low levels of contaminants, but also cost more. If you’re taking larger doses for medical problems such as an elevated triglyceride level, it may be worth the extra money to minimize exposure to contaminants.
How Do You Choose the Safest Fish?
Some people still want to get their fish oils naturally – so the key is to choose the safest fish that are as low in contaminants as possible. The factors that determine the safest fish to eat are two – its size and how far up they are on the food chain. Larger fish that are higher in the food chain feast upon many smaller fish that each may have accumulated very small amounts of contaminants such as mercury. Over time, these large fish can build up higher amounts of mercury and other impurities from the many small fish they eat. This means you should avoid eating large fish such as shark, walleye, pike, sea bass, swordfish, King mackerel, largemouth bass, tuna, tilefish, marlin, halibut, and Atlantic halibut.
What About Salmon?
The other type of fish to avoid if you want only the safest fish is farm raised salmon. Most people have heard that salmon is good for you – and it is. It’s a rich source of omega-3’s; but farm raised salmon is high in dioxins – contaminants that are believed to cause cancer. The key to getting the health benefits of salmon safely is to buy only wild caught Alaskan salmon. It can be hard-to-find fresh, but is readily available in cans at most grocery stores. Read the label carefully to make sure any salmon you buy was caught in the wild.
Small is Better
The safest fish to eat are smaller ones. Good choices are anchovies and sardines. Other low mercury fish include crawfish, scallops, tilapia, Pacific flounder, crab, shrimp, summer flounder, haddock, sole, whitefish, and croaker. Not all fish are equally high in omega-3’s. Two excellent choices that are both low in contaminants and high in omega-3’s is wild caught Alaskan salmon and sardines.
The Safest Fish: The Bottom Line?
Choose the safest fish to get your omega-3’s or talk to your doctor about fish oil capsules. The mercury and contaminants will add up over the years and could lead to future health problems if you choose the wrong fish.
References: Environmental Working Group website

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