The Fish You Can Eat, The Fish You Should Definitely Avoid: An Update

Posted March 27, 2008. There have been 23 comments

Fish has heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, the fatty acid that nourishes your brain. But mercury poisoning, toxins and preservatives have scared many people away from eating fish. Here's what you need to know to eat fish and stay healthy.

Even if you're a vegetarian, Body Ecology recommends eating fish about three times a week because fish has medicinal, grounding and strengthening properties. In general, fish is a great protein substitute for other meats because it is low in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and that's not all:

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have been linked to1:

  • lower blood pressure
  • lower heart rate
  • lower risk of death from heart disease
  • lower risk for stroke
  • lower risk for depression
  • lower risk for some cancers

Fish consumption is especially important for women who are pregnant or want to have a baby because it provides the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, which encourages healthy brain development of babies.2

But fish are sadly said to be on the "Do Not Eat List" because of the concern over mercury.

Also, you've probably heard some of the warnings and reports about overharvesting wild fish species and the water pollution caused by commercial fish farms.

Here's what you need to know about fish to make sure that you're getting fish that improves your health instead of harming it.

Mercury Poisoning and Other Toxins

Mercury poisoning is still a concern when it comes to fish consumption, but there are ways to mitigate this risk.To reduce the risk of mercury contamination, avoid eating swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel altogether. Limit your intake of white tuna (also known as albacore) to less than 6 ounces per week.

Shellfish can also be full of toxins because they are scavengers and feed on industrial deposits, sewage, and the waste of other fish, filtering it through their bodies. Avoid clams, lobsters, oysters, shrimp and scallops if you want to avoid excess toxins from shellfish.

But should women who are pregnant, nursing, or who want to have a baby, along with children under 12, be especially mindful to avoid eating fish?

Yes, certainly they should avoid the fish that might have high levels of mercury but at Body Ecology we have a solution. If you have ever seen a photo or news report on the oil spills that have occurred occasionally on the ocean, you know it is a horrible gooey mess. Microflora are used to clean up the oil spills. They are also used commercially to clean up toxic waste sites around chemical factories. (Be sure to read "How Microbes are Used to Clean Up Toxic Waste - and How to Put Them to Use for De-Toxifying YOU.") Clearly then we can use the microflora in fermented foods to help us through these toxic times.

Preservatives

Preservatives are another concern when it comes to purchasing your fish.
Many fish are sprayed with preservatives like polyphosphates, sulfites, sodium benzoate, and polytrisorbate to control mold, yeast, and bacteria and to make them appear appetizing. The FDA allows these preservatives, but they don't have to appear on the labels of the fish you buy.3

The long-term health effects of consuming these preservatives are unknown, so it's best to avoid suppliers who use these preservatives. One guideline is that warm water fish (like Orange Roughy) are more likely to have preservatives than coldwater fish.
Otherwise, use your judgment and know your supplier to make sure that you're getting high quality fish without preservatives.

Wild Fish vs. Farmed Fish

You have probably heard the debate and are wondering, "Do I choose wild fish or farm raised fish?"

When it comes to your health, we recommend wild caught fish, and here's why: Farm raised fish generally have the same level of omega-3 fatty acids as wild fish, but when it comes to fat and calories, the farm raised fish have more.4

Because farm raised fish don't have lots of room to swim and are prone to disease, they are often given antibiotics as well as commercial dyes to give them a healthy color. Even the feed they are given may have toxins that are passed on to the consumer.5

While farm raised fish often costs less than their wild caught counter parts, the health risks and lack of flavor truly don't merit buying such an inferior product. Having said this, however, there are many aqua-culturists that operate responsibly and you can eat the fish from these farms without sacrificing your health or that of the planet.

Fish To Eat

Now that you know more about fish, here are our recommendations for the healthiest fish on the market.

Omega-3 Rich Fish to Eat:
  • Salmon
  • Halibut
  • Tuna
  • Cod
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
Fish To Avoid
  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Tilefish
  • King mackerel
  • White (albacore) tuna
  • Warm water fish like orange roughy
  • Shellfish like clams, lobsters, oysters, shrimp and scallops
  • Fish whose color has been preserved with dyes
  • Farmed fish (unless from a responsible aqua-culturists)

Fish: A Great Source of Protein

Fish is an excellent source of animal protein and in fact, a preferred source of animal protein on the Body Ecology program. Everyone seems to do well on fish and it is easier to digest.

So how do you find the best fish for your health?

One of our favorite sources of heart-healthy, wild fish that is free of heavy contaminants and fished from sustainable, wild fisheries is Vital Choice. What we love most about Vital Choice is their high quality wild fish that is delivered right to your door. In an age when everyone is already so busy, it's helpful to have convenient options to help us stay healthy. How convenient is that!

Fish has heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, the fatty acid that nourishes your brain. But mercury poisoning, toxins and preservatives have scared many people away from eating fish. Here's what you need to know to eat fish and stay healthy.

Benefits Outweigh Risks

Fish really is an ideal protein, and the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risks...when you choose the right fish...and especially if you are on a pro-biotic diet. One study found that eating fish twice weekly is equivalent to taking a daily fish oil supplement!6

Keep these guidelines in mind when you shop for fish and you'll reap the heart healthy benefits of fish without the risks. And if you have not already done so...add at least one fermented food to your diet especially when you eat a serving of your favorite fish.

Sources:

  1. Eating Fish: Health Benefits and Risks, JAMA, 18 Oct 2006. http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/296/15/1926
  2. ibid.
  3. Foulke, Judith, "A Fresh Look at Food Preservatives," US Food and Drug Administration, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fdpreser.html
  4. Fish FAQ: The merits and hazards of eating fish, MayoClinic.com.
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/NU00292
  5. Wild vs. Farm or Ocean Raised Fish, DeliciousOrganics.
    http://www.deliciousorganics.com/Controversies/wildvsfarmfish.htm
  6. WHFoods.org. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=95#healthbenefits
  7. Squires, Sally, "Benefits of Fish Exceed Risks, Study Says,"WashingtonPost.com, 18 Oct 2006. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/17/AR2006101700475.html

Post Categories: General Health

23 Comments

  • In Portugal king macherel is a delicatess and no one has died eating it for centuriest. You are wrong too when you put sword-fish in the fish-to-avoid list. It is delicious.

    Posted on Sep 3 at 3:48 pm

  • This was very helpful,thanks so much.

    Posted on Aug 8 at 9:19 am

  • What about snapper

    Posted on Jun 18 at 3:23 am

  • And how to you know the fish farms are--responsible?

    Posted on Mar 23 at 9:56 am

  • can you still take omega 3

    Posted on Sep 4 at 4:45 pm

  • There are so many things in this world in this day in age that are unhealthy for you, however I believe they are only unhealthy if you don't go by the "rule" everything in moderation. I enjoy Swordfish very much, it's a nice solid filling fish, however it is not a fish that I would eat more than once a week. Also Orange Roughy is a nice mild flavored fish however I'd eat it in moderation as well. I say this after reading several articles on fish with higher mercury levels. I was wondering if anyone knows about these fish: Cobia, Grouper, Flounder, Wolf fish, Monk fish, and there's a really good fish that comes from the waters around Australia it's called Barramudi I had it in Houston's in N.Y. when I was visiting my sister, we were both very impressed, I'd like to know if this is considered fish to eat or not to eat. Again if it's listed as a not to eat then I'd eat it in moderation. This article made a lot of sense regarding farm raise fish as apposed to wild fish. In the past I use to get farm raised thinking it was better for you, but it really isn't, from know on I will go for the wild fish unless it's through one of the responsible aqua-culturist, which is when research comes into play. Anyway if anyone has the answers to the fish I've listed as to whether their a better fish to eat as appose to those that are not the best to eat I'd appreciate hearing from you. Also we must remember this is coming from those who are promoting a Pro-biotic Diet, which I have not fully researched as of yet but I'm sure there's a lot of don't with all food groups. Thanks, Barbara

    Posted on Aug 24 at 4:08 am

  • Gee Lauren, looks like you got caught with your pants down. Ignorance is running rampant about the conversation here. This article is about " how to" not so much as " you got to ". Hey if you like fish pay attention to the idea of which ones are the right ones to eat and the wrong ones to eat... As the say in the Navy.... "THAT IS ALL!!". See ya!

    Posted on Jul 20 at 8:47 am

  • I have heard that too about the tuna, I think that anything that is raised by humans on a large scale is full of chemicals, including our water systems etc.... So basically everything we eat has something wrong with it. I have a pet pig and I do not like the way animals are treated in the farming industry because that is animal cruelty, especially to pigs!! However pigs are omnivores and my pig eats meat and always will she loves it and it is part of her natural diet...except for pork...obviously. I limit my meat intake because too much meat is bad...too much of anything is bad, regardless of how we get it. I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion though...as far as fish goes...with all of the contamination caused by humans in the lakes/oceans??? who really can say what is better, don't forget humans get paid to print what they are told!!

    Posted on May 23 at 12:35 pm

  • If people want to be vegans or worship space aliens then that's there prerogative, but I will not tolerate those same people criticizing myself or other's because we choose NOT to follow their extremism! It's a FREE country, though if these extremist's had their way they would force other's to abide by their extremist views. All I can say about eating fish is this, if it's good enough for Jesus Christ then it's definitely good enough for me! Adieu

    Posted on Feb 23 at 2:53 pm

  • Hey Lauren, Julia is in the 4th grade. You owe her an apology.

    Posted on Feb 5 at 6:08 am

  • This article is totally flawed, its more on the side of scaremongering than anything else.

    Regards, Chris

    Marine Biologist and BS in fisheries Science

    Posted on Oct 11 at 2:44 am

  • Just want to clear something up. Dr. Atkins DID NOT die of a heart attack. He slipped and fell on ice during the winter of 2003. You can find that info almost anywhere online. to say that the atkins diet is unhealthy is false. I've done it eating mostly salads, baked chicken and baked fish. How are these items not healthy? Just because you CAN eat bacon on the diet does not mean that is the ONLY thing we eat. Do your homework.

    Posted on Jun 8 at 9:26 pm

  • Julia has gone off on some sort of tangent about smoking. It has nothing to do with fish.

    Posted on Jun 7 at 6:31 pm

  • Lauren do be so condescending by attacking Julia's grammar, She had an opinion and chose to share it. Just want to add that the inventor of the Atkins diet died of a heart attack so it isn't that healthy !.

    Posted on Apr 16 at 1:10 pm

  • @Lauren....i think you're lacking good root. Wanna hook up? Forget about GRAMMAR not ER and fishes let's swim like fishes and root like em'?

    Posted on Feb 20 at 6:21 pm

  • Ok Lauren, Julia is ignorant becuase of her perception of eating fish as a cruel act, yet in nowway do you actually address why you think she is ignorant. Eating fish is as unethical as eating any other living creature and the moral standards of fish culling are FAR worse than the animal killing industry(for the most part). All i'm saying is if you think just becuase something is good for you, it still doesn't make it ok, thus Julia is not ignorant, you clearly are. I think if you want to get your point across in future you should be more aware of your own grammer and construction of prose before criticising another.

    Posted on Dec 7 at 4:13 am

  • First of all.. Julia, you're ignorant! You think if people eat fish, they are cruel? Fish is very good for you. That's why they keep selling it. Secondly, please try to work on your grammer and spelling before you jump on here and make an ass of yourself like you have already done. It's really not that impressive to talk/type as if you only have a 5th grade education. Last but not least, you couldn't possibly compare eating meat to smoking. Atkins is one of the healthiest diets (lifestyle changes) out there, and it includes mostly all meat and vegetables with an outcome of positive health effects. Not to mention, newsflash! Do you honestly think that people who smoke don't know that it can kill them? Geez! Anyways, didn't mean to "affend" (offend) you. Just figured that you might like to know that you are seriously misinformed. Quite frankly, it's pretty sad.

    Posted on Dec 6 at 10:20 pm

  • you know i really hate all meat its stupid why people keep bying cigars because there are over 4,000 poisons in t hem and people keep bying them because there adictive. for all you smokers out there im sorry ig=f this affends you and you should really read the labels on the packets and they will say like that it causes moth cancer and you can die from smoking

    Posted on Nov 17 at 6:12 pm

  • i think that if you eat fish you are cruel i mean its your oiwn didition but i dont think its exeptable if your supposed to stay away from a bunch of fish ehy do they keep selling it? its like cigars if its bad and theres over 4,000 piosons in stop selling it but guess why the goverment keeps selling it? for moneyand if you smoke read the small labels they can kill you

    Posted on Nov 17 at 6:07 pm

  • I don't see crab mentioned anyway. I spend half the year in Newport, Oregon, the Dungeoness Crab capital, and I go down to the bay and catch tons of them. In other words, I eat massive amounts of crab... i was wondering whats known about Crab from the Oregon Coast and what health benefits/risks there are.

    Posted on Nov 6 at 9:52 am

  • You can also eat muscles

    Posted on Oct 17 at 5:21 am

  • I like to go deep sea fishing my main concern is the fish such as blacksea bass,redsnapper,pavilion,triggerfish&grouper?

    Posted on Jun 10 at 5:31 am

  • You list Tuna as a "Fish To Eat" and also as a "Fish to avoid". Although you do mention Albacore Tuna is a Fish to avoid. So my question is, "What type of Tuna is good for you?" And why is Albacore bad for you? I read that Albacore was really good for you in Muscle & Fitness Magazine.

    Posted on May 10 at 9:54 pm

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