3 Reasons Why You Should Stop Being Scared of Eating Fish
If you can read this, thank your seafood-eating ancestors.
Researchers say that foods from the sea–fish and shellfish–were crucial to the evolution of the human brain. Seafood boosted the brain power of early humans and resulted in the large brains we have today.
Seafood is rich in DHA, the most abundant fat found in the brain. This omega-3 fatty acid has been shown to be essential for good health, both mentally and physically.
Unfortunately, toxic pollutants have severely affected our most precious food source. This is cause for concern, but should by no means prompt you to remove fish from your diet completely.
Mercury Levels Depend on What Kind of Fish You’re Eating
Once mercury is released into the environment, it travels from the rain into lakes and oceans. Microorganisms convert the mercury into methylmercury. Fish and other underwater creatures eat these microorganisms, storing the toxic substance into their tissues.
Large predators that live for longer time spans store the greatest amounts of methylmercury. These species include shark and swordfish. Studies that found high levels of mercury discovered them in people whose diets consisted mainly of pilot whale, which fits into this high-methylmercury category.
Levels are a bit lower in medium-sized predators, like trout and snapper. Salmon is low in methylmercury because it has a short lifespan; shrimp and clams also have low levels because they are small.
Methylmercury levels are also affected by a fish’s selenium content. This trace mineral has been shown to reduce methylmercury toxicity by counteracting the heavy metal’s damaging effects. Salmon and tuna are two examples of high-selenium, low-mercury fish.
Just Two Servings of Fish Each Week Can Dramatically Decrease Your Risk of Heart Disease and Depression
Selenium’s health benefits go beyond protecting you against methylmercury toxicity. This trace mineral helps protect your body against cardiovascular disease and improves heart function.
Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are also associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Even countries that consume fish with high levels of methylmercury have been found to enjoy better heart health. It has been estimated that the benefits of the regular consumption of fish far outweigh its risks.
Countries that regularly include seafood in their diets enjoy lower rates of depression than those consuming much less. An increase in DHA levels often helps to alleviate symptoms of depression.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Dioxin Contamination Risks are Slight
PCB and dioxin levels have been decreasing for the past 40 years, but they are still present within our environment. Fish and other forms of seafood are usually considered to be the worst offenders when it comes to these pollutants, but meats, dairy products, and vegetables are even worse.
Freshwater fish caught in lakes, rivers, and streams usually contain higher levels of PCBs and dioxin as well. The levels of contamination vary, so contact local authorities to learn about your area’s levels. Ocean fish are usually much lower in pollutants, and safer to eat on a regular basis.
Concern surrounding these toxic chemicals in fish is based on the fact that the pollutants have been shown to cause cancer. It has been estimated that the cancer risk for eating farmed salmon is 24 deaths per 100,000 people; the risk for eating wild-caught salmon is estimated to be eight for every 100,000.
On the other hand, it has also been estimated that over 7,000 people out of 100,000 are saved from heart disease in a lifetime simply by including fish in their diets. These numbers demonstrate that seafood’s tremendous benefit for heart health far exceeds a slight cancer risk from environmental toxins.
Pollutants end up in the food supply, and that is something everyone should be concerned about. If you keep fish out of your diet in order to stay away from its toxins, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. Eat low-mercury, high selenium fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines regularly for positive health benefits.
Seafood has played a major role in making the human brain what it is today. Enjoy it for your good health, both physically and mentally.
- Myers, G., P. Davidson, C. Cox, C. Shamlaye, D. Palumbo, E. Cernichiari, J. Sloanereeves, G. Wilding, J. Kost, and L. Huang. “Prenatal Methylmercury Exposure from Ocean Fish Consumption in the Seychelles Child Development Study.” The Lancet 361.9370 (2003): 1686-692. Print.
- Kaneko, J. John, and Nicholas V. C. Ralston. “Selenium and Mercury in Pelagic Fish in the Central North Pacific Near Hawaii.” Biological Trace Element Research 119.3 (2007): 242-54. Print.
- “The Human Brain – Fats.” The Franklin Institute. The Franklin Institute, 2004. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.
- Crawford, M. A., M. Bloom, C. L. Broadhurst, W. F. Schmidt, S. C. Cunnane, C. Galli, K. Gehbremeskel, F. Linseisen, J. Lloyd-Smith, and J. Parkington. “Evidence for the Unique Function of Docosahexaenoic Acid during the Evolution of the Modern Hominid Brain.” Lipids 34.S1 (1999): S39-47. Print.