Should I Worry About Regular Fish Consumption?

Emily

Hi there! We are knee deep in summer and these sunny days have me smiling from ear to ear. For me, summertime isn’t just about the warm weather, for me it’s also about the experiences and of course, the food! Growing up, a typical evening was spent out on the lake fishing. Even though I only tolerated fish with a half a cup of tartar sauce, I loved spending time with family and soaking up that summer sunshine.

Now, my flavor preferences have changed and I LOVE fish and other seafood, and because I am a dietitian, I also LOVE the health benefits! These types of foods are great sources of lean protein and healthy fats (like omega-3s!). Although fish and shellfish are nutritious, some fish contain higher levels of mercury than others. Methylmercury (often referred to as mercury) found in fish, can negatively affect the nervous system and growth and development of the brain if a person is exposed to too much over time.

Most people don’t have to worry about the health risk of eating contaminated fish and shellfish. However, some populations such as children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, the elderly, and those who consume large amounts of seafood are at a greater health risk than others for mercury toxicity. To better understand how much you should eat, let’s talk about recommendations for these populations.

  • Children
    • Fish and shellfish are an excellent part of a healthful and nutritious diet for children. These foods contain high quality protein, iron, zinc, and many B vitamins important for children as they are continuously growing!
    • Recommendation: eat 2 to 3 servings (about 4-6 ounces) of low-mercury fish and shellfish per week.
  • Women who may become pregnant, pregnant and nursing women
    • Nutrients such as omega-3s in fish are incredibly important for the growth and development of babies before birth and for breast fed infants.
    • Recommendation: eat 2 to 3 servings (about 8-12 ounces) of low-mercury fish and shellfish per week.
  • Elderly
    • Those with an underlying health condition or those who are elderly are at risk for adverse health effects due to greater inability to remove contaminants from their system.
    • Recommendation: pay attention to the types of fish you consume. Try including low-mercury fish in your diet over those that should be limited or avoided.
  • Frequent Fish and Shellfish Consumers
    • Eating significant amounts of fish and shellfish puts a person at risk for potential mercury build up in the body overtime, especially if high-mercury containing fish is eaten often.
    • Recommendation: pay attention to the types of fish you consume. Try including low-mercury fish in your diet over those that should be limited or avoided.

Wondering what types of fish are safe and those that are “off-limits”? Check out the list below!
Have more questions or just looking for further information, find out more here or here.

Emily Parent, RD, LD
Coborn’s Registered Dietitian

Eat Healthy Shop Smart With Emily www.cobornsblog.com

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