Is It Safe to Eat Seafood?

WHICH SEAFOOD IS SAFE TO BUY, HOW TO EAT MORE FISH, & RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

I may receive a commission if you purchase through links in this post. I am not a doctor; please consult your practitioner before changing your supplement or healthcare regimen.

Dr. Nicholas Ralston, special guest of well-respected alternative practitioner Chris Kresser, has revealed some important studies that reliably de-myth most Americans’ concern about eating too much ocean fish. He illuminates the fact that it is not so much the quantity of mercury we should be concerned with, but the ratio of selenium to mercury in the fish we’re eating and in our own diets. Mercury binds to selenium and is excreted from the body as a result. If there is more selenium than mercury in a fish the mercury will be excreted.

The main “fish” to avoid are actually whales, sharks, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel.  Notice tuna is not on the list.  It has a higher ratio of selenium to mercury, by a lot, and is actually recommended.

Eating more fish is actually good advice…, but unfortunately still too many people have the misconceptions that are kind of the outdated ideas, and we’re trying hard to get everybody on board so that they understand this and have a unified message so more and more of the people that formerly were arguing, Oh no, fish has to be avoided, are coming around and saying, Oh, no, actually ocean fish need to be eaten in greater amounts. (source)

The Energy and Environmental Research Center says,

Fish are … packed with nutrients: omega-3s, vitamins, high-quality protein, and minerals including selenium. It is essential for our health that we understand the real risks of avoiding fish versus the potential risk of mercury exposure from eating fish. Since ocean fish are excellent sources of selenium, they provide nutrients without repercussions from mercury exposure.

TO READ THE REMAINDER OF THIS ARTICLE, HEAD OVER TO FOOD RENEGADE where I discuss all the issues that surround the safety of fish consumption: not only mercury but radiation from the Japanese nuclear explosion, farm-raised fish (aquaculture practices) and fisheries (the activities that go into catching seafood in the wild).

For a more detailed understanding of selenium and mercury read Raine Saunders’ article for Nourishing Our Children.

For recommended resources, scroll down.

Is It Safe to Eat Seafood?

 

Here are several recommended resources if you want to determine which seafood is safe to eat.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch puts out a list, updated on their website, of the fish they recommend based on the following criteria: low levels of PCBs and mercury, those classified as Seafood Watch “Best Choice” for overall sustainability practices and the daily minimum of omega-3s.

Blue Ocean Institute and Seafood Watch both offer up-to-date online search engines.

You can carry a pocket guide. Download guides that are state-specific from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

Or you can utilize the latest in phone apps!

A list of recommended resources to help you choose your seafood wisely include the following links:

Personally, we love our local fish monger. They have two great little shops where they post their sourcing in front of each item. It’s easy for me to take their information and input it into the search engines on my phone. And, thankfully, the fish monger buys with a conscience too. I often end up with local, wild fish that are less well-known, like Oregon perch or sand dabs! It makes dinner fun and adventurous.

Although fresh salmon is delicious, I am not one to get stuck in a food rut. And this benefits local fishermen who need to have a broader net, so to speak, as well as the fish, that we need to show caution toward, not over-fishing one variety.

The main “fish” to avoid are actually whales, sharks, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. Notice tuna is not on the list. It has a higher ratio of selenium to mercury, by a lot, and is actually recommended. Eating more fish is actually good advice..., but unfortunately still too many people have the misconceptions that are kind of the outdated ideas, and we’re trying hard to get everybody on board so that they understand this and have a unified message so more and more of the people that formerly were arguing, Oh no, fish has to be avoided, are coming around and saying, Oh, no, actually ocean fish need to be eaten in greater amounts.

Vacuum packed tuna

I also like vacuum packed “canned” fish, a new trend among consumers and a few producers, who rightfully claim that the lower temperature processing of this kind of packaging protects the nutrients in the fish. And we buy regular, wild canned salmon, sardines and tuna too– so convenient and we enjoy it.

Regarding frozen fish sold at grocery stores, again, just type the kind of fish and where it came from into the search engine provided by Seafood Watch and you will quickly learn if it’s a good choice or not.

I hope this topic of research has helped you to better know what to buy and eat.

Comments 14

  1. I am so excited to hear this and will go over to read Raine’s article as well. I love fish and all seafood, in fact. Have been attempting to balance wild fresh water with wild ocean fish.. not too much.. just enough.. etc.
    So.. Maybe it’s answered in Raine’s article, but I’ll ask..
    Can we also help the mercury ‘movement’ by supplementing with selenium?

    1. Carol, are you referring to having too much mercury in your body already and wanting to supplement with selenium to help with its excretion? Great question and I don’t know the answer. I’ll have to look into it. Thanks for bringing that up!

        1. Aw, well the mercury within the fish is already chelated by the selenium in the fish itself, in most cases– minus the sharks, swordfish etc that I mention. Good to know about the cilantro!

  2. Very interesting! We eat mostly halibut and wild caught salmon and I did;t see those mentioned. I have worried about mercury since my doctor told me mine was high and completely cut out fish for a while because of it. Aye, aye, aye sometimes it’s all so confusing!

    1. Linda, thanks for mentioning those specifics. Regarding halibut, it is important to know which waters it comes from– from the Atlantic, no, they are going extinct on that side of the nation! Fishermen are only allowed to bring in one each! From the Pacific, okay and good! If you read the FR article if gives links to which companies update seafood watch info regularly! I’ll add the link above so it’s easily accessible from my page too, less clicking around to get what you’re after! I hope this issue is less confusing after reading my posts. I can see why hearing that from your doctor would make you very concerned and confused! Wild caught salmon is great. Farmed salmon is not. Reading the Food Renegade article tells all this, if you’re interested in reading all the information I have written on the topic. This page is just an introduction to the fuller article…

  3. Well, of course I had to read this one because my husband is a fisherman. 😉
    Luckily, here in the Mediterranean, most fish that he catches are small fish that don’t have high levels of mercury.
    I’m still working on getting more information about some of the other seafood, though, because seafood like the shrimp and crabs he catches are bottom dwellers, and I’ve heard that they can pick up a lot of other heavy metals apart from mercury. I’m not avoiding them, but am more conscientious about how often I eat certain parts of them…
    For example, in the US most people don’t eat the heads of shrimp, but here in Spain one would never reject at least cooking with the most flavorful part of them. Unfortunately it is also the part that accumulates the highest levels of heavy metals.
    Sadly, it’s hard to find information about specific breeds and regions here.

    1. Thanks, Tracy, for your insights. That is one area I really didn’t discuss either, bottom dwellers. I need to do that. Yes, when I worked at a sushi restaurant the shrimp heads were well loved by customers. More for me to learn on that subject…

  4. I appreciate this discussion and we do try to eat more seafood. I read so much conflicting information that it is hard to know what to believe…

  5. Thank you for this information. I agree it seems completely like the rest of our food…we have to be educated on where and what kind to eat. I have had an allergy to fish since in my mother’s womb, but now I can eat! The doctors always said it was the mercury. Thanks for laying out this article! The benefits noted in your full article are the reasons why I felt compelled to try. Here’s how I overcame the allergy, http://www.fosteringnutrition.com/overcoming-a-fish-allergy/

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