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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fish is actually good advice…, but unfortunately still too many people have the misconceptions that are kind of the outdated ideas, and we’re trying hard to get everybody on board so that they understand this and have a unified message so more and more of the people that formerly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.
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.
You can carry a pocket guide. Download guides that are state-specific from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.
A list of recommended resources to help you choose your seafood wisely include the following links:
- Seafood Watch
- Fishwatch.gov – Great general information on wild and farm-raised seafood.
- For Hawaiian seafood that’s recommended, go here.
- Healthy Oceans Seafood Guide – Wild-caught seafood ratings.
- Ocean-Friendly Substitutes – This is one of my favorite and one of the most important links, sustainable substitutes for many commonly used unsustainably-harvested species.
- Green Chefs/Blue Ocean – A free online course for chefs & culinary students!
- Seafood Advice for Medical Professionals
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.
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.