Is Eating Seafood Good or Bad?

Seafood is a great low-fat, high-quality protein.  It’s filled with valuable Omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins such as D and B2, and is rich in calcium and minerals like iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.  Unfortunately, research over the last few years has alerted consumers to a few concerns.  Primarily that harmful substances such as mercury, DDTs, PCBs, pesticides, and other chemicals can accumulate in some fish.  This has left many people hesitating as to whether or not to keep fish in their diet.  My answer is an emphatic yes!

The American Heart Association recommends we eat seafood twice a week as part of a healthy diet.  Seafood has been found to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.  Two main studies by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Institute of Medicine have confirmed that the health benefits of eating seafood regularly outweigh the dangers from mercury and other contaminants even for pregnant women and children.  It was found that in adults, the death rate for those that suffer from heart disease was 36 percent lower in adults that ate fish twice and week compared to those who ate little to no seafood.  That’s definitely a benefit that cannot be overlooked!  

This is a great example of where you need to weigh the benefits with the risks and put everything in perspective.  No question, harmful substances can accumulate in some seafood and that can be risky for certain groups of people, but I want you to know that’s the exception, not the norm.  The key is to maintain a diet that has a lot of variety when it comes to seafood and to select products that are considered relatively safe.  In other words, don’t eat a diet filled with only one or two types of seafood. 

When it comes to mercury, the worst offenders are tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.  Tuna and tuna steak are also of concern, but experts suggest you can still eat these fish if you really love them, just do so in moderation. 

Where have we heard THAT word before? 

The recommendation for tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel is no more than twelve ounces a week.  If you need your tuna fix, then feel good knowing you can still safely consume up to six ounces a week.  

As mentioned, the list of healthier seafood choices is a lot bigger than you may think.  The list includes salmon, farm-raised catfish and trout, sardines, herring, anchovies, scallops, canned mackerel, and light tuna, oysters, crawfish, ocean perch, shrimp, haddock, sole, and flounder are just a few.  

Again, remember that the key to enjoying the health benefits and reducing the potential risks is to eat a variety of seafood twice a week.