Make Smart Seafood Choices To Minimize Mercury Intake
Fish and shellfish are great sources of lean protein, and many types are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But there’s a catch: some species of fish contain worrisome amounts of methylmercury, a toxin that’s especially dangerous to developing brains. That’s why women who are or could become pregnant and young children shouldn’t eat high-mercury fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish. A new study hints that eating too muchor the wrong kindof salmon and tuna can also boost mercury levels.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise us to eat eight ounces of seafood a week . That would deliver enough omega-3 fatty acids to help brain and nerve growth and protect the heart. But eight ounces is more than double the amount of fish the average American eats in a week.
The new study, published in the May issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, offers clues about how often and what types of seafood Americans eat, and how that affects mercury levels in the bloodstream. Researchers with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys asked a nationwide sample of 10,673 adults what seafood they had eaten in the previous month. Shrimp was the most popular choice , followed by tuna , and salmon . Only 2% said they had eaten high-mercury fish species.
Is Mercury Content In Fish Dangerous
Mercury can be absorbed through inhaled air, direct skin contact, or food and beverages.
Mercury exposure at high levels can cause damage to the brain, immune system, kidneys, brain, lungs and heart. Mercury exposure in infants, children, and fetuses can cause damage to the nervous system, impair brain function, and degrade their ability learn and think. Mercury exposure in the fetus can also lead to birth defects and death.
Mercury poisoning can lead to serious health problems if it is present in high levels. These signs can help you recognize the danger of mercury in your body:
- Weak muscles.
- Mental disorders.
- Lung damage.
Minamata, Japans most famous case of mercury poisoning is still in use today. The tragedy left many people with neurological disorders such as hearing and sight loss, body shaking, and psychiatric disorders.
How Much Should You Eat Every Day
Theres no official recommendation on how much salmon you should eat per day, so youll have to go with your soon-to-be-fish-filled gut. If you want to eat it every day, take a look at the weekly recommendation and think about how you could spread it out.
Do you want to go with bigger amounts but eat less frequent servings? Or eat a smattering of salmon every day?
If youre determined to go with daily salmon consumption, think about it. Small slices of salmon on toast? Sushi? Sashimi? Theres more than one way to get salmon into your diet on a daily basis. Get creative with it.
Also Check: How Many Calories Tuna Sandwich
Mercury Low In Wild And Farmed Salmon
Experts: Known Benefits of Salmon Outweigh Suspected Risks of Mercury
Total mercury levels in the wild salmon tested were three times higher than in farmed, but total mercury intake from both types of fish was found to be lower than from many other foods.
The study was funded by the Canadian fishing industry, which supplies much of the farmed salmon eaten in the United States.
In recent years, concerns have been raised about the safety of farmed salmon vs. wild, and there have also been suggestions that Canadian and other Atlantic-farmed salmon contains more contaminants than farm-raised fish from other areas, such as Chile. The newly published study was conducted in an attempt to address these concerns.
Researchers measured mercury levels as well as levels of 18 other trace metals in commercial salmon feed and farmed and wild salmon from British Columbia fisheries and waters.
They found that levels of all the metals tested were well below recommended consumption guidelines.
” further validate the relative safety of farmed and wild British Columbia salmon,” write Barry C. Kelly and colleagues from Canada’s Institute of Ocean Sciences. “The current scientific evidence therefore supports the weekly consumption of oily fish species as recommended by the American Heart Association.”
Are There Nutritional Differences
Salmon is salmon, no matter where it comes from… right? Not exactly.
According to Heathline, there are some pretty staggering differences in the nutritional content of farm-raised and wild salmon. That’s because they grow up eating entirely different things. While wild salmon eats mostly small invertebrates, farmed salmon is fed a diet of processed fish food that can vary by producer.
There’s a lot of variation here depending on how much you’re eating and how it’s prepared, but here are some guidelines based on half of a fillet. While that half-fillet of wild salmon comes with only 281 calories, that jumps to around 412 calories when you’re talking about the farm-raised stuff. How about fat? Wild salmon has around 13 grams of fat , while the farm-raised kind comes with a whopping 27 grams . That’s a huge leap! Not everything is similarly impacted they both contain about the same amounts of cholesterol and magnesium but that just goes to show that not all salmon is created equal.
Also Check: Coleslaw Recipe For Shrimp Tacos
Canned Salmon Isn’t All The Same Type Of Fish
Canned salmon is always salmon, but there’s more than one variety of this fish. The six types of salmon found in North America, according to the USGS, are chinook , coho, chum, sockeye, pink salmon, and Atlantic salmon.
Each kind of salmon varies in taste, texture, and appearance, ranging from pale pink, comparatively low in fat, and relatively mild to deep orange-red, quite oily, and strong in salmon flavor . You can find most of these salmon varieties as fresh or frozen steaks and filets, but canned salmon is almost always labeled either pink salmon or red salmon.
Per NOAA Fisheries, pink salmon is the most common species found in the Pacific Ocean. Canned pink salmon is on the milder side, so it’s great for those who find stronger-tasting salmon too fishy. However, it can be a bit mushier too.
Canned red salmon is sockeye salmon, and is often labeled as such. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, sockeye is nicknamed red salmon because of the color the fish turn when they swim upriver to spawn. The flesh of sockeye is more vivid in color than pink salmon. Its taste is stronger and its texture richer and firmer.
You can find canned coho salmon, often smoked, and canned chum salmon too, but they are far less common in grocery stores.
Accumulation Of Mercury Ingestion
In a recent study, scientists found that 27% of the fish population contained beyond the allowable mercury content in their bodies. When their environment is unhealthy and polluted, the fish has no control but to ingest mercury continuously.
Mercury cant also easily excreted, so they get accumulated in their bodies over time.
Don’t Miss: Seafood Restaurants In Durham Nc
Why Is Safe Catch Elite The Official Tuna Of The American Pregnancy Association
At Safe Catch food purity is paramount. We want to give consumers nutritious seafood they can feel confident in eating, while also protect purity in our oceans, lakes, and rivers.
Because of our innovative testing method and strict mercury limits, Safe Catch has gained the respect and is the official tuna of the American Pregnancy Association.*
*American Pregnancy Association, 2020
Why You Should Avoid Mercury
Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause varying health effects if the amount you’re exposed to surpasses threshold levels. These variations depend on the type of mercury, whether you’re considered highly sensitive to the effects, and how long you’re exposed to this heavy metal.
Exposure to methylmercury in food could cause neurological and behavioral issues, such as the following:
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble with walking
If exposed to high amounts of mercury âfrom food or other sourcesâyou could then develop severe or even fatal effects in your kidney, lungs, digestive tract, or cardiovascular system.
Safe Limits for Food Containing Mercury
Eating foods like fish and seafood is important because they give you plenty of omega-3s, vitamins D and B12, and other nutrients. While you don’t want to eat foods high in mercury, you should still eat seafood to enjoy the health benefits.
The safe level for consuming seafood is 1 part per million of mercury per week. To stay below this threshold, choose seafood low in mercury and keep your consumption to one or two meals per week.
You May Like: Fisher Price 4 In 1 Ultimate Learning Bot
Wild Caught Vs Farm Raised Seafood
By Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center
It is a common misconception that wild seafood is good and farm-raised is bad. Unfortunately, the answer is not black and white. Whats the difference? Simply put, wild-caught seafood is caught from a natural habitat whereas farmed seafood is raised in large tanks. In the store or on your plate, the two could look the same, but are not promised to be equivalent.
Nutrition: The nutrition quality of the seafood largely depends on what the fish eats. Fish in the wild eat a natural diet and tend to be slightly lower in saturated fat than farm-raised varieties. Farmed fish can be slightly higher in omega-3 fatty acids, presumably due to the farms fortified feed.
Contaminants: Some studies have shown how farm-raised varieties can be higher in contaminants. Additionally, farm-raised fish tend to have a higher instance of disease due to farming conditions. It is important to note that mercury can be found in both farm-raised and wild-caught seafood due to industrial pollution that finds its way into lakes, rivers and oceans. Large predatory fish have the most mercury. It is recommended that pregnant women and children avoid fish with the potential for the highest level of mercury .
Sustainability:Some seafood is considered unsustainable, and some is considered environmentally restorative, so the answer is it depends on the fish.
Harvest Of Fears: Farm
Aquaculture fish, usually fed a controlled diet, are generally less exposed to mercury than their wild, free-foraging cousins. But because they are raised in the ocean they can still absorb mercury, PCBs and dioxins
Dear EarthTalk: I thought farm raised was the way to go when buying fish, to avoid mercury contamination. But are there other concerns about farm-raised that make some fish a poor choice for good health? What are the safest fish to buy and which should be avoided? And what about those frozen blocks of fish I get at Trader Joes? Are they safe to eat?Tim Jeffries, Springfield, Mass.
EarthTalk®is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine . Send questions to:. : www.emagazine.com/subscribe. FreeTrial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.
Read Also: Redlobster All You Can Eat Shrimp
Farmed Salmon Vs Wild Salmon
Our goal isn’t to resolve the controversy about eating farmed or wild fish but to encourage Washingtonians to eat two fish meals per week that are low in contaminants. Fish is an important part of a healthy diet and salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in every kind of fish but are especially high in fish such as salmon that store a lot of oils in their muscles. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in adults and promote healthy vision and brain development in infants.
The controversy about eating farmed verses wild salmon is complex, and reports available in the media, online, and in scientific publications often seem contradictory. Issues fall into three main categories: environmental concerns, contamination, and omega-3 fatty acid levels in edible portions. The good news is both wild and farmed salmon have low levels of mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants.
The Different Types Of Salmon
Salmon is the most-eaten fish in the United States, largely due to its high levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. As a whole, fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and salmon swims at the top of the list.
The popularity of salmon has helped deplete the wild stock swimming in open waters, though. In response, farmed salmon has become more common as diner demand rises faster than high tide.
Farmed salmon is typically Atlantic salmon. Wild-caught salmon, meanwhile, is usually one of five types of Pacific salmon: chinook , sockeye, coho, pink and chum.
Now its true that both Atlantic and Pacific salmon are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, says Zumpano. But if you take a deeper dive into the dietary data, theres a lot more to consider when making your choice at the seafood counter.
Heres a more detailed look.
Don’t Miss: Seafood All You Can Eat
Why Is Broccoli Bad For You
Health risks In general, broccoli is safe to eat, and any side effects are not serious. The most common side effect is gas or bowel irritation, caused by broccoli’s high amounts of fiber. “All cruciferous vegetables can make you gassy,” Jarzabkowski said. “But the health benefits outweigh the discomfort.”
Should You Worry About Mercury In Either
Every so often, warnings about the mercury content in fish hit the headlines. According to the EPA and FDA, mercury warnings are of the most concern for women between 16 and 49, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and young children. Fortunately, salmon is on their list of “best choices” when it comes to fish.
In 2004, Oxford Academic’s BioScience took an in-depth look at pollutants including mercury in salmon. According to them, the average Coho was around .0000027 percent mercury, and for some comparison, there was also about 27 percent protein in that same fish. They added that salmon has among the lowest levels of mercury across the board, and their work analyzing the compounds found in Alaska fish showed they were way, way below levels that would cause the least bit of alarm.
And that’s remained pretty consistent. According to The Guardian, both wild and farmed salmon remained low in mercury content into 2017 great news for salmon lovers.
Recommended Reading: Does Shrimp Have Omega 3
Where In The World Is Your Seafood From
Does the quality of seafood differ depending on location? In short, yes. Seafood from other countries is not guaranteed to be as regulated as it is in the United States. High antibiotic use in imported, farm raised fish is common. Many international fish farms are not held to high inspection standards that you would see in the United States. Additionally, some overseas seafood sourcesboth wild-caught and farm-raisedare known to be higher in contaminants.
How do you know where your seafood has been sourced from? To check the origins, you can look at the Country of Origin Labeling , which is required on all seafood sold in the United States. Keep in mind that frozen seafood will have two labels: one to specify where the product was packaged and one that indicates where the seafood was caught or farmed. This can be deceptive, as seafood can be packaged in the Unites States , but is actually a product of a different country.
More About Coho Salmon
The steely gray-blue Coho salmon is born in freshwater streams and marine inlets, then travels to sea, where it lives most of its life, until it travels back upstream to its origin, where it spawns and dies. During spawning time, the fish changes to a bright red on its sides. Coho salmon can grow up to 3 feet in length.
Recommended Reading: Shrimp Kabob Recipes On The Grill
How To Safely Eat Salmon
While mercury in our waterways and seafood is an overall worry, it should rarely be a worry for those eating wild Alaskan salmon. So long as you eat two to three servings per week while also avoiding high-mercury fish, and paying attention to where your fish is coming from as well as the process before the fish gets to your kitchen, you should have no concerns.
Which One Contains More Organic Pollutants
The diets of both farmed and wild salmon impact exactly what ends up on your plate, and that can make things a little complicated especially when it comes to pollutants.
Back in 2003, the Environmental Working Group published their findings that farm-raised salmon were higher in environmental and organic pollutants, mostly because they were intentionally fattened with fish meal and fish oil made from small, open-sea fish. It’s food chain basics: they ate contaminated fish, and then built up higher levels of contamination themselves, since they were being fed and fattened more than wild salmon. But that was then.
But more recent studies from the Havforsknings Instituttet of Norway one of the largest salmon-producing countries suggest things have changed, and if you’re staying away from farm-raised salmon because you’ve heard that first part of the research, you don’t need to worry now. Most farms are skipping the fish oil, which was one of the feed components that was causing the most contamination. Now, there are similar levels of pollutants found in both types . If that sounds scary, you should also know that experts stress that pollutant levels for both types were “relatively low” and say it’s not a reason to skip either type.
Don’t Miss: Fancy Feast Medleys Wild Salmon Primavera
More About Chum Salmon
The steely gray-blue Chum salmon is born in freshwater streams and marine inlets, then travels to sea, where it lives most of its life, until it travels back upstream to its origin, where it spawns and dies. During spawning time, the fish changes to a gray-red on its sides. Chum salmon can grow up to 3 feet in length and may live up to 6 years.