We have all been told that fish can be a great source of heart-healthy lean protein. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, swapping in one or two servings of fish as your protein each week can lower heart attack risk by up to one-third. This is all thanks to heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation throughout the body, lower triglyceride levels and support brain health, among other benefits. The omega-3s you get from fish are known as long-chain omega-3s, EPA and DHA and are the most beneficial, according to WebMD.
However, that doesn’t mean eating fish can’t also be fraught with many concerns. Many fish species have high levels of the metal mercury, this is a dangerous contaminant that can affect the nervous system. Mercury from pollution and that naturally occurs in the atmosphere both settle in our oceans, lakes and streams, where they are consumed by fish and then converted to the toxin, methyl mercury. Fish that are high on the food chain consume other contaminated fish, compounding their mercury levels.
The primary concern with fish and mercury is in infants and young children, whose developing nervous systems are particularly vulnerable to mercury’s effects, but adults who have high exposure levels (an unlikely outcome from eating a few servings of fish) can experience significant central nervous system damage as well. Pregnant and nursing women are advised to be extremely careful about choosing the types of fish they eat.
The poisoning effects of methyl mercury is just one environmental concern among many. Fish can also contain the toxicant, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and our taste for fish has led to fishery collapse, decimating many species’ populations. Climate change has also had an effect on fish population levels.
So how do you know which fish will be good for you and good for the environment? Luckily for us several organisations keep track of which fish are low in mercury, aren’t endangered and still manage to benefit your heart and brain health. Here’s our list sourced from healthy living:
- Domestic Crab
- Freshwater Trout