Fish is tricky due to the contaminated waters and the recent increase in farmed fish. Fish can often times be less healthy due to toxins that accumulate in the animal or because fish is caught in unsustainable ways due to overfishing.
Contaminated fish can be dangerous to your health due to the mercury and the Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals known as EDC’s. These chemicals change the hormonal systems to cause adverse effects in wildlife and humans. EDC’s mimic or interfere with the actions of natural hormones produced in our bodies leading to disrupted physiology and a variety of harmful effects. These chemicals can bio accumulate in our tissues meaning that the concentration of these EDC’s increases over time. As they increase, a variety of signs and symptoms can occur ranging from fatigue and low mood to hair loss, skin problems, and organ damage if gone untreated.
Mercury contamination affects the central nervous system. Mercury consumption is extremely dangerous for pregnant women and women who are nursing. The mercury is excreted from the mother into the developing fetus or through the production of breast milk.
Mercury contamination also affects the brain and is linked to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Mercury is a carcinogen that can cause cancer. It is also known to cause insomnia and harm the thyroid and kidneys. This mercury is coming from coal burning power plants, mining, and plastic production.
When you shop, aim to buy sustainable products like glass containers or use paper and re-useable bags. Remember that with every dollar you spend, you cast a vote. The less demand there are for these products, the less they will produce.
In the meantime, if you want to continue to enjoy eating fish while contributing to your own health and health of our oceans, we need to be careful about our choice at restaurants and grocery stores.
An easy way to know which fish we should consume is to look for small, young, wild caught fish like sardines, mackerel, herring, tilapia, salmon, etc. Avoid fish high on the food chain like shark, swordfish, pike, albacore, and bluefin tuna.
Avoid farm-raised fish as they are often times fed chickens and pigs. When in the sea have you seen fish eating chickens?! Farm-raised fish is destructive to the environment. They are fed unnatural diets that lead them to be contaminated with antibiotics, PCB’s, and other toxic chemicals. They also add dye to the feed to attain a "natural color".
There is an organization called Seafood Watch that provides evidence-based information. They publish an easy to understand handout that gives you information about which type of fish to be consumed and which should not. Visit https://www.seafoodwatch.org/ to learn more about what fish are the healthiest to eat!