Healthy Seafood Buyer's Guide
Tips for choosing popular fish and seafood at the supermarket.
Do your body good—eat fish! Seafood is an excellent source of lean protein and is healthy for your heart. In addition, some types of fish, particularly cold-water species like salmon, tuna, sardines and trout, are rich in omega-3 fats. Studies show that these omega-3 fats may reduce the risk of heart disease and may also provide other health benefits, such as helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and boost your mood.
To get the heart-health benefits from eating fish, the American Heart Association recommends that everyone aim for eating two servings of fish each week. However, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say that, for most people, the risk of mercury from eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern; experts agree that for men and for women who won’t become pregnant, the benefits of eating fish a couple times a week far outweigh any risks associated with mercury. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system. The EPA and the FDA have developed specific guidelines for these groups.
Pregnancy and Fish Consumption
Research suggests that eating fish during pregnancy and while breastfeeding may benefit babies’ brains. Fish offers not only low-fat protein, a nutrient for which pregnant women’s needs increase slightly, but also good amounts of DHA, the omega-3 fat that is crucial for a fetus’s brain and nervous system development. The EPA and FDA recommend that pregnant women should not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury and that pregnant women should eat up to 12 ounces of other fish each week. Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish. Albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna—pregnant women should eat no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna per week.
Fish and Healthy Eating for Kids
The FDA and EPA recommend following the same recommendations as above when feeding fish and shellfish to young children. Children should not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish and they can safely consume up to 12 ounces of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Just as with pregnant women, children should not eat more than 6 ounces of "white" or albacore tuna each week (1 medium can).
Once viewed as a decadent luxury reserved for special occasions, shrimp is now the most consumed seafood in the United States. Although shrimp is high in dietary cholesterol, it has virtually no saturated fat. Nutritionists and scientists agree that unless dietary cholesterol intake is combined with high saturated fat, it does not elevate blood cholesterol.