20516426_thbFor many people, the start of a new year brings a resolve to eat more healthy.  One of the ways that we can do this is by choosing to add foods to our diet and that of our loved ones that are healthy in and of themselves.

Some of the best “heart healthy” foods are fatty fish such as samon, herring, lake trout and anchovies.  These fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which are good for preventing and fighting heart disease,  maintaining a low blood pressure, helping to prevent dementia, increasing immunities and easing arthritis.  They are also high in protein and lower in calories.  But recently, many people have stopped eating fish because of concerns about mercury and other toxins.  Just how safe is it to eat fish?

Well, according to Newsweek magazine, two new studies bring a positive answer to that question.  Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the National Academy of Sciences have both arrived at the same conclusion. The benefits  from eating fish outweigh the risks from the small amounts of mercury and other toxins that can be found in them.

One thing to note is that the levels of mercury vary from species to species.  The larger the fish, the larger amount of contaminants it might contain.  This is because the larger fish are higher on the food chain and have eaten the smaller fish who already have traces of mercury in them.  (Unfortunately, industrial pollution is to blame for most of the mercury that is contaminating the fish.)  So your best bet is to eat smaller fish such as salmon, anchovies, cod, flounder, and pollack (the fish that is usually used to make “faux crabmeat”) and shellfish such as scallops.

Also, try to eat fish that are from the wild as opposed to being farm-raised.

An interesting side note (per AARP’s interview with Donald Hensrud, M.D., a nutritional specialist with the Mayo Clinic) is that older persons, whose brains and nervous systems are fully developed, can tolerate higher amounts of mercury than children. Of course, pregnant women should also be careful not to eat fish with the potential for high mercury levels.

For a list of Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, go here: http://tinyurl.com/m7uhzb

The American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two servings of fish (especially those that contain omega-3 fatty acids) per week.  To keep the meal low in saturated fats, avoid frying them or adding rich buttery sauces.


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