Seafood Safety

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a new shopping tool and seafood calculator this month to steer people toward seafood with the best safety profiles. Their new Seafood Calculator will provide you with a personalized list of seafood to eat, those to approach with caution, and those to avoid, based on how much mercury and omerga-3 fatty acids they are likely to contain.

Methyl mercury is toxic to the human brain, kidney, liver, heart and nervous system. The EWG website provides a summary of research showing that people who eat a lot of high-mercury fish frequently can experience nervous system damage and can suffer from a variety of ailments, including sleep disturbance, headache, fatigue, difficulty with memory and concentration, poor coordination and neuropathy.

While symptoms of mercury toxicity generally subside slowly once people stop eating fish high in mercury, mercury exposure during pregnancy and childhood can cause lasting deficits in the development of a child’s brain and nervous system. The EWG notes that “several scientists and advocates specializing in mercury damage have concluded that the EPA’s safe level is too lax to protect the developing fetus. Some have recommended that the EPA lower its mercury exposure level by 50 to 75 percent.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a multi-year process to revise its assessment of mercury toxicity.

According to the EWG, the healthiest seafood choices include wild salmon, sardines, mussels, rainbow trout, and Atlantic mackerel. Caution is recommended with regard to canned light and albacore tune, halibut, lobster, mahi mahi, and sea bass. And the EWG recommends that the following high-mercury seafood be avoided: shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, marlin, bluefin and bigeye tuna, orange roughy.

Consider enjoying sardines more often. Canned sardines are a relatively inexpensive source of omega-3 fatty acids, and because they are low on the food chain, sardines are low in mercury. They are also a good source of calcium (as long as you eat the bones). Sardines can be mashed together with kalamata olive tapenade (Trader Joe’s) and spread onto whole-grain crackers for a quick and nourishing lunch or light dinner, along with a salad. Or try the Sardine Spread with lemon zest and capers for a nourishing sandwich or served on crackers as an appetizer.

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