Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you’ve probably heard that fish is good for you. Similarly, you’ve probably heard that fish can give you mercury poisoning (thanks, Jeremy Piven). So, what’s a girl to do? There’s lots to explain, so let’s dive right into it!
First, fish is good for you! It’s a very healthy source of protein. Even though it’s low in calories and fat, it contains the essential Omega-3 fatty acids (known in my circle as OMG!-3s) that we need for heart health, lower cholesterol, brain power, and happiness (yep, they help fight depression; take that Prozac!). You can read more about healthy fats here if you want more info on that.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week to get these benefits. Some of the best fish for OMG!-3s are salmon, sardines, and tuna.
Two times per week seems to be the magic number–it’s enough to increase health benefits without increasing mercury poisoning risk, a concern many people have. It’s good to be concerned, so, here are the facts, straight from the EPA:
- Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
- Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.
- Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
- Another commonly eaten fish, albacore (“white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.
OK so that’s not too confusing! Avoid the ones listed, and only have albacore tuna once a week. I don’t know why Jeremy Piven couldn’t figure that out. Oddly enough, despite his “poisoning,” he completed a tri this weekend. He did a triathalon but couldn’t finish his run in the Broadway show I was planning to see. Mmmmkay, Hollywood. Is mercury poisoning is the new blow?
There are many popular yummy, healthy fish or shellfish out there, but two of the best catches are salmon and canned light tuna because they are both fatty and low in mercury. And those are pretty tasty/accessible, so that’s simple.
All right, I am going to assume there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to go with salmon on occasion, just because it’s a really popular fish. So then you have the types of salmon to choose from: wild vs. farmed. This is what always threw me off. To make a long story and lot of research very short, wild is better. It has more OMG!-3s and less toxic chemicals (like cancer-causing “PCBs” which are currently sort of the Wild Wild West when it comes to government agencies’ standards of “healthy levels”). If you have to eat farmed salmon, do not eat it more than once a month. Seriously! The other thing is that farmed salmon is really bad for the environment. Bad for you, bad for the planet OK, farmed salmon….kthxbye.
I used to have a lot of trouble remembering which to buy when I got to the grocery store. This is how I remember it now: Wild = Win. Farmed = FAIL.
As these things generally are, wild salmon is more expensive. If that’s a problem for you, it’s better to eat less salmon overall so you can get wild. (Get wild! Wooo!!) The great thing is that canned salmon is almost always wild! Canned salmon (or salmon in the little pouches) is ridiculously cheap and doesn’t spoil. I also love it because it often is sold in single-servings–perfect for the single girl. There are a ton of recipes for ways to use it, so do a little research…but honestly, if you’re a novice/busy/lazy, just flake it over any pasta dish/pasta salad and call it a day. It’s almost too easy.
One reason a lot of people avoid fish is because they think they don’t like it. I’m telling you, if you think you don’t like fish, you probably haven’t had it well-prepared! Experiment with a new recipe, pick a new variety of fish, or leave it to a pro and order it at a restaurant. You can also pick up some healthy sushi or check out Tuna Togetherness (my favorite ways to improve your tuna sandwich).
I used to eat a lot of fish, but lately, I’ve been way too into land creatures. Ugh, lame. Well, epect some fishy recipes in the next few weeks. It’s time to stir the waters a little!