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Go fish, please.

That’s what nutrition recommendations tell us. And for good reason.

Seafood comes with many healthy nutrients. Fish is a good source of protein and the fat in fish is the good-for-you-kind. Omega-3 fatty acids are fats our bodies need for optimum health. Eating about 8 to 12 ounces per week of fish rich in omega-3s may help lower the risk for blocked blood vessels and heart attacks.

The downside to eating fish is mercury. If you regularly eat types of fish that are high in methyl mercury, it can accumulate in your blood stream over time. Cases of methyl mercury poisoning are rare, but they do happen. Symptoms vary due to individual sensitivities and susceptibility but can range from numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, slurred speech, fatigue, headache, memory loss, or muscle and joint pain. Blood mercury levels drop if you stop eating fish high in mercury. The half-life of mercury is 50 to 70 days in adults, so the reduction can be seen in a couple of months. Blood or hair tests are the accurate way to test for mercury exposure.

How does the mercury get in the fish? In the water, forms of mercury are taken up by plankton. Small fish eat the plankton and are exposed to mercury. These fish are eaten by larger fish. Because the methyl mercury is lost extremely slowly from fish, there is a steady build-up in aquatic food chains, such that long-lived fish at the top of the food chain have more methyl mercury.

Fish and seafood that are lower on the food chain, such as clams, shrimp, scallops, anchovy, sardines, salmon, catfish, Atlantic mackerel, and tilapia contain less mercury than predator fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, shark, and certain species of tuna. Chunk “light” tuna has less mercury than albacore “white” tuna, but canned tuna accounts for about a third of total mercury exposure in the United States.

According to the director of the Consortium for InterDisciplinary Environmental Research with Stony Brook University and marine biologist, Nicholas Fisher, “Fish is good for us if we eat the right amounts and kinds, but anyone who eats a lot of high-mercury fish can experience negative health effects. The health benefits of eating fish generally exceed the risk of exposure to mercury as long as the fish you eat are mostly low in mercury.” About 2 servings per week, or 8-12 ounces total, of fish that is low in mercury meets the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, American Heart Association and Environmental Protection Agency advice for fish consumption. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or women who plan to become pregnant within a year, and children less than 12 years old, should eat only low mercury fish. For children under 12, estimate about an ounce of fish per 20 pounds of body weight for a child who is not overweight. So a 40-pound child could eat a 2-ounce serving.

For more information about mercury in fish visit www.StonyBrook.edu/mercury or www.FDA.gov.

Fish a couple of times each week will deliver the health benefits while keeping mercury exposure low. This quick-to-fix salmon taco recipe is a good place to start for those who are less familiar with cooking fish.


Chili Lime Salmon Tacos

1 can (14.75 oz) salmon, drained and flaked (remove skin and bones as desired)

1 fresh lime, for juice and wedges

1 tablespoon taco seasoning or chili powder

8 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas or small flour tortillas

1 cup shredded cabbage mix

1 to 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Salsa or hot sauce

Cook each tortilla in microwave oven to warm or warm in lightly oiled pan about 30 seconds. Sautee salmon with lime juice and taco seasoning to warm through, about 2 minutes. Divide salmon and fill warm tortilla, top with cabbage and cilantro. Serve with salsa.

Serves 4.

Recipe Source: BumbleeBee.com

Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian and the author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest: Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being. Her website is www.LiveBest.info.

Follow community news editor Sally Ann Shurmur on Twitter @WYOSAS.

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