Are you eating the right fish?

I always encourage my patients to eat more fish in order to nourish and protect their yin. (Women in particular tend to become yin deficient as we age.) Fish contains essential fatty acids and protein which nourish our brain and bodies helping to reduce inflammation, balance our mood, improve our cardiovascular health and immune system.

However, there are 3 main things to consider about fish consumption:


1) Environmental impact — Fish farms have a negative effect on the environment and on the health and nutrient levels of the fish (and the person eating it). When fish are crowded together, diseases are likely to develop and infect nearby fish populations as well as contaminate the waters and the fish themselves with increased usage of antibiotics, pesticides and other drugs.

According to Dr. Weil, farmed salmon are also less flavorful, contain less protein and a higher ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids (not the ratio we’re looking for). From an environmental and nutrient standpoint, stick to wild fish whenever possible.


2) Contamination — In general, the fish that will contain the highest levels of toxins such as mercury are large, predatory fish such as swordfish, marlin, shark, and bluefish. The safest kind of fish to eat are small, deep-water, cold-water fish like sardines. Click here for a current list of safe and toxic fish to eat from the Environmental Working Group. Click here to view fish advisories for mercury by state.

Taking a fish oil supplement is a great way to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of essential fatty acids. Just make sure it’s guaranteed not to contain mercury, and that it comes from deep-water, cold-water fish, like sardines.

On a side note, Dr. Weil recommends 200 micrograms a day of selenium in supplement form to protect tissues against mercury poisoning.


3) Extinction — Grouper, black sea bass, rockfish and most snapper are scarce due to overfishing and should be avoided. Striped bass, wild Alaskan salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and Alaskan halibut are plentiful species of fish that are well managed and are in no danger of becoming extinct.


Take Action!

Consider these three points next time you go to the grocery store so you can consciously increase your fish intake. Look for a fish oil supplement guaranteed not to have mercury (and preferably lemon-flavored to avoid fish burps! :-))

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Photo credit: ezioman

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