Nov 26, 2014

Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Eating Seafood

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has long been famous for their Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen guide to purchasing produce.  It rates produce based on the pesticide and herbicide residue, and recommends for or against consuming certain varieties of fruit and vegetables. It is updated every year and is a great guide which can be used to determine which items to purchase as organic. Check out the latest version here: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/

The EWG recently released a new guide to purchasing seafood which rates different species of fish based on their mercury content, and omega 3 content. So those varieties which have lower mercury content, and higher omega 3 contents are rated highest. And those varieties which have high mercury content are rated lower, and in fact come with a warning about how much, if any, can be safely consumed on a weekly basis.

Benefits of Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids have hit the mainstream in the past few years as people have started to realize that good fats are our friends, not enemies.  Now you’ll find omega 3 oils advertised on everything from eggs, to cheese, to baked goods. Omega 3’s are considered essential fatty acids because our bodies cannot manufacture them, and we therefore need to eat them to see their benefits.  They are crucial for our cardiovascular health, and the health of our brains, and they are highly anti-inflammatory so are beneficial for all inflammation based conditions and diseases, such as arthritis. Fish is one of the best sources of concentrated omega 3, with a 3 oz serving of Wild Salmon providing upwards of 2 grams of omega 3s. However, many types of fish contain high enough amounts of mercury to be considered toxic to our health.

Dangers of Mercury

Mercury can be very highly toxic in large quantities affecting the nervous system and impairing cognitive function.  Mercury is a heavy metal which bio-accumulates, meaning it does not get readily detoxed from our bodies through normal systems of elimination, and can accumulate in our fat stores becoming more and more toxic over time. It is therefore important to limit exposure in our daily lives including exposure through our food.

Seafood is one of the largest contributors to mercury load through our diets. Large predatory fish bio-accumulate mercury throughout their lifetimes and can be dangerous to consume. Ex. Shark, tuna and swordfish. Pregnant and lactating women need to be especially careful to avoid exposure to mercury as it is easily passed to a developing baby through the placenta, or to nursing infants through breast milk. Small children are also at risk as their developing minds are especially sensitive to the affects of mercury toxicity.

The Environmental Working Groups new seafood guideline is a great resource to help determine which fish are safe to consume.  It has an added feature which will show you which types and quantities of fish you should consume based on your weight, age, gender, heart disease status, and whether you are planning children, pregnant or nursing. This is a fantastic, very well researched resource relevant for all consumers of seafood, and especially important for those who are at greatest risk for mercury toxicity such as pregnant and lactating women, and small children.

For more information check out this link to their Executive Summary with a convenient chart ranking the different seafood species: http://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-good-seafood-guide/executive-summary

And for the personalized calculator visit : http://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-good-seafood-guide

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