Fish is a staple of diets throughout the world, but in recent years it’s become an increasingly risky food to eat. You might want to think twice before eating fish again, for these five reasons:
Some fish comes from sustainable, well-managed farms or stocks, but others come from fisheries that are overfished, unsustainable, or badly managed. Some fisheries also kill vast quantities of “by-catch”: unwanted fish caught while trying to catch other fish. The Marine Conservation Society has put together a handy guide on which fish to avoid.
Salmon, tilapia, shrimp, and cod contain low levels of mercury, but several other fish, including Gulf tilefish, swordfish, shark, bigeye and ahi tuna, marlin, orange roughy, and king mackerel, have high levels of mercury, and shouldn’t be eaten often (or at all, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding). The Natural Resources Defense Council has a guide to mercury contamination that’s a must-read.
A small percentage of fish that’s sold to the public is infested with a parasite called roundworm, also known as nematodes. Cod and herring are especially susceptible. If your fish is cooked thoroughly, all the worms and larvae will be killed, but if your fish is undercooked, you may become very ill.
Fish Oil May Not Be All It’s Cracked Up to Be
Americans spend more than $1 billion annually on fish oil supplements, and many eat oily fish like salmon, salmon, and mackerel to load up on omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to be beneficial to brain function, growth and development, and to play a part in reducing inflammation. However, it was recently found that in too high a dose, fish oils may increase the risk of prostate cancer by 43 percent. Clinical research also recently found that it’s not as heart-healthy as it’s cracked up to be. You can also get your omega-3s from flaxseeds, chia, canola oil, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.
Since the Fukushima power plant disaster several years ago, hundreds of tons of water contaminated by radioactive iodine, cesium, and strontium have leaked into the Pacific ocean and infected the nearby aquatic life. Radioactive cesium has a half-life of 30 years, meaning that the fallout (literally) could affect Pacific fish for years to come. Distressingly, fish from Alaska and Hawaii aren’t being tested for radiation levels at all.