Fresh Fish:

Choosing Healthy Fish for Nourishment

By Dr. Ben Kim

Throughout the history of the world, many cultures have used fish and fish broths to nourish their people. In the Chinese and Korean cultures, fish and fish broths have traditionally been used to properly nourish pregnant women and to promote a healthy supply of breast milk.

During his travels, renowned nutritionist and dentist Dr. Weston A. Price found that populations that regularly consumed fish had thicker bones and better skeletal structure than those that consumed mainly red meat or mainly vegetables.

Clean fish provides healthy protein, essential fatty acids, and an abundance of minerals, particularly iodine and zinc.

Clearly, fish can be an excellent source of nutrients if it isn’t significantly contaminated by environmental pollutants. The biggest concern is mercury, as accumulation of this heavy metal in the body's tissues increases the chance of developing numerous problems including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, and other neurological conditions. Mercury is especially dangerous to children, as it can damage their sensitive nervous systems. Mercury is also hazardous to pregnant women because of its ability to cause birth defects.

Here are my guidelines on choosing healthy fish while minimizing your exposure to mercury and other environmental pollutants:

  • Be sure that your fish is from the ocean or a lake that isn’t heavily polluted. Nowadays, much of the fish that is available at your local grocery stores are factory farmed fish. Because these fish are fed an unnatural diet of grains, their flesh don't contain as much EPA and DHA, the essential fatty acids that are an important reason to eat fish in the first place. Many factory raised fish are fed toxin-rich fish pellets, significantly increasing your exposure to environmental toxins when you eat them. Finally, many factory farmed fish are contaminated with extremely high levels of pesticides that come from the run-off of neighbouring crops that have been sprayed.

  • Ask your fish merchant where his fish comes from. Some grocers label factory fish according to their species name. Perhaps the most common example of this is Atlantic salmon. Just because it is labeled Atlantic doesn't mean that it is not factory farmed.

  • Ideally, you want to eat fish from clean waters that has been tested by an unbiased laboratory for mercury and other common toxins. A good source for such fish is a company called Vital Choice Seafood, which provides wild Alaskan salmon that has been clinically shown to be free of such contaminants. An excellent article on wild Alaskan salmon and where you can get some can be found here.

If it is not practical or possible for you to consistently purchase laboratory tested fish, then stick to eating the following fish which are considered by many nutritional experts and scientists to be the safest choices:

1. Wild pacific salmon
2. Anchovies
3. Fresh sardines
4. Arctic char
5. Sole from the north Atlantic ocean
6. Flounder from the north Atlantic ocean
7. Haddock
8. Croaker
9. Fish from a local lake that you are confident is
not significantly polluted.

Note: Larger fish like swordfish, tuna, bass, halibut, and marlin typically have the highest levels of contamination, probably because they are higher on the food chain and have more opportunity to bio-concentrate pollutants into their flesh. For this reason, larger fish should be avoided whenever possible, especially by children and pregnant women.

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