Monday, July 16, 2012

Holy mackerel: how much mercury is in my fish?

Holy mackerel: how much mercury is in my fish?

Fish are a great source of nutrients, lots of protein, and when purchased fresh and cooked well, fish is an excellent dinner! But, with concerns of mercury and sustainability, nothing is quite that simple, is it?

Nutritionally, we can think about fish in three categories;
  • White fish, such as whiting, cod and tilapia, are lean and low fat, and therefore low in calories. 
  • Fatty fish are higher in calories because they're loaded with wonderful omega-3 fatty acids. I think we're just scratching the surface of all the benefits of having omega-3's in our daily diet. 
*Note: wild salmon is a richer source of omega-3 fatty acids than farm raised. It also tends to be more expensive, so look for it on sale and stock your freezer. Most canned salmon is wild salmon and is usually much less expensive than buying the fillets.
  • "Walking fish" is a funny way to refer to shrimp, lobster and crabs; while they're usually low in fat, they tend to be a pretty rich source of cholesterol. Couple that with their usual companion of melted butter? Oy vey! 
There are two other considerations with selecting fish and seafood; contamination of heavy metals and the sustainability of the fish. I was happy to come across a wallet card created by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The card ranks fish according to their level of mercury contamination but also notes fish we should not choose due to sustainability concerns.

Read the card carefully; sometimes a type of fish is listed more than once; for example Light canned tuna is lower in mercury than white (albacore). Remember the 'L's'; Light tuna is Lower. 

Side note: the Natural Resources Defense Council was one of the beneficiaries of my recent Climate Ride; a bike trip that went from New York city to Washington DC to raise money for cool eco-organizations and to advocate for biking.

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1 comment:

  1. There are also smartphone apps for fish info. I use Monterey Bay's if I encounter a fish I'm not sure of:

    Also, don't forget shellfish! Renowned seafood chef Barton Seaver wrote "it is our patriotic duty to eat more oysters and mussels." His reasoning is that for every delicious bivalve you eat, 2 are planted into a habitat where they once thrived before human intervention. They provide ecosystem benefits such as water filtration and protection from storm surges. Not to mention they are delicious!


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