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Monday, March 5, 2012

Lots of Fish...

No I am not posting about the dating world...after almost 12 years with Adam, I am definitely not current with living the single life. 

Today I'm posting about actual fish in the actual sea.  The kind you eat, if you are aren't vegetarian or vegan, that is.

I've had a love-hate relationship with fish over the past few years.  I always loved fish until I got pregnant with Big A.  Then during my pregnancy, aside from sardine and tuna sandwiches, I lost my taste for fish.  Figures that tuna is one of the fish you need to limit during pregnancy!  Instead, I developed an insatiable craving for red meat and broke my 9 year commitment to avoiding it after my mother's breast cancer diagnosis.  This preference for red meat was heightened when I was pregnant with Little A, and again, aside from tuna and sardines, I lost my taste for fish.  In fact, I don't think I ate a single grilled or broiled fish fillet during that entire pregnancy! 

Slowly, since Little A was born, my taste for fish has come back.  I am also happy to say my cravings for red meat have also abated.  Yes, the sight and smell of a braised lamb shank can make me drool, but I now generally avoid eating red meat without feeling deprived.  In contrast, my fish consumption is at an all-time high.  I love making trout or salmon for dinner, and fish and shellfish often appear in my lunches.  There are so many varieties and so many ways  to prepare fish to suit anyones taste.

Eating fish can be extremely beneficial for your health - it has positive effects on cardiovascular health and cognitive development, however, warnings about the potential negative effects of mercury levels and toxins in certain types of fish has left many consumers confused about which fish and how much fish is safe to eat.  This issue is extremely complicated since acceptable amounts vary by sub-population (e.g. there are special guidelines for pregnant women), and type of fish.  Then there are also concerns about declining populations of particular species that have been overfished, or the environmental effects of farming various fish.  It leaves many people tearing their hair out trying to figure out whether or not to bother making fish a part of their diet.

Fortunately, the information to assist you in making informed decisions about eating fish.  For example, the FDA provides a list of mercury content of various fish here: http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/product-specificinformation/seafood/foodbornepathogenscontaminants/methylmercury/ucm115644.htm.  Unfortunately, this table does not tell you how much is safe to eat and for whom, based on the mercury levels.

Likewise, David Suzuki's website has a document outlining the most environmentally-friendly choices: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/publications/downloads/2010/SEACHOICE_alertcard09.pdf, but this document doesn't mention mercury or health risks anywhere.

I was pleased to find that the Washington State Department of Health has a comprehensive chart outlining the safety of various types of fish, and specifies safe amounts for various populations: http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/oehas/fish/fishchart.htm.  You can even print this chart or order a wallet-sized version, which makes it super handy for having with you at the grocery store.  It even highlights the types of fish that are less environmentally friendly!

Fish is a high quality protein. Many varieties of fish are full of omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins D and B2 (riboflavin). Fish is rich in calcium and phosphorus and a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.  So my advice is not to avoid fish altogether, but become an informed consumer when deciding which fish to eat most often. 

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