How Many Times a Week Should We Eat Fish?

Fish are an important source of food and should be consumed as part of a balanced diet. Fish and other seafood are highly valuable because of the nutrients they contain, such as omega-3, fatty acids, vitamin D, and selenium, and for their high protein and low saturated fat contents. Studies show that consuming fish or fish oil protects cardiovascular health. Eating 85 grams of fish once or twice a week has been shown to decrease the risk of cardiac disease by 36 percent, with salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines particularly beneficial.

Sometimes, environmental pollutants find their way into the food we eat. These substances can be found in vegetables, fruits, eggs, and red meat, as well as fish. The most common are mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). High concentrations of mercury disrupt and cause damage to an adult’s central nervous system. Leaving fish out of your diet may reduce your intake of these harmful components. But then, how are we to take advantage of the countless health benefits of seafood? Recent studies reveal that the levels of PCB and mercury in fish are low and almost the same as in red meat, dairy products, and eggs. Our total intakes of mercury and PCB from foods such as fruit and vegetables, eggs, red meat, and dairy products is higher than the amounts we get from fish.

One of the groups at risk are pregnant women. High doses of mercury may adversely affect a baby’s brain development. On the other hand, in a study of almost 12,000 pregnant women, children born to those who ate less than two servings of fish a week didn’t do as well on tests of intelligence, behavior, and development as children born to mothers who ate fish at least twice a week. A study conducted by Harvard researchers showed that visual recognition scores in 6-month-olds were highest in those whose mothers ate at least 2 servings per week of fish or other seafood, avoiding the four fish species higher in mercury (shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel).

A few recommendations to avoid harm to risk groups such as pregnant women, nursing babies, and children:

Buy fish like swordfish, shark, or king mackerel only from sources that you trust.
Eat up to 350 grams a week of a diverse range of fish and shellfish. Opt for shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, and catfish where available.
Those species of fish with low levels of harmful substances should be included in a sufficient and balanced diet.


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