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For decades, fish has been called the “ultimate brain food” and “the perfect protein”. It has been touted by cardiologists and fitness gurus alike as one of the healthiest foods you can eat.

But the truth is a bit murkier.

In fact, these days, eating most kinds of fish will do more harm than good when it comes to your health.

The Farm-Raised Bait and Switch

It is estimated that up to 80 percent of the fish consumed in the United States is farm-raised. While this brings more fish to market at an affordable price, farm-raised fish is a highly concentrated source of harmful pollutants.

Some of the most dangerous of these include cancer-causing PCBs (often found at levels far exceeding those deemed “acceptable” by the FDA). Antibiotic residues are also more concentrated in fish than any other form of conventional livestock.

And because most farmed fish are raised on a diet of corn, soy, and grain, they contain high levels of inflammation-promoting omega-6 fats and much lower levels of health-promoting omega-3s than their wild counterparts.

But wild fish isn’t without its own issues…

 

atlantic mackerel, superfood

 

Is All Wild Fish “Safe”?

Larger fish (like tuna, swordfish, and grouper) can contain dangerously high levels of mercury and other environmental contaminants. These pollutants bio-accumulate, building up over the fish’s lifespan.

These contaminants then get lodged in our bodies and brains. And they can cause a wide variety of negative health effects – ranging from depression to neurological diseases.

But the good news is that there is a healthy and delicious option that is sustainable and extremely low in environmental contaminants…

Atlantic mackerel!

The Big Benefits of Little Fish

When most people think of getting more healthy omega-3 fats in their diet, smaller fish – like Atlantic mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies – are often overshadowed by more popular options like wild salmon.

But these little fish are a big source of nutrition!

In addition to being high in protein and healthy fats, the Nutrient Data Laboratory at the USDA shows that a five-ounce serving of Atlantic mackerel contains:

  • More than four times the vitamin B12 of wild salmon (27 mcg versus 6 mcg in 5-oz. wild salmon)
  • Almost as much iron as steak (2.22 versus 3 mg in a 5-oz. steak)
  • More potassium than a banana (568 mg potassium versus  422 mg in a banana)
  • Nearly triple the selenium of chicken breast (73 mcg versus 26 mcg in 5-oz chicken breast)

A five-ounce serving of Atlantic mackerel also provides 990 mg of DHA omega-3 and 714 mg of EPA omega-3 – roughly as much as you find in common supplements.

Another benefit: Atlantic mackerel is one of the best food sources of CoQ10 – a vital antioxidant that helps your body produce energy (and prevent heart disease). And enjoying these little fish will provide you with approximately 9.4 mg per five-ounce serving!

Because of their small size and short lifecycle, Atlantic mackerel are a low contaminant, highly sustainable seafood source that you can feel good about enjoying regularly.

But a few words of caution:

  1. Be sure you are choosing Atlantic mackerel (Scomber colias). King mackerel and Spanish mackerel are much larger fish and should be avoided due to contaminant concerns.
  2. Choose Atlantic mackerel that is packaged in PET-lined cans like those offered by Vital Choice through U.S. Wellness Meats.

Try adding these healthy little fish to salads and antipasto appetizers savor them with grain-free crackers and a slice of cheese… or eat them right out of the can. Your reward will be a tasty, portable and inexpensive source of power-packed nutrition to keep your body fueled with vital nutrients for lifelong health.

Kelley HerringKelley Herring is the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free, low-glycemic baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and much more. Kelley’s academic background is in biology and chemistry and for the last 15+ years, she has focused on the study of nutritional biochemistry… and the proven powers of compounds in foods to heal the body.

 

References:

  1. USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory.
  2. Ronald A. Hites, Jeffery A. Foran, David O. Carpenter, M. Coreen Hamilton, Barbara A. Knuth, Steven J. Schwager. Global Assessment of Organic Contaminants in Farmed Salmon. Science 9 January 2004: Vol. 303 no. 5655 pp. 226-229 DOI: 10.1126/science.1091447
  3. Ronald A. Hites, Jeffery A. Foran, David O. Carpenter, M. Coreen Hamilton, Barbara A. Knuth, Steven J. Schwager. Global Assessment of Organic Contaminants in Farmed Salmon. Science 9 January 2004: Vol. 303 no. 5655 pp. 226-229 DOI: 10.1126/science.1091447
  4. Lymbery, P. CIWF Trust report, “In Too Deep – The Welfare of Intensively Farmed Fish” (2002)
  5. EWG. PCBs in Farmed Salmon. Jane Houlihan. July 2003.
  6. Miyazaki,W., Iwasaki, T. Takeshita, A. Polychlorinated Biphenyls Suppress Thyroid Hormone Receptor-mediated Transcription through a Novel Mechanism J. Biol. Chem. 2004 279: 18195-18202. First Published on February 25, 2004, doi:10.1074/jbc.M310531200
  7. Schantz, SL., Widholm, JJ and Rice, DC. 2003. Effects of PCB exposure on neuropsychological function in children. Environ Health Perspect 111 (3): 357-576.
  8. Import Alert: Government Fails Consumers, Falls Short on Seafood Inspections. Food and Water Watch. May 30th, 2007
  9. In China, Farming Fish in Toxic Waters: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/15/world/asia/15fish.html?_r=1
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