Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Seafood Diet: Green light, Red light, Yellow light


I recommend that each of my clients eat 1-2 servings of fish a week. That consists of about 4 to 6 ounces of fish per serving. Of course one of the first responses I get is, “ Can’t fish be dangerous, what about the mercury content?” This is an important question and one that you need to be aware of when making your seafood choices.


I am going to borrow the stoplight model from Dr. Susan Kleiner, a very well respected sports nutritionist, to help explain the benefits and concerns:

Green Light

Fish is a quality source of protein that’s relatively low in fat and cholesterol. It’s also a great source of nicacin, vitamin B12, vitamin D and of course Omega-3 fatty acids – which many of you know about by now. Multiple studies have shown that individuals who consume fish have better control of their weight. When fish is added to a diet designed to promote weight loss, more total fat and more abdominal fat is lost.

Beyond the benefits for fighting arthritis, colities, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers, new research has shown that Omega 3 fats have a strong link between mood and depression. Individuals who had diets high in Omega 3 fats have much lower rates of depression.

Red Light

The pollution we have added to our oceans has contaminated the environment where fish live and eat. There are many toxins, but the main one that is focused on is Mercury and more specifically methylmercury. Methylmercury builds up in some fish more than others, depending on what they eat. Methylmercury is a neurotoxin that causes harm to our nervous system.

Both the EPA and FDA updated their warnings regarding fish consumption in 2004. Although the warnings were primarily for pregant women or women who might become pregnant (Mercury has a major potential effect on a developing fetus) It makes sense for all of us to follow these guidelines:

1.) Don’t eat shark, swordfish, king makerel tilefish. Each of these large fish contain high levels of Mercury

2.) Mix up the types of fish and shellfish you eat since mercury levels vary. You can safely eat up to 12 ounces of ‘approved’ fish.

Another concern is with the PCB levels found in farm raised fish, particularly salmon. Pollutants primarily come from the fish meal that is fed to these industrially raised fish. Some studies have shown extremely high levels of PCBs in farm raised Salmon. When available, the best choice is to go with Pacific Northwest wild caught salmon. This lean and powerful fish is high in protein, vitamins D and E and Omega 3s.

Yellow Light

In my opinion, there are too many benefits with the right types of fish to avoid seafood all together. I think a good starting goal for healthy nutrition is by making fish a dinner choice one night per week. Good choices are wild caught salmon, halibut, cod, sole and polluck. Shellfish is an excellent choice as well, particularly crab, lobster, shrimp, scallop and oysters.

The key things is to get educated. Study the chart below and find the good choices you like from the chart below. Ideally make sure your choice is below 0.25 for mean mercury content. The closer to 0.1 obviously the better.

Table 1. Fish and Shellfish With Highest Levels of Mercury


SPECIES

MERCURY CONCENTRATION (PPM)

NO. OF
SAMPLES

SOURCE OF DATA

MEAN

MEDIAN

STDEV

MIN

MAX

MACKEREL KING

0.730

N/A

N/A

0.230

1.670

213

GULF OF MEXICO REPORT 2000

SHARK

0.988

0.830

0.631

ND

4.540

351

FDA 1990-02

SWORDFISH

0.976

0.860

0.510

ND

3.220

618

FDA 1990-04

TILEFISH (Gulf of Mexico)

1.450

N/A

N/A

0.650

3.730

60

NMFS REPORT 1978

Table 2. Fish and Shellfish With Lower Levels of Mercury


SPECIES

MERCURY CONCENTRATION (PPM)

NO. OF
SAMPLES

SOURCE OF DATA

MEAN

MEDIAN

STDEV

MIN

MAX

ANCHOVIES

0.043

N/A

N/A

ND

0.340

40

NMFS REPORT 1978

BUTTERFISH

0.058

N/A

N/A

ND

0.360

89

NMFS REPORT 1978

CATFISH

0.049

ND

0.084

ND

0.314

23

FDA 1990-04

CLAM *

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

6

FDA 1990-02

COD

0.095

0.087

0.080

ND

0.420

39

FDA 1990-04

CRAB 1

0.060

0.030

0.112

ND

0.610

63

FDA 1990-04

CRAWFISH

0.033

0.035

0.012

ND

0.051

44

FDA 2002-04

CROAKER ATLANTIC (Atlantic)

0.072

0.073

0.036

0.013

0.148

35

FDA 1990-03

FLATFISH 2*

0.045

0.035

0.049

ND

0.180

23

FDA 1990-04

HADDOCK (Atlantic)

0.031

0.041

0.021

ND

0.041

4

FDA 1990-02

HAKE

0.014

ND

0.021

ND

0.048

9

FDA 1990-02

HERRING

0.044

N/A

N/A

ND

0.135

38

NMFS REPORT 1978

JACKSMELT

0.108

0.060

0.115

0.040

0.500

16

FDA 1990-02

LOBSTER (Spiny)

0.09

0.14

ND

0.27

9

FDA SURVEY 1990-02

MACKEREL ATLANTIC (N.Atlantic)

0.050

N/A

N/A

0.020

0.160

80

NMFS REPORT 1978

MACKEREL CHUB (Pacific)

0.088

N/A

N/A

0.030

0.190

30

NMFS REPORT 1978

MULLET

0.046

N/A

N/A

ND

0.130

191

NMFS REPORT 1978

OYSTER

0.013

ND

0.042

ND

0.250

38

FDA 1990-04

PERCH OCEAN *

ND

ND

ND

ND

0.030

6

FDA 1990-02

POLLOCK

0.041

ND

0.106

ND

0.780

62

FDA 1990-04

SALMON (CANNED) *

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

23

FDA 1990-02

SALMON (FRESH/FROZEN) *

0.014

ND

0.041

ND

0.190

34

FDA 1990-02

SARDINE

0.016

0.013

0.007

0.004

0.035

29

FDA 2002-04

SCALLOP

0.050

N/A

N/A

ND

0.220

66

NMFS REPORT 1978

SHAD AMERICAN

0.065

N/A

N/A

ND

0.220

59

NMFS REPORT 1978

SHRIMP *

ND

ND

ND

ND

0.050

24

FDA 1990-02

SQUID

0.070

N/A

N/A

ND

0.400

200

NMFS REPORT 1978

TILAPIA *

0.010

ND

0.023

ND

0.070

9

FDA 1990-02

TROUT (FRESHWATER)

0.072

0.025

0.143

ND

0.678

34

FDA 2002-04

TUNA (CANNED, LIGHT)

0.118

0.075

0.119

ND

0.852

347

FDA 2002-04

WHITEFISH

0.069

0.054

0.067

ND

0.310

28

FDA 2002-04

WHITING

ND

ND

ND

ND

2

FDA SURVEY 1990-02

Table 3. Mercury Levels of Other Fish and Shellfish


SPECIES

MERCURY CONCENTRATION (PPM)

NO. OF
SAMPLES

SOURCE OF DATA

MEAN

MEDIAN

STDEV

MIN

MAX

BASS (SALTWATER, BLACK, STRIPED)3

0.219

0.130

0.227

ND

0.960

47

FDA 1990-04

BASS CHILEAN

0.386

0.303

0.364

0.085

2.180

40

FDA 1990-04

BLUEFISH

0.337

0.303

0.127

0.139

0.634

52

FDA 2002-04

BUFFALOFISH

0.19

0.14

0.05

0.43

4

FDA SURVEY 1990-02

CARP

0.14

0.14

0.01

0.27

2

FDA SURVEY 1990-02

CROAKER WHITE (Pacific)

0.287

0.280

0.069

0.180

0.410

15

FDA 1990-03

GROUPER (ALL SPECIES)

0.465

0.410

0.293

0.053

1.205

43

FDA 2002-04

HALIBUT

0.252

0.200

0.233

ND

1.520

46

FDA 1990-04

LOBSTER (NORTHERN/AMERICAN)

0.310

N/A

N/A

0.050

1.310

88

NMFS REPORT 1978

LOBSTER (Species Unknown)

0.169

0.182

0.089

ND

0.309

16

FDA 1991-2004

MACKEREL SPANISH (Gulf of Mexico)

0.454

N/A

N/A

0.070

1.560

66

NMFS REPORT 1978

MACKEREL SPANISH (S. Atlantic)

0.182

N/A

N/A

0.050

0.730

43

NMFS REPORT 1978

MARLIN *

0.485

0.390

0.237

0.100

0.920

16

FDA 1990-02

MONKFISH

0.180

N/A

N/A

0.020

1.020

81

NMFS REPORT 1978

ORANGE ROUGHY

0.554

0.563

0.148

0.296

0.855

49

FDA 1990-04

PERCH (Freshwater)

0.14

0.15

ND

0.31

5

FDA SURVEY 1990-02

SABLEFISH

0.220

N/A

N/A

ND

0.700

102

NMFS REPORT 1978

SCORPIONFISH

0.286

N/A

N/A

0.020

1.345

78

NMFS REPORT 1978

SHEEPSHEAD

0.128

N/A

N/A

0.020

0.625

59

NMFS REPORT 1978

SKATE

0.137

N/A

N/A

0.040

0.360

56

NMFS REPORT 1978

SNAPPER

0.189

0.114

0.274

ND

1.366

43

FDA 2002-04

TILEFISH (Atlantic)

0.144

0.099

0.122

0.042

0.533

32

FDA 2002-04

TUNA (CANNED, ALBACORE)

0.353

0.339

0.126

ND

0.853

399

FDA 2002-04

TUNA(FRESH/FROZEN, ALL)

0.383

0.322

0.269

ND

1.300

228

FDA 2002-04

TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, ALBACORE)

0.357

0.355

0.152

ND

0.820

26

FDA 2002-04

TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, BIGEYE)

0.639

0.560

0.184

0.410

1.040

13

FDA 2002-04

TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, SKIPJACK)

0.205

N/A

0.078

0.205

0.260

2

FDA 1993

TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, YELLOWFIN)

0.325

0.270

0.220

ND

1.079

87

FDA 2002-04

TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, Species Unknown)

0.414

0.339

0.316

ND

1.300

100

FDA 1991-2004

Source of data: FDA 1990-2004, "National Marine Fisheries Service Survey of Trace Elements in the Fishery Resource" Report 1978,

2010 DEREK HEINTZ EDGE FITNESS CONSULTING www.yourfitnessedge.com 619-920-5452

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