I eat and promote a whole food organic vegan diet; however, I have many clients who are in the process, and I am always happy to help with the transition. (By the way, no, you don’t have to eat this way to work with me;). Many clients ask about fish (and other seafoods). Due to its reputation for being rich in omega 3s, many believe fish to be a great option when eating animal flesh. However, there are some important factors to consider. The purpose of this blog is to help better inform you of the good, bad and ugly about fish.
Fish does indeed include omega 3s (in far greater proportions than most other animal flesh). These are fatty acids that reduce inflammation and are often referred to as healthy fats. Fish also are a rich source of protein, vitamin D, iodine, selenium and other micronutrients.1 To be balanced and fair in the presentation of this information, many of the blue zones (long lived cultures) do eat fish, albeit usually in small amounts and fresh caught. Fish are consumed by cultures around the world for their health promoting benefits.2
However, it’s always important to ask, is it the fish themselves that aid in longevity or is it specific nutrients? For example, fish are a rich source of omega 3s but so are chia seeds. Studies comparing such things are still lacking. It’s also important to note when looking at “fish studies”, what fish are they using?…how is it prepared?…what foods are consumed with it?, etc.
First, most fish are “farm raised”. This may sound crazy…because it is…but yes, fish can be farmed. Like so much other conventional farming, the fish are crammed into too small of a space with not enough room to live healthfully. Then they are fed an unnatural diet which usually includes genetically modified corn. Yes, you read that right. In case you’re confused, you should be…you are right to think that fish don’t eat corn in their natural environment. Farm fish are also starved before harvesting, so they’re easier/less messy to gut (to reduce their stomach content).3 The main advantage to farm raised fish is affordability, but the savings is not worth it!
So, if you’re going to eat fish, you would for sure want to get wild caught. But the problem is that even wild caught fish has become super “not natural” if you will, as the lakes, rivers and oceans become more polluted. It’s not just “trash” that’s in our water, it’s also chemicals and heavy metals such as mercury, a known neurotoxin.4 Neurotoxins impact the brain and nervous system, so we are talking about potential issues with thinking, focus, and memory (aka ADHD, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc). It becomes an issue of if the benefits outweigh the potential dangers. Are there other foods and/or supplements that can provide this nutrition without the downside? Of course, there are!
An ideal standard to go by…
One of the standards that a mentor of mine taught me long ago was that if something is not safe for pregnant/nursing woman or children, take caution if it should be used at all. Of course, there are exceptions but as a rule, it’s a good thing to consider. It is recommended that fish should be “limited” for children due to SAFETY,5 then at what point and for who can we really promote it to? (Full disclosure, I don’t eat or promote eating fish, so I suppose that’s a bias, although I believe well informed). Also, several studies have shown that pregnant woman who eat fish just a couple of times/week during pregnancy have been found to have excessive levels of mercury in the umbilical cord blood.6
What can I do if I want to stop eating fish?
- Increase specific nutrients that you were using fish to get. There are LOTS of plant foods that are rich in protein, omega 3s, selenium, iodine etc.
- If needed, you can supplement with vitamin D, essential fats (DHA, DHA+D, DHA+E, EFA oil) and iodine (Xenostat).
- If you suspect you may have nutritional deficiencies, don’t guess, let’s find out for sure. Click here to read more about the micronutrient testing that we do or here to order.
Still need help or not sure where to start? Call the clinic to schedule your initial consultation. We’d love to personalize a program just for you and your needs! 269-204-6525
1. Mendivil CO. Fish Consumption: A Review of Its Effects on Metabolic and Hormonal Health. Nutr Metab Insights. 2021. doi:10.1177/11786388211022378
2. Hosomi R, Yoshida M, Fukunaga K. Seafood consumption and components for health. Glob J Health Sci. 2012. doi:10.5539/gjhs.v4n3p72
3. Borderías AJ, Sánchez-alonso I. First Processing Steps and the Quality of Wild and Farmed Fish. J Food Sci. 2011. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01900.x
4. MERCURY IN SEAFOOD: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. Environ Work Gr. March 2016. https://www.ewg.org/research/us-fish-advice-may-expose-babies-too-much-mercury/executive-summary.
5. Barone G, Storelli A, Meleleo D, et al. Levels of mercury, methylmercury and selenium in fish: Insights into children food safety. Toxics. 2021. doi:10.3390/toxics9020039
6. Soon R, Dye TD, Ralston N V., Berry MJ, Sauvage LM. Seafood consumption and umbilical cord blood mercury concentrations in a multiethnic maternal and child health cohort. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2014. doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-209
Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. It does not take the place of a qualified health care practitioner and is intended for educational purposes only.