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How to Avoid Eating Too Much Mercury

By Sara Butler

Fish is a great protein to add to your diet. There is one caveat that comes with fish and that's the fact that some types of fish can be very high in a harmful substance called mercury. Does this mean you should swear off fish altogether? No! But here's what you should know in order to consume fish safely.

What is Mercury?

Mercury is introduced into an environment through industrial activities. Bacteria that live in aquatic areas such as oceans, lakes, and streams convert mercury into methylmercury. Those bacteria are eaten by small fish that are then eaten by larger fish, introducing mercury into the food chain.

Mercury accumulates in the bodies of fish. It's concerning to the health of humans because being exposed to it regularly can cause mercury to build up in internal organs such as the kidneys and brain. This accumulation can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Concentration problems
  • Issues with coordination
  • Problems speaking

It's also imperative that women who are pregnant and small children have limited exposure to mercury.

Fish Highest in Mercury

Almost all fish will contain some levels of mercury, but some more than others. High-mercury fish include fish such as orange roughy, tuna, tilefish, king mackerel, bigeye tuna, and swordfish. Fish that are lower in mercury are fish such as cod, anchovies, Alaskan salmon, tilapia, flounder, whitefish, and trout.

Don't Swear Off Fish

The health issues you should be concerned about will really only cause health issues when you're exposed to very large doses of mercury. In fact, the health benefits gained from eating fish far exceed how much mercury you're exposed to when eating fish only a couple of times per week.

Fish are a wonderful source of lean protein in the diet. They also are backed with Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, selenium, iodine, iron, and zinc. Fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, trout, mackerel, and herring are high in important omega-3 fatty acids your body needs to be healthy.

If you're worried about how much mercury you're exposed to, then simply opt for fish only a couple of meals per week. You can also opt for smaller fish that don't live very long and tend to have a lower concentration of mercury in their bodies. Slapjack tuna, often called chunk light tuna, is lower in mercury than albacore tuna, for example.

Go ahead, enjoy fish in your diet. You can do it safely if you understand what to be on the lookout for.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Buford, Ga.

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