Mercury is toxic, poisoning your nervous system and kidneys, and exposure to it is a serious health problem. Even small amounts of the heavy metal are dangerous, which is why exposure is especially risky among women of childbearing age and young children. The EPA estimates that at least 75,000 babies are born every year with higher risk of learning disabilities on account of their mother’s mercury exposure.
We’ve all seen the headlines warning people away from fish because of mercury contamination – after all, the top source of mercury exposure for Americans is eating contaminated fish – but don’t give up on this healthy food entirely. By learning which fish are most likely to be contaminated, you can make smarter choices when you’re shopping for food to ensure you maximize health benefits while minimizing potential harm. Here is a look at some of the fish that tests highest for mercury.
If you’d like more specific guidance, the Environmental Working Group provides a seafood calculator on its website that creates a custom seafood list using your weight, age, gender and heart health status. After plugging in the relevant data, the calculator will provide a list of the fish it considers your best bets, along with advice on where to source them for optimal sustainability and several other categories of interest. For example, you’ll find fish that is low in mercury but also low in omega-3s, which means it may be safe but not the best choice if you’re eating fish solely for its health benefits. You’ll also see which fish to avoid and limit.
Unfortunately, fish consumption isn’t the only way that you can be exposed to mercury. For example, silver dental fillings can release a mercury vapor into your mouth when you chew. It is also found in thimerosal, a preservative that is used in some vaccines.
If you want to avoid mercury and all of its dangerous health effects, it’s important to be vigilant. Don’t miss out on the health benefits of fish out of a fear of mercury; educate yourself and know the sources of your food!
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