Generally speaking seafood does have a smaller carbon footprint than beef, pork, or chicken. But that doesn’t mean that all fish choices are equal. Toxins and overfishing have greatly limited what is safe and environmentally smart to eat. The pollutants most commonly found in fish are mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
High levels of mercury can be damaging to developing brains, the nervous system, and can cause irreversible damage to the hearts of young children. PCBs, persistent organic pollutants or POPs, are neurotoxic, hormone-disruptiing chemicals which are stored in animal fats. Other POPs found in fish include the organochlorine pesticide dieldrin and dioxins, which result from chlorine paper bleaching and manufacturing and incineration of PVC plastic. All are problematic for infants, young children, pregnant women (very harmful to fetuses), nursing mothers and women planning to get pregnant, but in fact we should all limit our mercury and POP intake.
Since these are not ingredients that get listed on food packaging how do we determine what is safe for consumption? The best thing to do is to check out some or all of the following websites: www.coopamerica.org, you can download a Safe Seafood Wallet List which differentiates between toxic and environmental issues or indicates both where applicable, www.greenguide.com/foodbuying/fishpicks, www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch, www.edf.org, and www.grist.org. All educate and gently guide the user through the complications of selecting fish for dinner. There are also sushi guides to what you can eat and what you should avoid.
Remember to limit fish consumption by category, not individual species. Only one moderate-mercury fish per month is allowed not one meal of each. If you are in a high-risk group do not eat the skin and fatty parts of fish, where POPs collect. Grilled, baked, and broiled fish have less fat than fried. Enjoy!!!
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Question of the Day: What steps are you taking to make sure your seafood is safe?
(Image: Flickr, LibraryMan)