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Facts on Fish

Are you confused about the benefits and risks of eating fish? Sometimes it can be difficult to keep all the recommendations straight. Here’s what you need to know to incorporate these healthy foods into your diet:

Two Potential Benefits

Eating fish may protect against stroke: A study published in the journal Stroke found that people who ate fish at least once a week were 13 percent less likely to suffer from a blockage of the blood supply to the brain (ischemic stroke) than those who did not eat fish that often. Now the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times a week because the omega-3 fatty acids help protect the heart.

Eating fish may help fight disease: Fatty fish are the richest source of omega-3 fats. Omega-3s are critical for cardiovascular health and may also help protect against arthritis, diabetes, depression, and some cancers. Omega-3s are most concentrated in cold-water fatty fish such as sardines, herring, salmon, mackerel, and trout.

Two Potential Risks

Eating fish can be dangerous during pregnancy: Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and women considering pregnancy should limit exposure to fish containing methylmercury — the form of mercury that is found in fish. This industrial pollutant can impede the development of the nervous system in fetuses, babies, and young children. Since methylmercury tends to accumulate over time, it is most concentrated in larger fish with longer life spans, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and albacore tuna.

Farmed fish may contain contaminants: Farmed salmon may contain high levels of pesticides and other toxins. To avoid any negative effects of this contamination, make it a point to buy wild salmon instead of farmed salmon. When grocery shopping, look for the labels on salmon to identify the fish as either farmed or wild.