This is a guest post from Simone Lewis-Koskinen of KidSafe Seafood:
We’ve all heard that seafood is an important component of a healthy diet, especially for young children and pregnant women. You may have even read the articles extolling the health benefits of seafood, offering heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein, vitamins and minerals that are essential for the growth, development and well being of children. While the U.S. ranks third globally for the consumption of fish and shellfish, trailing behind China and Japan, seafood consumption lags far behind meat and poultry. In fact, Americans on average have been eating less meat and poultry, resulting in a twelve percent decline in consumption in just five years. So why aren’t we eating seafood more often?
Like most issues, seafood consumption is a balancing act. While seafood can be a nutritious and delicious meal choice, most fish contain trace amounts of toxic pollutants like mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that can be harmful to children’s growing bodies and rapidly developing brains. These chemicals may be released from industrial plants and enter the marine environment, accumulating in the fatty tissue of fish up through the food chain. As consumers, we ingest these contaminants that can then build up in our own bodies over time. Once there, they can have serious negative effects on the cognitive development, motor skills, reproductive organs, attention, speech, and other critical developmental factors in children.
Responsible consumption doesn’t have to mean eliminating all seafood from your family’s diet, rather selecting the right species. Fish that are larger and sit at the top of the marine food web like tuna and swordfish tend to have higher concentrations of contaminants. Conversely, smaller species that are lower down the food chain like anchovies, sardines, mussels and oysters tend to have lower concentrations of contaminants. Serving smaller, oily fish like anchovies and sardines is a great alternative to the age-old tuna salad sandwich, chalk full of healthy fatty acids and low in mercury. “Dressing up” some anchovies in spaghetti sauce, grilled cheese sandwiches or tacos are great ways to get your little ones eating these healthy choices.
To complicate matters, we not only have to worry about how much fish we are putting into our bodies, we also have to consider how much fish we are taking out of the oceans. With more than 75 percent of world fish stocks fully or over-exploited, we are depleting the fish and other marine life that we eat faster than their populations can replenish. The good news is that you, the consumer, can make a difference simply by being informed, asking questions, and making the right choices. If we want to have enough safe, nutritious seafood for the future, we all need to eat fish that are caught or raised using environmentally-friendly techniques. As it turns out, many of the most seriously contaminated fish, like shark and tuna, are also the most over-fished or are raised on fish farms that pollute. So why chose between protecting the health of your kids or the health of the ocean? Choosing low contaminant, sustainable seafood ensures that we can all enjoy seafood well into the future.
KidSafe Seafood is proud to support Moms Clean Air Force to inspire a generation of active, informed moms who are dedicated to protecting their children. Together, we can protect the health of our children and advocate for a safe seafood supply for the future.
Cartoon: KidSafe Seafood