These 10 Fish Aren’t as Healthy as You’ve Been Led to Believe

( – Our appreciation for fish has expanded since the days of fried fish sticks and tuna fish sandwiches. And it’s not just about acquiring more adventurous taste buds. In recent years, scientists have uncovered an impressive range of benefits to eating fish, from boosting brain health to reducing your risk of heart attacks and stroke. But not every type of fish has the same benefits. Some fish might even be doing more harm than good to your health.

Fishing for the Healthiest Catch

It’s important to learn about choosing the healthiest fish by becoming “aware of overfishing and pollution,” Marianne Cufone, Executive Director of Recirculating Farms Coalition, told Good Housekeeping.

Cufone focuses on helping consumers understand how to choose the best fish both for their health and for the environment. That means recognizing the risks of pollution, as well as concerns like overfishing, which could endanger the world’s future supply of fish.

In addition, there are risks in consuming too much fish that is high in mercury, noted Consumer Reports. Children and pregnant women should avoid consuming mercury in food because it may damage developing brains.

Too much mercury in fish may also be harmful to adults, potentially resulting in symptoms ranging from memory loss to weakness. Mercury is present in rivers and oceans both naturally and as a result of pollution. It tends to accumulate in the larger forms of fish, such as bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, gulf tilefish, orange roughy, and swordfish.

Wild-Caught vs Farmed Fish

You may have heard the terms “wild-caught” and “farmed” fish, which also play a role in determining which fish to enjoy and which to avoid. Fish that is wild-caught comes from a lake, ocean, or other natural habitats. Farmed fish are raised in large tanks.

Researchers have found that farmed fish may, in some cases, contain more contaminants. Fish raised in the wild eat a natural diet, rather than ingredients given to them by a farm. However, locations also matter. Check the label to see that the fish originated in the United States, which has stricter guidelines for inspections.

10 Fish To Avoid

Fish can benefit your health when you know what to avoid and what to enjoy. This list of 10 fish to avoid and alternatives may help:

  • Imported Catfish: About 90% of the catfish supply imported to the United States comes from Vietnam. That nation allows the use of antibiotics, which the U.S. bans. Moreover, imported fish rarely undergo inspection for filth, warns Cufone. What to eat instead: Domestic, farm-raised catfish.
  • Shark: High in mercury, sharks sometimes get cut into scallop-sized shapes and sold as sea scallops. If you see scallops that are all the same size and shape in the store, they might actually be pieces of sharks. What to eat instead: Atlantic mackerel and Pacific halibut.
  • Tuna: The popularity of this fish has resulted in tuna shortages, giving it a spot on the avoid list. The fisheries are depleted of all varieties. What to eat instead: Tinned sardines.
  • Red Snapper: Red snapper has become another victim of overfishing, putting it on the fish avoidance list. What to eat instead: Wild-caught Asian or Atlantic Sea Bass.
  • Chilean Sea Bass: This fish is high in mercury and in danger of becoming extinct. What to eat instead: U.S. hook-and-line-caught haddock.
  • Orange Roughy: High in mercury, orange roughy is also overfished. What to eat instead: Yellow snapper or domestic catfish.
  • American Eel: Eel is a popular ingredient in sushi. But overharvesting, plus high mercury levels, put it on the avoid list. What to eat instead: Squid caught in the Atlantic or Pacific ocean.
  • Atlantic salmon: Farmed Atlantic salmon fish may be genetically engineered. Pollution is also a concern. What to eat instead: Wild-caught Pacific salmon or Alaska-sourced salmon. Seek out King, Sockeye, Pink, or Keta salmon.
  • Wild Caviar: In danger of overfishing, caviar also faces more dam-building resulting in pollution. What to eat instead: Choose safer varieties. This includes those derived from American Lake Sturgeon or American Hackleback/Shovelnose Sturgeon caviar from the Mississippi River system, according to Cufone.
  • Tilapia: This popular fish is problematic for several reasons. Tilapia has more omega-6 fatty acids than beneficial omega-3s. Eating omega-6 fatty acids may increase inflammation, paving the way for heart disease. In addition, Chinese tilapia farming still uses chemicals that can cause toxic effects. What to eat instead: Salmon, trout and herring, which contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and can more easily be found wild-caught rather than farmed.

Fish can be a healthy addition to your diet and may even lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s important to choose the right type of fish, however, or you could be increasing your risk of mercury poisoning and, in some cases, could even be increasing your risk of heart attacks.

~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!

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