Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What you need to know about seafood and mercury

Mercury is a toxic metal. Very small quantities are harmless, and it's eliminated in about a year. However, if too much mercury enters your bloodstream before previously ingested mercury is eliminated, your health can be affected.

Coal-fired power plants emit mercury into the air, which settles to the ground. Rain washes the mercury into creeks and rivers and eventually into oceans. Once in water, the mercury is transformed into methylmercury.

Tiny sea creatures ingest the methylmercury. Then larger fish eat those animals, and ever larger ones eat those, right up the food chain. Nearly all seafood contains methylmercury. However, some accumulate very high quantities, and others do not, depending on their diets.

You should never eat the high-methylmercury fish like king mackerel, shark, swordfish or tilefish. Always choose low- methylmercury seafoods, which include catfish, salmon and shrimp.

The best commonly available fish to eat is fresh, wild salmon, because it is low in methylmercury and high in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.

Also: Avoid eating more than two servings of any kind of seafood per week. And, of course, never eat farmed fish or seafood of any kind. Make sure it's prepared according to Spartan Diet principles, and cooked by poaching, boiled in soups, baked or raw. Don't fry or barbecue.