People who believe that adding fish to their diet makes them healthier will be surprised to learn this is a myth. Increasing numbers of health professionals and scientists are finding that it should not be mistaken as a health food at all. Consider the facts:
Fish is high in saturated fat and has twice the amount of cholesterol as beef, chicken, and pork. Therefore, it is not uncommon that people who eat fish have higher blood cholesterol levels.
Fish protein is highly-acidic and is known to accelerate calcium loss, which contributes to osteoporosis and kidney stones. Eskimos are among the world’s greatest consumers of fish, which is high in protein. Surprisingly, after the age of 40, they have 10% to 15% greater bone loss than their American counterparts. The cause is attributed to the negative effects of protein on bone health.
Fish is often highly contaminated with mercury, lead, toxic waste, parasites, etc. The higher up on the food chain, the more contaminated the fish. In fact, the FDA has advised women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant not to eat swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish, or shark for this reason. And finally, fish contains no dietary fiber or digestible carbohydrates, which is not ideal for optimal bowel function and metabolism. Of course, some people will argue that the Japanese (a fish-eating population) enjoy a low incidence of diseases common to Americans (heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, etc.). And yes, they are said to have the longest life expectancy of any country in the world. But it is often ignored that their health is most likely due to a diet comprised mostly of rice and lots of vegetables, rather than the small amounts of fish they consume. Others may worry that if they don’t eat fish or fish oils, they won’t get their Omega 3’s, but the hype about fish oil is misleading and overrated. You don’t need to get your essential fats from fish. In fact, fish don’t even produce essential fats, they get it from the algae they eat. Only plants can make essential fats. Likewise, you can easily satisfy your dietary needs for essential fats on a plant-based diet. (See this month’s Health Tip for more details.) There is, however, at least one redeeming thing that can be said about fish. Many people find that eating fish helps them forgo meat and move towards a plant-based diet. In doing so, they eventually reach a clear and unmistakable conclusion:
“The single most important thing an individual can do for their health, for the environment, and for the sake of the innocent animals is to adopt a vegetarian diet.”