The Real Truth About Fish

Written by Nick Pineault Topics: Nutrition

fish-tossingGuest Post by the creator of the Truth About Fat Burning Foods, Nick “The Nutrition Nerd” Pineault

Fish has been getting a pretty bad rap in the last few years – especially after what happened in Fukushima in 2011.

For those who have been living under a rock, a tsunami has caused nuclear meltdowns at a major nuclear power plant in Japan – releasing tons of radioactive materials in the Pacific Ocean since then.

The damage caused by the tsunami produced equipment failures, and without this equipment a loss-of-coolant accident followed with nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials beginning on 12 March.

For avid consumers of quality wild-caught fish like me, this adds up to concerns about the mercury, PCBs, dioxins and other contaminants in our omega-3 rich plate.

But today, I’m begging you: “please, don’t stop eating fish”.

And here’s why.

Mercury Is Overrated…

Mercury is a poison, I’ll give you that.

But the mercury in a large majority of fish is very unlikely to cause your body any damage.

Why? Because most fish contain more selenium than mercury.

Here’s how it works.

When you get too much mercury (from fish or any other source), it binds all your body’s selenium and prevents it from doing its role – protect your cells against oxidative damage. (1)

So as long as the fish you consume contains more selenium than mercury – or if your diet contains plenty of selenium already – mercury is actually not a big concern.

Fish that contain more mercury than selenium include shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel.

Pregnant women should never eat these, because a newborn brain is just too sensitive to mercury.

Dioxins And PCBs? Give Me A Break.

What the heck is this Nutrition Nerd talking about?

As Chris Kresser puts it: “PCBs are synthetic organochlorine compounds previously used in industrial and commercial processes. Dioxins are organochlorine by-products of waste incineration, paper bleaching, pesticide production, and production of certain plastics. Yummy!(2)

These two by-products are often mentioned when people argue about why fish is just too dangerous to consume these days.

But just like I showed that the fear over raw milk’s safety is based on political non-sense instead of actual facts, the fear of PCBs and dioxins is a complete joke.

Turns out that fish only contributes to 9% of our exposure to these chemicals.

Your favorite protein sources like beef, chicken and pork account for 34% of your exposure, while dairy products account for 30%. (3)

Heck, even your healthy veggies account for 22% of your exposure to these by-products…

But what if you consume more fish than in the study cited above (1-2 servings per week)?

Now that might become a problem. But not if you’re smart, and follow Jay’s advice to stick to wild-caught fish instead of the cheap farmed-raised stuff.

Nothing surprising here – studies show that wild-caught fish contains about 10 times less PCBs than farm-raised fish. (4)

Your Fish Is Probably Not A Nuclear Reactor (Yet)

Most people are freaking out about the radioactive leakage in Japan. One of these crazy people is me, as I’m writing this article.

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima will probably affect us for the next few decades.

Last year, researchers have found radioactive isotopes (cesium-134 and cesium-137) in Pacific bluefin tuna. (5)

But the question is… does that mean you avoid all fish from the Pacific starting today?

It really depends on who you listen to.

On one hand, some experts like Chris Kresser are still NOT convinced that the dangers of radiation in Pacific fish outweigh the benefits (6):

According to Dr. Robert Emery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, you’d need to eat 2.5 to 4 tons of tuna in a year to get a dose of cesium-137 that exceeds health limits. (7) That’s 14 to 22 pounds of tuna a day.

But other authorities like Helen Caldicott don’t agree at all, and argue that no amount of radiation from cesium, plutonium, strontium and radioactive iodine that were leaked from Fukushima is harmless.

This is scary. But the truth is that the only thing we can do right now is try to stay informed and take the best decisions possible based on our beliefs.

If you want to avoid all fish and seafood products from the Pacific, simply choose what is found in the Atlantic and freshwater fish.

If you think the dangers are overblown, then move on with your life.

As far as I’m concerned, eating wild-caught fish 2-3 times a week is still healthier than avoiding it.


Nick Pineault is the author of The Truth About Fat Burning Foods, where you’ll find hundreds of other food truths. He regularly writes nerdy stuff on