While trying to get healthy or taking on a more plant-based diet, many people continue to eat fish. After all, we’re told some fish is good for the brain, heart, and skin — especially fatty fish such as salmon — but a new analysis by the Environmental Working Group points out a different truth: People following the federal government’s guidelines on seafood consumption are likely consuming too much mercury or too few of the good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids. This means eating fish really isn’t good for our health, and it certainly isn’t necessary, especially for pregnant women and young children.

American seafood advice is flawed

From the government and media, we hear a lot about eating fish. If you’re following dietary guidelines, you might aim to eat eight to 12 ounces of fish weekly, but is this too much?

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EWG’s researchers found that eating fish randomly can be “ineffective and even dangerous.” Why? Because most of the commonly eaten species, including shrimp, are very low in omega-3s, and many people don’t consider how much mercury is in their fish dishes.

The Dietary Guidelines of 2011 downplayed the risk of mercury and other contaminants—yes, there are other toxins in fish, too—and said the benefits of eating fish outweighed the risks, even for pregnant women. But several recent studies mentioned in EWG’s report showed how children born to women with slightly elevated mercury levels suffered measurable brain and nervous system deficits or were more likely to be diagnosed with ADD.

HHS and USDA officials, along with scientific and medical experts, are meeting this month to plan for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. Also, separate officials at the EPA and FDA are updating their 2004 fish-mercury advisory, which is expected to be released sometime this year.

Fish and our health

Here are some other facts to consider from EWG’s findings:

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  • Eight of the 10 species that make up 90 percent of the U.S. seafood market are nearly devoid of the two healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in other seafood.
  • Ten of 35 popular seafoods in the U.S. market would pose a mercury risk to an average-weight pregnant woman who eats eight ounces weekly, as the federal government recommended.
  • Children who eat 19 of the 35 popular species twice weekly face a mercury risk.
  • Twenty one of the 35 species EWG investigated would not provide the 1,750 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids recommended if eight or even 12 ounces of that species are consumed weekly.

Still eat fish?

As earlier reports discussed on OGP showed, even small amounts of the mercury in fish may be enough to restrict brain development or cause other health problems for humans. Also, radiation and mercury from fish isn’t good for your heart either. And due to global warming, mercury in seafood is expected to increase.

If you’re still on the fence about fish on your plate, here are 5 good reasons why pescatarians don’t get it right when it comes to fish consumption.

Green Monsters: Will this information change how you eat?

Image Source: Gwen/Flickr

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