Mandy Lau, HK BioTek Nutritionist
Fish and Seafood are crucial elements of a healthy diet. Many healthcare authorities around the world are promoting their health benefits. In Chinese cuisine, fish symbolizes prosperity and surplus every year. Parents are making every effort to balance children’s diet by adding fish. Unfortunately, heavy metal contamination and Ciguatera fish poisoning happens sporadically in Hong Kong, which raises the concern of food safety.
Fish is a rich source of protein that is composed of all essential amino acids. Fish protein can easily be digested and absorbed and thus they are beneficial to growth and development of babies. Fish is distinct from other meat because fish is also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids (a polyunsaturated fatty acid, example includes EPA and DHA). Greasy fish like yellow crackers and salmon generally contain more omega-3 fatty acids. As these fatty acids cannot be synthesized in human body efficiently, they have to be obtained via diets. Omega-3 fatty acids can lower the chance of coronary heart diseases and stroke and can also relieve inflammatory symptoms and boost fetal brain development. Iodine, Selenium, Calcium, Iron and vitamin A & D in fish are indispensable nutrients for healthy body maintenance.
However, seawater pollution is getting severer day by day. Therefore fish are more exposed to hazardous contaminants like dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), and mercury. Dioxins is a carcinogen that could damage our immune system, leading to hormonal imbalance, developmental and reproductive issues. Mercury exists in various forms, such as methylmercury. Methylmercury is the organic form of mercury that can seriously affect neural development of fetus, especially areas related to sight, hearing and memory. Eventually, it may hinder intellectual development of kids. Research points out that the mercury level in large predatory fish (such as tuna, alfonsino, swordfish, Sablefish and etc.) is relatively higher. Smaller, cultured, freshwater and non-predatory fish generally contain lower concentrations of mercury.
In fact, in accordance to our Centre for Food Safety, the level of contaminants in fish is not exceeding the safety limit. The benefits of consuming fish still outweigh the harms. To maximize our gain and lower the potential risk from fish consumption, we should choose fish and seafood in a greater variety and avoid consuming large predatory fish.