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Fish are an important part of a healthy diet

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Fish are not only fun to catch, but they taste great and are an important part of a healthy diet. Fish are an excellent source of low-fat protein and rich in nutrients. Fish is one of the few foods with omega 3 fatty acids that help with the development of eyes, brain, and the nervous system. Eating fish has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Many speculate that the benefits of fish as a regular part of a healthy diet may help with the prevention or reduction of risks of other chronic illnesses.

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Like most things in life, too much of anything can be a bad thing. Both store bought and sport caught fish may contain contaminants such as mercury or PCB's. For women that are pregnant or for children under the age of 15, the state of Minnesota does not recommend more than one meal of fish per week. One meal consists of about eight ounces of fish for a person of 150 pounds, add or subtract one ounce for every 20 pounds above or below that base weight.

There are some lakes that fish meals more than once a month are not recommended to be consumed for this population. Fortunately, none of the lakes in Becker County make this list. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Minnesota Department of Health, collaborate to produce the consumption advisories.

Mercury is found in most fish tested everywhere in the state. Most of the reason for the mercury in our lakes is due to burning of coal, mining, and the incineration products that contain mercury. The mercury does not affect the taste or smell of fish. It is the over consumption that can be the problem for mercury build up in humans.

PCB's in fish have been in the fish tested from Lake Superior and the Mississippi River. The PCB's come from the use of synthetic oils used prior to 1976. It takes a long time for the PCB's to break down. Fish from these waters can be consumed, but it is prudent to follow the consumption recommendation guidelines.

More specific data on fish consumption guidelines can be obtained from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Lakefinder website at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/index.html.

Some additional tips for reducing the consumption of contaminates include eating smaller sized fish, cutting the fat out (especially the belly fat), removing the fish skin, and eating fewer "fatty" fish such as carp, catfish, and lake trout.

Our water quality agencies are doing a great job of monitoring and managing our water quality. In turn, this manages the health of our fisheries. Don't freak out too much about learning that our fish have contaminates. Almost everything we consume now has been affected by our pollution problems. Eating fish and fishing is healthy for us. Go fishing and keep a few smaller ones to bring home for the table.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)

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