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Brad Laabs: Eating fish is healthy, tasty and good for you

A couple of years ago I wrote an article about the importance of fish in a healthy diet. In the past I also wrote to help clarify some of the health warnings that have given consumption of fish what I consider to be an over-reaction by some. A recent conversation with someone ill-informed that has stayed away from eating fish because of mercury and PCBs, has prompted me to write about this again.

I will stress…eating fish is good for you, but like most things in life, too much of anything can be a bad thing.

Fish are fun to catch, tasty, and good for you. Fish is an excellent source of low fat protein, and is rich in nutrients. Fish is one of the few foods with omega 3 fatty acids that help with the health of the eyes, brain, and nervous system. Eating a regular diet of fish has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Many experts agree that the benefits of eating fish as a part of your healthy diet may help with the prevention or reduction of risks of other chronic diseases.

Both store bought and sport caught fish can contain contaminants like mercury or PCB’s. I would guess that almost everything we get from the stores now probably has some level of contamination due to the use of pesticides and preservatives. Almost everything we consume now has been tainted by our pollution problems.

For eating  fish from Minnesota lakes, the state does not recommend more than one meal a week for women that are pregnant or children under the age of 15. The rest of us can eat more!

A meal of fish consists of 8 ounces for a person of 150 pounds, add or subtract 1 ounce for every 20 pounds above or below that weight. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Minnesota Department of Health collaborate to produce the consumption advisories.

There are some bodies of water that fish consumption is not recommended more than once a month for that population (pregnant women and children under 15). None of those lakes are located in Becker County.

Mercury is found in fish everywhere in the state, for that matter, just about everywhere in the country. Mercury is in our lakes because of the burning of coal, mining, and the incineration of other materials that contain mercury. Mercury does not affect the taste or smell of fish. It is over-consumption of fish that can be the problem for mercury build up in humans.

PCB’s have been in fish from Lake Superior and the Mississippi River. PCB’s are present because of the synthetic oils used prior to 1976, and the extremely long time it takes to break down PCB’s in nature. Fish from these waters can be consumed, but it is prudent to follow the consumption recommendation guidelines. Specific data on fish consumption guidelines for Minnesota lakes, Lake Superior, and the Mississippi River, can be obtained from the DNR website at:

Additional tips for reducing the risks for containment consumption include eating smaller sized fish, cutting out the belly fat, removing the skin, and eating fewer “fatty” fish such as carp, catfish, and lake trout. I believe you are better off eating fish caught locally. It is hard to know exactly were other fish really come from, and how it has been cared for during handling.

Bottom line, I trust me more than I trust others when it comes to my fish. Minnesota water quality agencies are doing a great job monitoring, managing, and improving our water quality. In turn, this manages and improves the quality and health of our fisheries and fish. Fishing and eating fish is healthy for us. Go fishing and keep a few smaller fish to eat and enjoy.

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