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Eating fish is healthy, as long as you’re smart about it

It’s no secret that the healthy fats found in fish are a great way to keep your heart in shape: the American Heart Association suggests eating it two times a week to reap the benefits of the Omega-3 fatty acids.

Heart disease remains a major cause of death in the U.S., so eating fish and an overall heart-healthy diet should stay a priority for Americans. But what about the concerns some have about contamination of farmed fish, or the radiation risks related to wild fish? How are we supposed to know what is safe?

A New York Times reader asked the paper’s Well Blog what is healthier, wild fish or farmed. Their answer? A mix is best.

Technology for farming fish has improved, according to the blog, and many stores like Whole Foods or Wegmans are very conscious about the environmental and health standards of the fish they sell. Farmed and wild salmon are both high in Omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury.

Pregnant women and children are most susceptible to contaminated fish, so it’s a good idea to stay knowledgeable about what fish contain the most mercury, the blog writes. By eating fish at the bottom of the food chain — like sardines or anchovies, or other shellfish — you avoid the higher mercury concentrations in predatory fish.

Radiation related to the Fukushima disaster is appearing in fish from the Pacific, though fish caught on the U.S. side are not showing radiation levels that are dangerous to humans, according to this piece by PBS’ NewsHour. They suggest that some fish, like bluefin tuna, has less radiation than fish that live in sediment on the sea floor– bottom-feeding flounder caught near Fukushima had been exposed to Cesium, sometimes at dangerous levels.

Testing of fish caught on the U.S. side will continue every six months, though low levels of radiation are expected here eventually.

In general, the FDA says fish caught in the Pacific is safe to eat. They test fish caught on the American side for radiation, and monitor the Japanese government’s testing of fish caught in that country.