On an international scale, meat is the most common and the most popular source of protein. The food habits of almost all cultures across the world are mostly focused on meat, except in regions located on the banks of rivers where fish might be a staple as well. Areas located to the sea shores also have great sea food including fish items that are safe for children. But the question of whether or not fish for kids is safe is a question that plagues many parents. With a host of pollutants, mercury being the most common one, finding an option that counts as safe fish for kids is difficult to come by. And yet, the best fish for kids have certain compounds in their composition that can be really essential for the wholesome growth and development of your child.
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Why choose fish?
While contamination of mercury continues to pose a serious threat to children and adults worldwide, nutritionists have argued that fish is entirely too healthy to be cut off completely from the eating habits of a growing child. Instead of cutting it off or looking for substitute sources of the same nutrition, parents should look closely into the best fish for kids that may also be deemed to be a safe choice for children.
While fish has a host of nutrients like Vitamin D, high content of protein and low content of saturated fat. It is the presence of two compounds of omega-3 fatty acids that it comes as a recommendation in children’s diets. The two omega-3 fatty acids in fish are DHA or docosahexaeonic acid and EPA oreicosapentaenoic acid that can only rarely be found in other food items. When administered to children at the utro or developing stages, the best fish for kids aid the development of cognitive capabilities and also a sharp and functioning sense of vision.
The problem of mercury
While there are many contaminants, the most common among them is mercury. Mercury is a substance that occurs naturally and is present in meagre percentages in air, water and land. It is the excessive percentage of mercury in water that is to blame for the accumulation of the substance in fish. Mercury is also extensively used in everyday science and in making everyday domestic appliances such as lights, thermostats and thermometers among other things. If these things are disposed off in a landfill or in a pond, the mercury can gradually leach into the ground water or the water in the pond. This is one way in which mercury may get into the habitat of fish and deem them to be unsafe for kids.
The best fish for kids is the kind that is devoid of mercury. But it is very easy for mercury to pass on from the natural habitat to the internal system of fish. Bacteria occurring in water converts the compound into methylmercury which can be extremely easily absorbed by fish living in mercury-contaminated water. The compound is stored in the muscles of fish and is extremely difficult to get rid of, even when the fish is cooked properly.
Mercury in fish is particularly harmful to children and can cause severe damage to the brain and the nervous system of kids. Make sure you look out for safe fish for kids while giving your child the nutrition he or she needs.
How much fish should my child eat?
The amount of fish necessary for children of different age groups is also different. Omega-3 fatty acids are required for all children as recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2015. According to these guidelines, a child between 2 to 8 years of age requires the nutrients in 3 to 6 ounces of fish in a week. 9 year old children and older require 8 to 10 ounces of fish in one week.
Healthy Fish Choices for Kids
As parents you want to make sure that you choose only the best fish for kids. Here are a few pointers on how to choose safe fish for kids while deciding on your child’s diet plans:
Choose light fish
‘Light’ fish generally refers to a pinkish colour of flesh and is applied most commonly to tuna fish. This light pinkish colour of tuna is considered the safest fish for kids and also better alternatives even when compared to the white tuna (albacore) or the yellow fish tuna that is also available. One serving a week of tuna fisha week is generally recommended for all children.
Types of fish that are good choices
Other than tuna, trout, herring and salmon are also some of the best fish for kids. These fish are replete with DHA which can provide a major boost for the development of a child’s brain. Other sea food like cod, catfish, scallops and shrimp are also good choices that you can include in your child’s weekly diet from time to time.
Types of fish to avoid
The types of fish that are more prone to mercury contamination are best avoided when you are looking for fish to feed your kids. Some of these fish are tilefish, shark, swordfish, bluefin tuna, orange roughy and king mackerel.
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Take note if areas with known mercury contamination
If you live in an area where seafood is available or are planning to go on a vacation to the beach somewhere, make sure to look into whether or not the area is contaminated with mercury or other similar substances. If so, avoid feeding your kids and fish from the area.
Benefits of eating fish for kids
The benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risks of eating fish from areas contaminated with mercury. The kind of nutrition that fish can offer to a developing child is unmatched compared to all other sources of nutrition that may be included in a child’s eating habits.