The 7 Most Toxic Fish You Should Avoid To Protect Your Bones And Your Health (And Which You Should Eat Instead)

Although acidifying, many types of seafood offer bone-nourishing, healthful nutrients and have an important place in the 80/20 nutritional plan of the Save Our Bones Program.

But not all seafood is equally healthful, and some varieties are best avoided.

While the list of “good fish” and “bad fish” changes periodically, you should not eat the following seven fish (and seafood items), and you’ll soon find out why.

1. Imported Shrimp

Shrimp that are imported from overseas are raised in farms, and the conditions are rife with contamination. Antibiotics, chemical residue from cleaning the shrimps’ containers, and even bits of insects make their way into the shrimps’ habitats and ultimately into their bodies. In addition, some imported shrimp has been shown to have E. coli contamination.

To make matters worse, less than 2% of shrimp coming into the U.S. has been inspected. Instead, look for domestic shrimp.

2. American Eel

You may see this under the name yellow eel, and it’s commonly served in sushi. The most alarming contaminant in American eels is PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. These man-made compounds were banned in the 1970s, but are extremely persistent in the environment. And unfortunately, PCB has ended up in the rivers and waterways where the American eel resides. (Interestingly, the American eel spawns in the ocean but develops and lives most of its life in fresh water.)

In addition, American eel contains mercury, a heavy metal that is disturbingly prevalent in the environment. Commercial fisheries are also running into an over-harvesting problem, making American eel an unsustainable choice of seafood.

3. Imported Catfish

The vast majority of imported catfish – around 90 percent – comes from Vietnam, where antibiotic use is widespread. Specifically, Vietnamese catfish was found to contain ciprofloxacin and enrofloxacin, antibiotics that are banned in the U.S. due to the antibiotic-resistant microbes they promote, especially Campylobacter.

Another issue is the name of the fish. Vietnamese catfish marketed under the name Basa or Swai are not considered actual catfish according to the federal government. So they are not inspected and held to the same standard as a “true” catfish would be. That opens the door for more contaminants to slip in.

A more healthful option is domestic, farm-raised catfish, which are very plentiful and farmed responsibly.

4. Atlantic Salmon

Whether wild-caught or farmed, Atlantic salmon is a poor choice of fish. Ironically, salmon farms are polluting wild salmon populations. The farmed fish escape and compete with the wild species for food, and the copious amounts of antibiotics and pesticides used in salmon farming flow out into the environment. This all adds up to an endangered wild population and contaminated farmed salmon.

In fact, if you see any fish labeled “Atlantic salmon” it is farm-raised, and the conditions on such farms are deplorable (hence the use of antibiotics and pesticides to control the disease inherent in crowded conditions).

An alarming “solution” to such problems is the engineering of genetically-modified salmon, which is currently being sold without any labeling to inform the consumer of their GMO seafood choice. One certainty is that any GMO salmon will be labeled “farm-raised”; while all farm-raised salmon is not GMO, all GMO salmon is farm-raised.

Wild Alaskan salmon is currently a good choice for this bone-healthy fish.

5. Orange Roughy

The orange roughy is a type of perch that lives in the deep ocean. They are highly contaminated with mercury, and their decades-long life cycle makes them a very unsustainable choice. An orange roughy actually takes anywhere from 20 to 40 years to reach reproductive maturity. That’s why decimated populations take so long to recover – and some never do.

The long life cycle also makes farming orange roughy pretty much impossible, so any orange roughy with a “sustainably harvested” or “farm-raised” label is shady at best. Instead, try domestic catfish or yellow snapper. These safer fish have a similar texture and flavor to orange roughy.

6. Chilean Sea Bass

Considered a delicacy, the Chilean sea bass is much sought after. That’s the problem – it’s estimated that this fish will be extinct (commercially speaking) within the next five years. It’s actually illegal to capture these fish in the U.S., so any Chilean sea bass you see for sale has been caught illegally. In addition, Chilean sea bass is high in mercury.

Haddock makes a very good substitute for the Chilean sea bass.

7. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

The high mercury content of tuna has been known for some time. But the Atlantic bluefin is the highest in mercury of all tuna species, and it’s also greatly over-harvested. While most species of tuna contain mercury, some have significantly lower amounts than others.

Fore example, albacore tuna raised and sold in the U.S. and Canada is a less-toxic option since it is caught while young (before it’s had time to accumulate mercury in its body). Or you can get Alaska wild-caught salmon instead, including canned salmon.

If you select canned tuna, (and if so, make sure you consume it only occasionally, since it contains toxic and calcium-blocking BPA) you should be aware that just a few months ago, several prominent brands of canned tuna pulled their products off the shelves in a voluntary recall. The reason was faulty cans that allowed contaminants to infiltrate the tuna.1

This is an important point in the bigger picture of toxin exposure – not only are toxins everywhere, but their presence often goes undetected until after exposure and/or ingestion. This is why periodic detoxification is so important for your bones and general health, even if you are careful with your diet.

We’re going to look at this topic of detoxification more in a moment, but first, I want to make sure that there is no misunderstanding regarding the consumption of seafood.

The Right Fish Is A Bone-Smart, Healthful Food

Please don’t misunderstand – the seven varieties listed above are by no means intended to discourage you from eating fish and seafood. There are far more bone-smart fish to choose from that are not on this list.

In fact, salmon is a Foundation Food on the Save Our Bones Program. Its high oil content makes it highly anti-inflammatory, and it is one of the few food sources of Vitamin D.

Yes, salmon and all seafood are acidifying, but like other acidifying, bone-nourishing foods such as walnuts, cranberries, and blueberries, seafood definitely has a place in a bone-building diet. The key, of course, is balance – when you eat a seafood dish, balance it with alkalizing side dishes such as quinoa, fresh salad, alkalizing fruits, or steamed vegetables.

That said, even the most carefully balanced and healthful diet is never completely toxin-free, as mentioned above. These toxins cause a significant drain on your liver and kidneys, the organs that silently detoxify your system day after day. Their function is vital for your overall health, but also your bones, because toxins are acidifying. And overworked kidneys are not as efficient at maintaining body pH as healthy ones, setting the stage for significant bone damage.

Because there are so few warning signs that your liver and kidneys are struggling, I recommend a periodic detox.

It’s Best To Cleanse Your System Before You Have Symptoms

If you have been inadvertently eating high-toxin seafood or taking osteoporosis drugs, or even just going about your daily life, a systemic cleanse makes sense for optimal bone health. But don’t worry – the cleanse that goes along with the Program, OsteoCleanse™, is not drastic or uncomfortable. It’s about incorporating cleansing foods and drinks into your daily meals, and other easy temporary changes, and it only lasts one week.

Yes, you do have to give up some foods, like eggs, dairy products, and meat during the week you’re doing OsteoCleanse™. But the cleanse doesn’t include harsh or exotic supplements, and you won’t spend seven days feeling starved. In fact, there are many delicious recipes that satisfy your hunger while you’re cleansing.

Accelerated Bone Remodeling In Just 7 Days!

Discover how OsteoCleanse™ can flush osteoporosis drugs and other bone-damaging toxins from your system – in just seven days.

Learn More Now →

OsteoCleanse™ promotes more youthful energy, bowel regularity, and a host of other benefits for your bones and whole body.

I always love to hear from the Saver community. Please feel free to share your thoughts about the topics in today’s post by leaving a comment below.

Till next time,

References:

1Tata, Samantha. “Nationwide Recall of Canned Tuna Fish Expands.” NBC Los Angeles. Web. http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Nationwide-Canned-Tuna-Fish-Recall-Expands-FDA-Brunswick-Bumble-Bee-Chicken-of-the-Sea-196635281.html

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27 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Chris Hall July 4, 2017, 8:07 pm

    What about Alaskan King Crab and or Lobster?

  2. Tess Binns April 23, 2016, 3:22 am

    Hi Vivian,
    I have osteoporosis at 57 and really appreciate your research. I have bought your cook books and oust cleanse program, but really feel like I’m on some sort of diet, and can’t stick at it for long. I’m a slim person who for some reason needs to eat allot of calories. How can I do the cleanse without feeling hungry? Veggies don’t seem to fill me up for very long, and I’m not a lover of lentils etc
    Regards,
    Tess

    • Linda March 16, 2017, 2:32 pm

      Is it safe to drink distilled water because of the plastic containers.That’s all they seen to come in Thanks, Linda.

  3. carol April 18, 2016, 2:56 pm

    I wanted to know how much VitK2 to take? and which one is the best? mk7 or mk4? T U

    • Mary Hartman April 22, 2016, 4:18 pm

      I’m taking K2 . Had 12 fractures Bones keep getting weaker they are trying to figure it out. I have appointment with Cleveland Clinic. Don’t know what to think, only 67

  4. Suzy April 13, 2016, 5:31 pm

    Hi, Vivian. Great article! Thank you!!! However, the title was, “The 7 Most Toxic Fish You Should Avoid To Protect Your Bones And Your Health (And Which You Should Eat Instead)”

    But you didn’t tell us…! Which should we eat instead? 🙂

    Thanks!

    • Lois April 14, 2016, 4:37 pm

      If you re-read the article, Vivian does leave suggestions for almost every item. For instance, instead of Imported Shrimp she recommends Domestic Shrimp.

      • Suzy April 16, 2016, 11:16 am

        Oops, I missed that. THANK YOU, Lois!! 🙂

  5. Ronald April 12, 2016, 11:41 am

    Vivian, your information is always important to all of us thank you again. Somebody mentioned Sardines, I eat cod, Salmon, and occasionally frozen Trout. I live in Toronto Canada, and forgot to mention Fillet of Sole, and any way people should beware of what they should eat . thank you again Vivian.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA April 16, 2016, 9:59 am

      I agree, Ronald. People should absolutely be made aware of what they are eating, so we can all make informed choices.

  6. Donna April 12, 2016, 10:38 am

    Great article! Thanks. What do you think of sushi in general?

  7. John Kannerly April 12, 2016, 2:01 am

    I love fish — all kinds, and especially sushi, which is problematic because I have chronic osteomyelitis and must take antibiotics daily. My immune system is all shot to Hell by the medicine that keeps my infection from spreading and I can’t afford to eat things that bring contaminants into my system. Honestly, I’m seriously considering a vegan diet just to reduce the load on my system from contaminants in the food chain. Luckily, I live in the South, and there are 9 months of farmers markets here where I can shake the hand of the person who grew it/raised it, and judge for myself if they’re honest or lying. You can spot the liars – they never have a line at their stand, their prices are lower, and they won’t look you in the eye.

    Thanks for letting me rant. Young people – pay heed! Health is the ONLY wealth, and once it’s been spent, you cannot earn it back! Whatever other sacrifices you must make, eat a healthful diet – start right now and you’ll be young at every age!

    • Ronald April 12, 2016, 11:52 am

      It’s true John, as you get older it’s hard to keep yourself well-balanced in your diet. Next week, I’m turning 67 years, I try to keep myself as young as possible, in drinking and eating organic, exercising, and still working. Nothing is easy keep healthy John

  8. Lena April 11, 2016, 1:45 pm

    Just checked, the OsteoCleanse is not on amazon.com (yet?).
    4/11/2016

  9. maria rose April 11, 2016, 12:54 pm

    I used to work as a seafood manager at a supermarket and just retired last year. While I enjoy seafood when prepared right, I rarely brought fish at store unless it was wild caught and then only certain fish. Supermarkets today, are very concerned with high profit gains and will sell high quantities of fish that give them the most profit, regardless of the pledge to be sustainable. Until the last year that I worked, I was able to find out exactly where my fish was coming from until company switched to mostly frozen products which were not as clearly labeled as to country of origin (an important point of information).I blame the buyers and profit shares for that. Now I buy fish thru an online site that only sells wild fish, unfortunately I have to get it frozen but the quality is excellent. I don’t eat as much fish as Dr.Oz, who eats it for lunch daily, but I manage to include it in my diet. For those people who only have access to local supermarket, I advise you get friendly with your clerks behind the counter and ask them to help you in choosing the fish. Try to avoid any fish and shrimp imported outside of US. There are plenty of wild fresh water fish caught in US that are good to eat depending on area you live in. If you’re one of those people that can’t deal with bones in fish, you’ll have less choices because the best fish are whole fish. The bones in the fish add flavor and most bones are very visible so you won’t chock on them. Take it from someone who used to avoid whole fish it is feasible. Just have the fish prepared to be pan ready by clerk who’ll remove all parts like head, gills, fins and guts and sometimes bones if fish isn’t very boney.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA April 11, 2016, 1:54 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experience from the other side of things, Maria!

  10. Marlene Villar April 11, 2016, 12:43 pm

    EXCELLENT article Vivian ! Thank you very , very much.
    Have a wonderful day. Marlene

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA April 11, 2016, 1:53 pm

      You are welcome, Marlene, and I hope you have a wonderful day as well!

      • Susan April 12, 2016, 7:28 am

        Vivian, What are the fish we should be eating? You didn’t list them.
        Thanks so much.

  11. Ben Lloyd April 11, 2016, 9:30 am

    The 7 Most Toxic Fish You Should Avoid To Protect Your Bones And Your Health (And Which You Should Eat Instead)
    Although acidifying, many types of seafood offer bone-nourishing, healthful nutrients and have an important place in the 80/20 nutritional plan of the Save Our Bones Program.
    But not all seafood is equally healthful, and some varieties are best avoided.
    While the list of “good fish” and “bad fish” changes periodically, you should not eat the following seven fish (and seafood items), and you’ll soon find out why.
    1. Imported Shrimp
    MOST Shrimp that are imported from overseas are raised in farms, and the conditions are rife with contamination in some countries. Antibiotics, chemical residue from cleaning the shrimps’ containers, and even bits of insects Any product held in the wild could have bits of insects or any other animal. These shrimp pens are usually in the ocean, so anything flying or floating by could be in the pens, just the same as any wild fishery) make their way into the shrimps’ habitats and ultimately into their bodies. In addition, some imported shrimp has been shown to have E. coli contaminationAny shrimp COULD test positive for E Coli. I’m sure this has occurred but it’s not a common occurrence. .
    To make matters worse, less than 2% of shrimp coming into the U.S. has been inspectedMost companies would randomly test lots, so yes it may be a 2% check, but this wouldn’t be much different from US produced product inspected by USDC. Instead, look for domestic shrimp. They ignore that domestic shrimp are overfished. They also completely neglect to mention all of the wild shrimp from Central and South America. This is also high quality product that can be sourced from the wild.
    2. American Eel
    You may see this under the name yellow eel, and it’s commonly served in sushi. The most alarming contaminant in American eels is PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. These man-made compounds were banned in the 1970s, but are extremely persistent in the environment. And unfortunately, PCB has ended up in the rivers and waterways where the American eel resides. (Interestingly, the American eel spawns in the ocean but develops and lives most of its life in fresh water.)
    In addition, American eel contains mercury, a heavy metal that is disturbingly prevalent in the environment. Commercial fisheries are also running into an over-harvesting problem, making American eel an unsustainable choice of seafood. I don’t know too much about this fishery, but I’m surprised it would be overfished. There aren’t any tight regulations on harvesting American eels.
    3. Imported Catfish
    The vast majority of imported catfish – around 90 percent – comes from Vietnam, where antibiotic use is widespread. Specifically, Vietnamese catfish was found to contain ciprofloxacin and enrofloxacin, antibiotics that are banned in the U.S. due to the antibiotic-resistant microbes they promote, especially Campylobacter.
    Another issue is the name of the fish. Vietnamese catfish marketed under the name Basa or Swai are not considered actual catfish according to the federal government. So they are not inspected and held to the same standard as a “true” catfish would be. That opens the door for more contaminants to slip in.
    A more healthful option is domestic, farm-raised catfish, which are very plentiful and farmed responsibly. I agree
    4. Atlantic Salmon
    Whether wild-caught or farmed, Atlantic salmon is a poor choice of fish. Ironically, salmon farms are polluting wild salmon populations. The farmed fish escape and compete with the wild species for food, and the copious amounts of antibiotics and pesticides used in salmon farming flow out into the environment. This all adds up to an endangered wild population and contaminated farmed salmon.I don’t think there is an Atlantic Salmon wild fishery. It’s all farmed.
    In fact, if you see any fish labeled “Atlantic salmon” it is farm-raised, and the conditions on such farms are deplorable (hence the use of antibiotics and pesticides to control the disease inherent in crowded conditions). I think this is overstating it. Some of the farms in Maine and Canada do a great job raising fish in deep water. If the world wants sustainable protein they are going to have to eat farmed fish as the wild fisheries obviously can’t support the harvest.
    An alarming “solution” to such problems is the engineering of genetically-modified salmon, which is currently being sold without any labeling to inform the consumer of their GMO seafood choice. One certainty is that any GMO salmon will be labeled “farm-raised”; while all farm-raised salmon is not GMO, all GMO salmon is farm-raised.
    Wild Alaskan salmon is currently a good choice for this bone-healthy fish. Agreed.
    5. Orange Roughy
    The orange roughy is a type of perch that lives in the deep ocean. They are highly contaminated with mercury, and their decades-long life cycle makes them a very unsustainable choice. An orange roughy actually takes anywhere from 20 to 40 years to reach reproductive maturity. That’s why decimated populations take so long to recover – and some never do.
    The long life cycle also makes farming orange roughy pretty much impossible, so any orange roughy with a “sustainably harvested” or “farm-raised” label is shady at best. Instead, try domestic catfish or yellow snapper. These safer fish have a similar texture and flavor to orange roughy. I don’t know much here.
    6. Chilean Sea Bass
    Considered a delicacy, the Chilean sea bass is much sought after. That’s the problem – it’s estimated that this fish will be extinct (commercially speaking) within the next five years. It’s actually illegal to capture these fish in the U.S (because there is no fishery here, the fish don’t live here!), so any Chilean sea bass you see for sale has been caught illegally There is no fishery here in the US. All fish are caught in Patagonia region legally. Overfished, definitely, but not illegal. This is a very misleading statement. In addition, Chilean sea bass is high in mercury.
    Haddock makes a very good substitute for the Chilean sea bass. Haddock is also overfished, they seem to be inconsistent with their recommendations. How about Hake, Cusk, etc.
    7. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
    The high mercury content of tuna has been known for some time. But the Atlantic bluefin is the highest in mercury of all tuna species, and it’s also greatly over-harvested. While most species of tuna contain mercury, some have significantly lower amounts than others.
    Fore example, albacore tuna raised and sold in the U.S. and Canada is a less-toxic option since it is caught while young (before it’s had time to accumulate mercury in its body). Or you can get Alaska wild-caught salmon instead, including canned salmon.
    If you select canned tuna, (and if so, make sure you consume it only occasionally, since it contains toxic and calcium-blocking BPA) you should be aware that just a few months ago, several prominent brands of canned tuna pulled their products off the shelves in a voluntary recall. The reason was faulty cans that allowed contaminants to infiltrate the tuna.1
    This is an important point in the bigger picture of toxin exposure – not only are toxins everywhere, but their presence often goes undetected until after exposure and/or ingestion. This is why periodic detoxification is so important for your bones and general health, even if you are careful with your diet.
    We’re going to look at this topic of detoxification more in a moment, but first, I want to make sure that there is no misunderstanding regarding the consumption of seafood.Agreed

  12. Barbara April 11, 2016, 8:05 am

    Tilapia should also be on that list.

  13. DocNo April 11, 2016, 6:28 am

    China has fish farms that do not use any chemicals or antibiotics. They use mountain water and distribute their fish directly to consumers.. you’ll just need to know where they are. Moreover, the Fukushima radiation has been polluting the air as well, so toxic dust will soon be infiltrating everywhere in China.

  14. DocNo April 11, 2016, 6:24 am

    Fukushima nuke-contamination has been spreading for the past few years and according to Japan’s surgeon-general their situation is out of control. With that said, I would avoid anything from the ocean.

  15. Rosemarie April 11, 2016, 6:07 am

    Thanks for the info. Mom and I , she’s 91, are huge salmon eaters. Lots of luck finding anything but farm raised. They have tried!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA April 11, 2016, 8:52 am

      It can be tricky, Rosemarie – check local health food store freezers, and ask your local grocer about their sources of salmon. The more consumers speak up, the more likely the suppliers are to listen. 🙂

  16. Betty April 11, 2016, 4:38 am

    Vivian. Thank you again for your helpful advice. Our main fish dishes are haddock, cod and salmon. Always grateful for your help in keeping us all bone healthy.

    I really need to watch my posture, shoulders, etc. Leaning forward at computer doesn’t help. Need to watch that. Thanks.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA April 11, 2016, 8:51 am

      You are most welcome, Betty. It’s clear that you’re implementing the things you learn about bone health, which is excellent!

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