Expert Articles

Eat Fish Healthily!

Author: Chan Ching Ching
Registered nurse at SKH St. Thomas ‘Child Care Centre

Fish is a nutrient-rich food, but what benefits does it actually have for the health of infants and toddlers? And how should parents choose suitable fish for their children?

Nutritional Value of Fish:
  • Fish contains abundant animal-based Omega-3, especially the unsaturated fatty acids DHA and EPA, which help in the brain and vision development of children.
  • It is a good source of animal protein, which is essential for the growth and development of infants.
  • Fish is rich in vitamin D, which is crucial for the development of bones and teeth in young children.
  • It contains various minerals, including iodine, which is important for preventing thyroid enlargement (commonly known as “goiter”) and promoting proper development.
  • Research from the Food Safety Centre shows that the average intake of fish and seafood among women of childbearing age in Hong Kong is 450 grams (about 12 ounces) per week, which benefits the intellectual development of fetuses.
Risk of Heavy Metal Contamination:
  • Pregnant women, women planning to conceive, and young children should choose fish with lower mercury levels to avoid potential adverse effects on the child’s brain.
  • The mercury content in fish can vary depending on their food sources and the aquatic environment they inhabit. Larger predatory fish may have higher mercury levels, while smaller fish (less than one pound), farmed fish, freshwater fish, and non-predatory fish tend to have lower mercury levels.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that children aged 1 to 3 years consume fish twice a week, with each serving being approximately 1 ounce (about 28.5 grams).
  • The Food Safety Centre suggests that fish with lower mercury levels include yellow croaker, salmon, sand whiting, tilapia, mackerel, blackhead, horsehead, gudgeon, bighead, mandarin fish, red snapper, and bigeye.
  • It is advisable to consume a variety of low-mercury fish, alternating between deep-sea and freshwater fish, instead of solely relying on one type of fish.
Canned Fish:

In 2020, the Consumer Council tested 46 samples of canned fish and found various types of metal contaminants, including arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and lead. Excessive consumption of these contaminants can lead to chronic poisoning. Therefore, it is recommended for parents to choose fresh fish for consumption.

Raw Fish (e.g., Sashimi):

The FDA advises that children aged 5 years or younger should not consume raw or undercooked fish (such as sushi, sashimi, and smoked salmon) or seafood (such as oysters, scallops, shrimp, and squid) to avoid the risk of bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections.

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Eat Fish Healthily!