Other fish that are high in the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are salmon and sardines. Since most kids like tuna, that's an easy dish to serve in sandwiches, salads or by itself. Salmon burgers could also be a healthy and enticing option for kids.
"Fish oils are also very good anti-inflammatories and so many root causes of disease are inflammation. So you can't lose by eating more fish. But what I say is important, particularly with kids with developing brains, is to go for lower mercury fish," Rarback cautions.
Mercury, a metallic element found in the air and released by coal-fired power plants and other industries, can build up in the human body over years and cause neurological problems, including memory loss and personality disorders, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA warns that children, pregnant women and women who plan to become pregnant are at the greatest risk because mercury can damage the nervous system of a developing child.
Fish highest in mercury are large predators like largemouth bass and sharks, since they ingest all the mercury from the fish they consume.
"Fish with the lowest potential for mercury is canned white tuna and salmon -- those are two good choices for kids. And sardines, though I've yet to meet the kid who likes sardines," Rarback said, laughing. "But sardines have the lowest potential for any types of toxins because they are so small, so they are terrific."
Professor Jennifer Pinto-Martinone, executive director of Penn's Center for Public Health Initiatives, told Penn News the research "adds to the growing body of evidence showing that fish consumption has really positive health benefits and should be something more heavily advertised and promoted. Children should be introduced to it early on."
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