Incorporating fish into your diet is a great way to boost health, protect your brain and heart, and even stave off certain kinds of cancers. To say the least, fish is a powerful ally to have on your dinner plate — but only if you’re eating the best, safest fish possible.
Here are a few ways to hunt down seafood that will support your health as well as the ocean’s:
1. Are you a good fish or a bad fish?
In the simplest of terms, a “good fish” to eat is one that:
- Tastes good
- Is low in toxins
- Has little negative impact on the environment
- Hasn’t been overfished
- Doesn’t compromise other marine populations through sloppy fishing techniques
2. Go wild or farmed?
Truth be told, both farmed and wild fish have their pros and cons. With farmed fish, there are concerns about the quality of their food supply, the cleanliness of their environments, and impact on surrounding waters. That said, they allow for a high yield of fish without the risk of overharvesting and depleting wild populations. With wild fish, over-fishing and over-harvesting are a serious threat to many species, but the fish contain far fewer contaminants. In the end, if you choose wisely, wild fish is usually the best option — as long as you know which species are the healthiest to eat.
3. School yourself.
How to get smart about fish? Educate yourself. One of the most user-friendly and comprehensive sites I’ve come across is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s site, Seafoodwatch.org, which arms consumers with recommendations on best choices, good alternatives, and must-avoid info on more than 50 species of fish.
4. Take yours “to-go”
Don’t leave home without consulting the Monterey Bay Aquarium's seafood recommendations for shopping or dining out, which helps you know which fish choices are best for you and the ocean as well as which ones to avoid. Fish fans with smart phones can also download the SeafoodWatch app. The Environmental Defense Fund also publishes a handy printout guide called the “Seafood Selector," which tells you how about mercury levels in fish. It also gives each one an "Eco-rating."
5. Catch my drift?
Can’t quite visualize how your fish is caught? Don’t know pole-caught from gill-netting? Then take a look at seafoodwatch.org ’s helpful page of animations and illustrations of commercial fishing techniques. So, once you’ve identified your favorite types of fish and how they’re caught, find out where they rank on the Seafoodwatch or Environmental Defense Fund lists and buy accordingly.
6. So which fish top the charts in terms of healthy nutrition?
There are six species that come out on top, having been named the “Super Greens” by Seafood Watch. What makes them Super Green? Two very appealing qualities: (1) they carry the fewest contaminants and (2) they meet the daily minimum of omega-3s, making them excellent choices for regular consumption:
- Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
- Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
- Oysters (farmed)
- Pacific Sardines (wild-caught)
- Rainbow Trout (farmed)
- Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)
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