Learn the ins and outs of choosing the right fish.
By Lauren Feld
Not all fish are created equal. Before you put anything in your mouth, you should know which fish are the highest quality and the most nutritious for you. Although customers rarely stop to inquire about the seafood they purchase, the answers can make all the difference. Let’s break it down.
What’s all this hoopla about omega-3s and fish anyway?
Well, it turns out that eating 1-2 weekly servings of fatty fish, like tuna, salmon and rainbow trout, can reduce chances of dying from heart disease by more than one-third, according to Harvard School of Health’s The Nutrition Source. Fish and other seafood provide major levels of healthful omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium. Plus, they provide you with more protein and less saturated fat than other protein sources like red meat and processed foods.
So if I purchase some salmon filet for dinner I’m set right?
Well, no. The origin of the fish can make a huge difference too. The two major methods of fishing in question are farm-raised versus wild-caught.
Fish farming is the process of raising fish for commercial sale. During this process, the fish are kept in an enclosed environment — either in ocean cages, surface-land ponds or tank systems — where everything from their diet to reproduction can be closely monitored.
Pro: Farmed fish are commercially coveted because they’re reasonably priced and more readily available.
Con: Because farmers can control the feed of their stock these fish suffer several negative consequences. Rather than using feed that is more easily converted to omega-3s, farmers tend to use less expensive feed like GMO corn, soy and fish meal. In fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 2011 that farmed salmon, catfish and tilapia contain two to three times fewer omega-3s than their wild counterparts.
Con: Because the fish are kept in close quarters, they are also more prone to diseases and therefore, loaded with antibiotics.
Due to the expanding human population and the increasing demand for fish, most researchers predict the natural fish supply will not be able to satisfy the commercial market. The process of overfishing can eventually lead to the extinction of certain species.
Pro: Wild fisheries follow guidelines that ensure fishers sustainably harvest fish without depleting the available supply. Fish and shellfish are seen as renewable resources that can reproduce and replenish their populations naturally. Basically, some fish are caught while some are left to reproduce for the next time.
Pro: Wild fish can swim freely about the vast ocean, which allows them to develop muscles, improving taste and texture. These fish are higher in omega-3s and are less contaminated than farm-raised fish.
Con: Having said that, be ready to dig deep in your wallet the next time you search for wild-caught fish at the grocery store. Since they’re harder to find, they’re much more expensive. Save money by trying canned wild salmon.
The Final “Catch”
Wild-caught is always the safer, healthier choice when it comes to your seafood dinner. However, these benefits come at a price. When your bank account is running a little too low to splurge on wild-caught fish, try these safe and nutritious
farm-raised options instead.
Other Fishy Facts
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of three fats called ALA, EPA and DHA. Omega-3s are considered essential fatty acids, meaning they cannot be produced by the human body and must be consumed from outside sources. They are vital for normal metabolism.
Farmed salmon are administered more antibiotics by weight than any other type of livestock. Scientists worry that these antibiotics, when spread in high amounts to humans, could lead to antibiotic resistance.
Cooking salmon until its internal temperature breaks 175˚F and removing the skin before eating can help reduce the amount of contaminants you consume.