Regardless if you observe Lent or not, there is probably a no better time to talk about fish and what fish is safe to eat than now. I’ve always loved and still love fish which is why I’m a pescetarian – and what being a pescetarian means when it comes up in conversation! Fish is good for us. Fish can be rich in protein and omega-3’s. But which fish is best? And what’s the difference between farmed vs. wild salmon, anyway? What once seemed like common knowledge for nutritionists and perhaps, fishermen now seems like common knowledge around our social circle of friends to health conscious people alike.
Farmed vs. Wild
Gone are the days when you could go to the market and could decide whether you want haddock or cod for dinner. There’s plenty of haddock or cod or tilapia or salmon but all of them by labels that distinguish whether they are farmed or wild and it’s pretty important information to safeguard your health.
Buying fresh fish should be your first choice next to packaged or frozen fish. Fresh fish is usually store packaged and don’t have a code for you to scan at the register. The fish should also appear translucent and smell like the sea. If it smells like a fish market or looks opaque before it hits the heat on your stove, this means the fish is getting old so don’t buy it. A brown fish at the market should never be purchased.
Secondly, here’s what should fish lovers and others who eat fish regularly and often should be concerned about?
- Amount of omega-3’s – Fish is rich in omega 3’s compared to other protein sources. Omega-3’s are linked to increased immunity and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Wild caught fish are richer in omega-3’s compared to farm caught fish.
- Sustainability – 75% of our oceans are overfished causing a 90% decline in predatory fish populations. This is why fish farms exist and even though farmed fish is better to buy than not to buy any fish at all, you must be wary of questionable practices that promote disease, heavy antibiotic use and parasite infestations.
- Toxicity levels – PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), methylmercury, and other toxins are all said to be present to all fish to some degree but the key is minimizing levels, Factors to watch out for are the amount of pollution in the fish’s habitat and the type of feed used in fish farming. The most toxic fish are the bottom-crawlers of the sea or most shellfish.
Fish to try
Shopping for fish should depend on the following factors: the quality of fish farming practices, the type of fish and the waters it comes from. Next time you’re at the supermarket, try to keep your eyes peeled for these types of fish. These are the among the safest to try and healthiest for your heart:
- Albacore tuna (troll or pole caught from the U.S. or British Columbia)
- Alaskan salmon (wild)
- Rainbow trout (farmed)
- Pacific sardines (wild-caught)
- Oysters (farmed)
- Freshwater Coho salmon (farmed in tank systems, in U.S.)
- Get the Monterey Bay Aquarium iPhone app for updates on sustainable seafood.
- Marian Nestle on Buying Fish in her book, What to Eat.
- Farmed vs. wild fish, which is healthier?