Seafood, It's Fishy- Best Options for Health, Sustainability, Omega-3s, Macros and Cooking Tips

Dive into the this fishy topic to learn best and worst seafood choices, effects on your health, omega-3 content and macros for seafood. Plus, tips for cooking with seafood.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program helps consumers choose seafood that's fished or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean. Their recommendations show which seafood items are Best Choices or Good Alternatives, and which ones you should limit for personal and environmental health. Here is the list of their current “super-green” fish that are the best choices based on sustainability, fishing practices and being low in mercury and high in omega-3 fats.

These items are classified as a Seafood Watch "Best Choice." • Atlantic Mackerel ( from Canada and the U.S.) • Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.) • Pacific Sardines (wild-caught) • Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska) • Salmon, Canned (wild-caught, from Alaska)

They list these other healthy "Best Choices" • Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia) • Sablefish/Black Cod (from Alaska and Canadian Pacific)

The next five fish are ones to eat less of or avoid because they are both depleted and, in many cases, carry higher levels of mercury and PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. These industrial chemicals were banned in 1979 but are still present in sediments in waterways. PCBs build up in the fatty tissue of fish when it’s present in the sediment, and therefore, can end up in the fish we eat. Why the ban on PCBs? It was found they pose serious health risks to fetuses, babies and children, who may suffer developmental and neurological problems from repeated exposure to small amounts of PCBs. Here’s the five fish to limit:

1. Bluefin Tuna 2. Orange Roughy 3. Salmon (Atlantic, farmed in pens) 4. Mahi-Mahi (Costa Rica, Guatemala & Peru) 5. Halibut (Atlantic, wild)

So if you prefer to just go to the store and shop seafood that meets all of the criteria, go to Whole Foods. Yes it can be pricey but look for what is on sale and know that they have strict guidelines for what seafood they sell. Whole Foods sources only from sustainable fisheries and responsible farms. They also partner with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Heavy metals like mercury and chemicals in the sediment like PCBs, can build up in the fish we eat. Larger fish tend to be higher in mercury as they accumulate more over time and by eating lots of smaller fish, acquiring more mercury through their own diet. Examples of high mercury fish are King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna.

These cooking tips can help you minimize exposure to PCBs, especially if eating some of the five "limit" fish mentioned earlier:

  • Before cooking, remove the skin, fat and internal organs where toxins are likely to accumulate. For fish filets, remove the skin.

  • When cooking, be sure to let the fat drain away and avoid or reduce fish drippings.

  • Serve less fried fish; frying seals in chemical pollutants that might be in the fish's fat, while grilling or broiling allows fat to drain away.

  • For smoked fish, fillet the fish and remove the skin before the fish is smoked.

There’s not a more loved and hated fish than tilapia. It was popular for years because it is high in protein, low in calories and fairly cheap for fish. Well, you get what you pay for. Maybe you’ve heard that tilapia are raised in cesspools and live on poop? Even the USDA says there is — or, at least, used to be — some truth to that. A 2009 report on Chinese imports notes that “Fish are often raised in ponds where they feed on waste from poultry and livestock.” So if you’re choosing the cheapest tilapia on the market, be sure to check where it’s coming from. Fish packaging will list the country of origin.

Simply all of this fishy information with the Monterey Bay Aquarium app. It’s called the Seafood Watch app. You can search the type of fish you’re looking for and they have a sushi guide. Use this if you want to find tilapia or any type of fish that’s the most sustainable, has best fishing practices and is good for your health.

If you’re looking to get the most omega-3s from seafood, herring, salmon, mackerel and sardines are the highest seafood sources. Other common sources of omega-3 fats are walnuts, flaxseed, omega 3 eggs and supplements. Plant based omega-3s, like those in flaxseed, are different from the seafood sourced omega-3s but a good source if you are a vegetarian or don’t like fish.

Since most people are trying to eat more fish, here are some ways to make fish less fishy:

  1. Try a mild fish like flounder or cod and spice it up- add a lot of your favorite seasoning and lemon juice.

  2. Replace it in some of your favorite types of dishes, like by making fish tacos or make your own fish sticks instead of chicken strips.

  3. Try grilling it outside. It will keep the smell out of the house and gives it that char-grilled flavor like a grilled steak.

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