If you’ve ever been confused about making the right seafood choices for you and your family, you’re not alone. Among the competing concerns out there are: health benefits vs. sustainability issues vs. mercury levels. And if you’ve grown to love the taste of farmed salmon, you may be especially conflicted, because on the one-hand, it’s a heart-healthy fish with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and selenium that is also low in mercury; but on the other hand, it’s gotten a bad wrap for being a poor choice when it comes to sustainability.
Salmon is one of the most popular fish today, and it may be in everyone’s interest (for health and sustainability) to have a better alternative to both wild-caught and conventionally farmed salmon. That’s why the sustainable seafood team at FreshDirect was so impressed with an innovative company named Verlasso, who offers what they call a “premium salmon raised in harmony with the natural environment.” If you haven’t seen this quick 2-minute video on how they’re taking care of the oceans and producing a high quality product, check it out:
The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 encourages Americans to eat more seafood as one of its key recommendations, but more than 80% of Americans fall short of the twice-a-week rule. The Guidelines include seafood in its list of protein foods to eat more of, in addition to lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. All of these foods are what Registered Dietitians call “nutrient-dense” or “nutrient-rich”, which means you get more nutrition for fewer calories, an important way to eat for healthy weight management. But the Dietary Guidelines goes ahead and plays favorites, and really pushes us all to “increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry.”
If you’re still worried about mercury and PCBs, you may be comforted to know that the bottom line for human health is that the benefits of eating a variety of seafood outweigh the risks from contaminants. The key word being “variety.” Harvard School of Public Health agrees, and provides a good evidence-based overview of their position.
Highlights from the Harvard article are:
• Eating about 2g per week of omega-3 fatty acids from fish (equal to 1-2 servings of fish per week), reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by more than a third
• Omega-3s are important to baby’s brain and nervous system development
• Pregnant women can still benefit from eating seafood regularly, by choosing lower-mercury fish such as salmon, shrimp, Pollock, and catfish.
• The Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the Institutes of Medicine, and analysis by lipid (dietary fat) experts Mozaffarian and Rimm, all agree that the heart-health benefits outweigh the risks from contaminants.
• The easiest way to minimize contaminants is to eat a variety of fish and shellfish. Though, as a caveat, women and children should take care to avoid a few species known to have higher mercury levels. They are: tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel (TSSK). Thankfully, there are plenty more types of fish in the sea – and the choices of what you should eat is much larger than the short list of what to avoid.
For more of my food tips (all with great savings!), check out my Healthy Living for Less section.