Seafood safety is an important issue for those of you who eat fish & shellfish. Due to an increase in toxic pollution of the oceans, climate change, over fishing both salt & fresh water sources, concerns over farmed & GMO fish, it is difficult to know what to choose for your meal. I have put together a few sources that can help you make a choice based on safety & sustainability.
Nutritionally, seafood is a very healthy choice for your protein source. I found this overview to be very informative. You can download the information here: Seafood Nutrition Overview: “Seafood is a high-protein food that is low in calories, total fat, and saturated fat. High in vitamins and minerals, seafood has been shown to have numerous health benefits. For example, recent studies have shown that eating seafood can decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, and hypertension. Seafood also provides essential nutrients for developing infants and children.
Calories and Protein: Seafood is generally considered to be a low-calorie protein source. Most low-fat species of fish, such as cod, flounder and sole, contain less than 100 calories per 3-ounce cooked portion, and even fattier fish like mackerel, herring, and salmon have about 200 calories per serving. Seafood is a complete protein source. It contains enough of the essential amino acids to assure healthy growth and optimal fetal development. A 3-ounce serving of most fish and shellfish provides about about 30-40% of the average daily recommended amount of protein. The protein in seafood is easier to digest because seafood has less connective tissue than red meats and poultry.
Fat and Cholesterol: Seafood is generally considered to be low in total fat and saturated fat. Most fish and shellfish contain less than 5 percent total fat, and even the fattiest fish, such as mackerel and king salmon, have no more than 15 percent fat. A large proportion of the fat in seafood is polyunsaturated, including omega-3 fatty acids, which have added health benefits.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are required for healthy human development. These organic compounds cannot be produced by the human body and therefore need to be obtained through food. Scientific evidence suggests that the marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can help reduce the risk of heart disease and contribute to brain and vision development in infants. Fish and shellfish are the main dietary sources of EPA and DHA. The plant-derived omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is a precursor to EPA and DHA and is only converted at rates of about 0.1-9% in the human body. The American Heart Association recommends 1000 milligrams (mg) of EPA/DHA per day for patients with coronary heart disease, and two meals of oily fish per week for patients without heart disease. Fish with medium to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids include oily ocean fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines (see Description of Omega-3’s and Their Role in Human Health).
Cholesterol is present at varying amounts in most animal foods. Current dietary recommendations suggest limiting cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day. Almost all fish and shellfish contain well under 100 mg of cholesterol per 3-ounce cooked serving, and many of the leaner types of fish have less than 60 mg.
Vitamins and Minerals: Fish is a natural source of B-complex vitamins, vitamin D and vitamin A (especially oily fish). B-complex vitamins have been associated with healthy development of the nervous system. Vitamin A is needed for healthy vision as well as for healthy skin, while vitamin D is essential in bone development.
Fish is also a good source of minerals such as selenium, zinc, iodine and iron. Selenium is a potent antioxidant that protects against cell damage and may help to counter the negative effects of mercury. Zinc is needed for cell growth and immune system health. Iodine helps maintain thyroid gland function, while iron is important in red blood cell production. Small fish eaten whole, such as sardines and anchovies, are an important source of calcium needed for bone development.”
To keep up with seafood news affecting you as a consumer: Seafood Industry News – Food Safety & Health This page covers what the FDA is doing with specific labels/companies that are not up to their standards. It is a good resource for those of you interested in following seafood safety & which companies are being watched.
On the same website there is a Seafood Handbook that lists over 100 different fish & seafood. If you click on the name of a fish, for example anchovy, it lists the following information about that fish:
The Monterey Bay Aquarium provides up to date information about which fish & shellfish are safe to buy. Their website is: Seafood Watch: “The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program helps consumers and businesses choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that protect sea life and habitats, now and for future generations. Our recommendations indicate which seafood items are “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives,” and which ones you should “Avoid.”
We raise public awareness about sustainable seafood issues through our consumer guides, website, mobile apps and outreach efforts. Since 1999, we’ve distributed over 56 million consumer guides and our smartphone app has been downloaded over 1.5 million times. We also encourage restaurants, distributors and seafood purveyors to purchase from sustainable sources. We have over 200 partners across North America, including two of the largest food service companies in the U.S.
The Seafood Watch Mobile App for Apple & Android. Most people have their phone with them while shopping. This is a great app to have.
To download the printable, portable, 2016 Seafood Watch guide for California, click HERE You can also click on the guide below to get a bigger picture that you can also download & print.
Check out their International Resources on Fish. When you click on a country, watch for a popup window asking if you want it translated. I had to do that with Japan. Interesting information.
Another good resource is the EWG’s Consumer Guide to Seafood. “EWG believes Americans must consider the impact of their dietary choices on the ocean and freshwater ecosystems. One key step is to assess which segments of the population most benefit from seafood consumption and give them clear information about species and quantities that best provide health benefits.” I think the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s guides are more comprehensive, up to date & user friendly.
GMO fish? In the news they are called “frankenfish”. Apt name. Good article: Here are the retailers who won’t sell AquaBounty’s GM salmon “A New York Times readership poll found that 75 percent of respondents would not eat salmon that had been genetically engineered. According to Friends of the Earth, over 60 grocery store chains operating 9,000 storefronts across the United States have already made vows to not sell GMO or genetically modified products. Safeway, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Aldi are all among those retailers refusing GMO items.” This is your choice. Enough said 🙂
Now you know which fish & shellfish to choose for dinner. Here are a few links to recipes so you can follow through with your healthy diet.
- Sea Food Watch Sustainable Recipes Even though I am a vegetarian, these recipes look good. I may try a few with seitan or tempeh in place of the fish 🙂
- Bon Appetit: 21 Simple, Healthy Fish Recipes for Crazy-Busy Weeknights
- Prevention: No-Fail Fish Dishes “Fish is the ultimate supper superstar. It’s healthy, quick to cook, and can be used fresh or frozen. Still, it’s easy to get discouraged by which kind of fish to buy, a potentially high price tag, or how to prepare it. We make it easy. These 10 recipes give simple step-by-step instructions and tell you which types of fish can be swapped in its place—just in case you prefer a certain type or find a lower cost alternative at the market.”
- Cooking Light: Super Fast Fish Recipes “Twenty-minute recipes from under the sea.”
Don’t forget to use your Fish Watch app or to bring along the portable guide next time you are at the market. Bon appetit!………Mary