Seafood is thought by many to be very healthy and to help fight heart disease. However, there are some important things you need to know. According to Harvard School of Public Health, “Fish and other seafood are the major sources of healthful long-chain omega-3 fats and are also rich in other nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium, high in protein, and low in saturated fat.” While seafood can be a healthy diet choice, it is important to choose safe seafood to eat. Here is what you need to watch out for when you buying seafood and selecting fish.
Things To Watch Out For When Buying Seafood:
Beware: Some Seafood is Contaminated With Mercury
You’ve probably heard that seafood is a great protein source for kids with heart- healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein, vitamins and minerals essential for growth and development. You may have also heard that many fish have some not-so-healthy ingredients like mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These can be particularly harmful to children’s growing bodies and rapidly developing brains. When we eat seafood loaded with contaminants, we store these pollutants in our bodies, which can build up over time.
Young children and pregnant women are particularly sensitive to these contaminants. They can be transferred directly across the placenta to the developing fetus and through breast milk to nursing children. Mercury and PCBs in particular can have serious negative effects on the cognitive development, motor skills, reproductive organs, attention, speech, and other critical developmental factors in children. According to the EPA, approximately 200,000 children in the U.S. between the ages of two and five have mercury levels almost 50% higher than the base mercury level recommended by the EPA. That’s a lot of kids facing unnecessary risk that can be avoided or minimized through responsible consumption.
Beware: Some Seafood Is Caught Using Methods With Negative Environmental Impacts
If all that wasn’t scary enough, our seafood choices can have serious environmental implications as well. With more than 75 percent of world fish stocks fully or over- exploited, we are depleting our seafood stocks faster than their populations can replenish. The good news is that you can make a difference simply by being informed, asking questions, and making the right choices.
If we want our kids, grandkids and generations to come to be able to enjoy seafood, we all need to eat fish that are caught or raised using environmentally-friendly techniques. As it turns out, many of the most seriously contaminated fish, like shark and tuna, are also the most over-fished or are raised on fish farms that pollute. Why chose between protecting the health of your kids or the health of the ocean? Opting for low contaminant, sustainable seafood ensures that we can all enjoy seafood well into the future.
What To Look For When Choosing Seafood And Safest Fish To Eat:
So how do you know what are healthy, sustainable seafood options for your kids? Follow these rules to pick sustainable, safe seafood that’s right for your family and the ocean.
Chose Fish Lower On The Food Web
Eat fish that are smaller and lower on the food web (like anchovies and sardines). They’re less likely to have as many contaminants as bigger fish that are at the top of the food web (like swordfish and tuna)
Ask For Sustainably Harvested Seafood
Ask your fishmonger or waiter where and how your seafood was caught. Educate yourself on what fishing methods are environmentally destructive and try to avoid species caught using those methods. When possible, choose local, seasonal seafood- it usually tastes better too!
Opt For Seafood Variety
Serve a variety of different seafood, reducing continual exposure to potentially high contaminant seafood and subsequent buildup of toxins.
Oily Fish Have The Highest Heart Health Benefits
If your kid will go for it, opt for oily fish (like sardines, salmon and albacore)-they’re packed full of omega-3s.
Consult A Seafood Recommendation List
Monterey Bay puts out a safe seafood list here that they continually update for the specific species and location information.
Still need ideas for what is the safest fish? Choose fish that are low in contaminants, sustainably caught/raised, and high in omega-3s. Here are my top 4 suggestions that fit these criteria:
- farmed rainbow trout
- wild Alaskan salmon
- wild Atlantic mackerel
- farmed arctic char
I hope you feel more educated on how to choose safe seafood to eat. Knowing which things to beware of and which things to look for when selecting the safest fish really helps.