Seafood and fish have gotten a really bad rap. Some of it is very well founded, and some of it is misleading. There is no doubt that overfishing is an issue and that in parts of the world the ocean is being depleted. It is also true that some fish (the larger ones) can contain mercury at levels that are not safe for us humans to consume, yet most of the mercury found in humans does not actually come from fish and seafood. I hope to clear up some of the confusion around fish and seafood and get you eating the right, good-for-you, and good-for-the-planet kind. This food is nutrient dense and contains vital nutrients that are hard for us to find elsewhere, including zinc, magnesium, and omega-3s.
Although fish farming may seem like a good idea for sustainability purposes, I’m just not a fan. The environmental impact from these farms is devastating. The fish live in terrible conditions and are overfed on a diet of dyes, unhealthy fats, and grains. In a way the argument for wild fish is similar to the argument for grass-fed/pastured meat. The meat and fish end up healthier when the animals eat what they are meant to eat in a free, healthy, and yes, happy environment. Farmed salmon has less of the good omega-3s than wild salmon does and yet a lot more of the less-desirable omega-6 fatty acids. Yes, wild salmon tends to cost more, but you’re getting a lot more health food for your buck!
The Good Kind of Fat
Fish and seafood are of course a great source of protein, but they’re also among the only foods in which we can find the essential omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are good for the heart, decrease inflammation, and do absolute wonders for the skin. They’re the main reason fish oil is such a popular and effective supplement, too. Wild, cold water fish is your best bet when looking for fish high in these healthy fats. Wild salmon, herring, and sardines are great options.
There are also great nutritious and delicious options when it comes to shellfish and other seafood. Oysters are amazing for you—high in minerals such as zinc (there’s 15 times more zinc in oysters than in beef!) and magnesium—and they’re a well-known aphrodisiac to boot! Mussels are another good choice, loaded with B12, selenium, zinc, iron, folate, and yes, lots of healthy omega-3 fats. Scallops are a very popular seafood, full of B12, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus. Shrimp is a little more complicated, especially because most shrimp in the U.S. is imported, and antibiotics have been found in samples; just as with fish, choose wild shrimp and eat it less often.