Eating healthy fish on a regular basis can have a wonderful benefits to your overall health. Many types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain development and dramatically lowering the risk of heart disease. But where you get your fish from can make a big difference on your health, as not all fish are created equal. Those that are farm-raised tend to have a much higher level of contaminants and toxins, which can have adverse effects on your health. Making an informed decision on the type of fish you buy is very important. The following are some tips to buying and eating safer seafood:
1 – Find Out Where the Fish Comes From
Whether you are purchasing your fish from a supermarket counter or from a specialty seafood shop down the street, asking some key questions can help you find out where exactly the fish came from, which will inevitably have an impact on your decision to buy it or leave it. Questions to ask include who caught the fish, where it was imported from, and how far it traveled to get to the store. Considering the fact that there really are no standards in place to help you make these decisions, you need to do a little investigating yourself by being inquisitive.
2 – Choose Wild-Caught Fish Over Farm-Raised
Wild fish are by far a better choice for healthier fish. Those that were caught in the wild have much higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, lower levels of antibiotics, and are lower in fat. Depending on the exact body of water where the fish resided, these wild fish may even have lower levels of toxins and contaminants. Researchers in the past have found that many farm-raised fish have much higher levels of PCBs than wild fish. The only way to know for sure if it’s wild-caught is to ask.
3 – Buy Fish That’s Low in Mercury and Other Contaminants
No amount of mercury is safe for consumption, so your best bet is to try to avoid it altogether. Mercury infests fish from industrial pollution, which inevitably runs off into the water, and over time, builds up in fish. Fish that generally have much lower levels of mercury include those that are smaller, younger, are low in fat, and are not bottom feeders. These include breeds like salmon, herring, mackerel, clams and sardines. Fish that have been found to have high levels of mercury include breeds like swordfish, shark, tuna and orange roughy. These types of fish have also shown to have higher levels of dioxins and PCBs, which are also dangerous, especially when consumed in high doses. If you are buying canned fish, keep an eye out for “light” versus “white” fish. Light fish tends to have lower levels of mercury than white.
4 – Limit Your Shrimp Intake
Shrimp are one of those ‘bottom feeders’ mentioned above. Shrimp, above all other types of seafood, have shown to have the highest levels of chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, PCBs and even cockroaches. These filthy little critters are actually the most popular type of seafood in the American diet, making it even more important to get the message out there that limiting or avoiding these bottom-feeding fish altogether is essential for good health.
5 – Pay Attention to Canned Fish Packaging
If you’re buying canned tuna or salmon, pay attention to the cans very carefully. BPA – or Bisphenol-A – is a dangerous chemical that is often used in the linings of aluminum food cans, such as those used for canned seafood. This chemical has been linked to precancerous lesions, abnormal cell development, and even obesity. Many brands have been making the switch to BPA-free cans, so it’s important to check the label for this feature. In addition, some brands sell wild Alaskan salmon and light tuna in BPA-free pouches, though these are sometimes harder to find.
6 – Prepare Your Fish the Healthy Way
How you prepare and cook your fish will also make a world of difference in how healthy and safe it is to eat. When prepping the fish before cooking it, make sure to trim off all the fat, skin and dark meat that tends to accumulate along the top of the fish fillet. Avoid fish dishes that come with the whole fish, with all its organs still intact. And furthermore, make sure that you are broiling or baking your fish, instead of frying it, to reduce any trans fats.
Like anything else, it’s important to be as informed as possible with the foods you buy. Reading labels, asking questions and using healthy cooking methods can go a long way to improving your health and minimizing consuming any hazardous contaminants, particularly with fish.