Seafood You Should or Should Not Eat
Seafood: Why You Should Eat it–and How
To be absolutely honest, I do not like seafood. At dinner, as a kid, I would have to physically hold my nose and choke it down until my parents would grant me permission to leave the table. It wasn’t until moving to Vancouver and discovering the city’s amazing sushi that I learned that not only do I not have to hold my nose to tolerate seafood, I could actually enjoy it.
That being said, I am not a fish person. If you’re like me, whenever someone recommends that you “eat more seafood!”, you have to forcibly stop yourself from groaning and rolling your eyes. We know that we should eat seafood and that it’s good for us, but also, are we entirely sure that it’s necessary?
Though I hate to admit it, there are many benefits to a diet rich in seafood. Many studies have shown the health benefits that come with eating seafood that range from preventing cardiovascular disease to protecting vision. Seafood is typically very high in Omega-3’s, which is a fatty acid in which most people are deficient. And besides seafood, there aren’t many other available sources.
There are types of seafood and ways of eating it, however, that are superior to others. What is interesting (and perhaps frustrating) about seafood is that it can either be really good for you, or a threat to your health. And let’s not forget about its environmental impact! Not all seafood is made equal, my friend.
So, all things considered, what seafood should we be eating (if we absolutely must eat it) to benefit our health and the health of the environment? Because of fluctuating fish populations and other factors such as location and changing government regulations, buying and consuming seafood can be a complicated and arduous process, but I hope this guide helps to simplify your seafood journey!
Many experts recommend salmon as a top choice for both human health and environmental impact. A controversial subject of debate (in some circles) is whether farmed salmon or wild salmon is better. While both are high in protein, omega-3’s, and various other good-for-you nutrients, farmed salmon does tend to have a higher fat (and higher calorie content) than its wild counterpart.
Why it’s good for you: salmon is an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, omega-3’s, iron, magnesium, vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium and more! If you’re concerned about saturated fats and calorie intake, choose wild over farmed. Both wild and farmed salmon is also lower in mercury content in comparison to other fish.
Why it’s good for the environment: buying wild salmon is more ethical, as they are able to roam free, whereas farmed salmon are kept in tight quarters. Alaskan salmon (both wild and farmed) is preferred by many because the state has strict regulations over its salmon industry that mitigates harmful pollutants and overfishing.
Beware of: The price. Wild Alaskan salmon can be quite a bit pricier than farmed, but both are excellent options.
Why it’s good for you: Sardines may come as a surprise when it comes to health benefits. But these little guys really pack a punch. Sardines provide 2 grams of omega-3’s per 3 ounce serving, which is one of the highest levels of omega-3’s of any food. They also contain Vitamin D, which is one of the few food sources that contain this vitamin. As they are small fish and caught in the wild, they also are typically very low in mercury and other toxins. And they’re inexpensive!
Why it’s good for the environment: Did I mention that sardines are caught in the wild? They are typically gathered with minimal impact on the environment.
Beware: They must be Pacific sardines and should be labelled as such. Sardines have been overfished in the past and are very sensitive to fluctuations in the environment, so check before you eat them that their populations are not currently endangered. Also, they often come very salty, so watch that sodium intake!n
Why it’s good for you: Tuna, like most seafood, is an excellent source of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats. Canned tuna can be a convenient and inexpensive way to get more seafood in your diet. Take note that there is a huge variance in fat content, depending on the type of canned tuna. If you’re a healthy individual looking to maintain a lower fat intake, light tuna canned in water may be a better choice, as opposed to the tuna packed in oil, which may be better for those individuals looking to increase their polyunsaturated fat and linoleic acid intake.
Why it’s good for the environment: As tuna is one of the most popular fish and has high market value (one bluefin tuna sold in 2019 for $3.1 million US!), the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) works with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and International Seafood Sustainability Foundation to implement sustainable practices to maintain the health of the tuna population and its ecosystem. The MSC is a not-for-profit that certifies environmentally responsible fisheries, so look out for their blue eco-label on your tuna products. Skipjack, albacore, and Yellowfin are all tuna varieties that are not in danger of overfishing; bluefin tuna, however, though prized by sushi lovers, is an endangered species and should be avoided.
Beware: Mercury levels can be very high in tuna. One study done on both canned and fresh tuna found that mercury levels exceeded maximum permissible amounts set by European legislation–and, surprisingly, there was more mercury found in fresh (20% more than the maximum allowance) than canned (only 8.9%). Typically, the larger the fish and the longer the lifespan, the higher its mercury content; as tuna can sometimes live to be 100 years old and exceed 100 pounds, you might consider avoiding them for that reason.
Why it’s good for you: Crab meat is low in calories (about 73 calories per 3 ounce serving) and almost all of those calories come from protein. Similar to fish, it is high in omega-3’s and other B vitamins. It’s also typically very low in mercury in comparison to other seafood.
Why it’s good for the environment: you might be surprised by how many varieties of crabs are available on the market. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, crabs caught in Alaska are a good bet for environmental sustainability.
Beware: Try and keep the butter and salt to a minimum if you are looking to reduce your calories and sodium intake. Also, there are some concerns about crabs that come from Russia, as they are often overfished and may come from depleted populations.
We hope this article gave you some insight into seafood and its benefits and impacts on the environment. When shopping for seafood, look for a blue MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) sticker that will help you to identify seafood that is sustainably produced. And if you’re like me and have a strong aversion to seafood, consider a fish oil or omega-3 supplement. Studies show that supplementing with omega-3 can give you many of the same benefits as eating a seafood-rich diet.
Wishing you all the best on your journey to optimum health!
Written by Theresa Faulder, Master’s in English, Certified Personal Trainer and Infofit fitness blog writer.