Selecting Safe & Healthy Seafood
“When chosen carefully, fish is an
excellent source of protein, with much less fat and cholesterol than lean meat.”
Q. How healthy is fish?
A. Fish is a great source of lean protein and one of the best
ways to get a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty
acids, those good fats that protect your heart, support your brain, and keep your cells
healthy. However, since our oceans and rivers are not as clean as they once were, not all fish
is equally healthy. The tips in this article will help you make safe and healthy seafood
Q. Should I buy wild fish or farmed fish?
A. This is a complex question. The demand for seafood has
encouraged many fisheries to catch more fish than our waters can sustainably produce,
resulting in diminishing fish stocks and damage to the ecosystem. For that reason, fish
farming seems a logical solution. However, not all farmed fish are thought to be healthy. For
example, farmed salmon has been shown to contain chemical pollutants. On the other hand,
farm-raised trout, catfish, shrimp, striped bass, sturgeon, Artic char, and flounder are
healthy and sustainable choices.
To help you make educated choices, ask your seafood supplier where the fish came from and
how it was caught.
Q. How do I select seafood?
A. When chosen carefully, fish is an excellent source of
protein, with much less fat and cholesterol than lean meat. Plus, fish is loaded with
heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which have
been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, lower high cholesterol, ease arthritis, and improve mood. Follow these tips when shopping for fish:
- Look for the “Seafood Safe” label, which indicates that the item is tested
regularly for PCBs and mercury and that it meets quality-assurance guidelines for that
species. Visit www.seafoodsafe.com for a list of participating fish distributors.
- Check out www.oceansalive.org for an up-to-date listing of which fish varieties are
- Know that fish high on the food chain such as swordfish, shark, tuna, king mackerel, and
lobster may contain higher levels of contaminants. Limit eating tinned tuna to once a
- If you are not sure about a fish don’t eat it.
Q. What looks good?
- When buying fish, choose firm, shiny flesh that will spring back when touched.
- Fish should have only a mild smell, like seawater, but not a strong fishy odour.
- Shellfish, such as oysters, clams, and mussels, must be alive when purchased.
- Lobsters and crabs should be alive or frozen when purchased.
- Shrimp are usually frozen and often precooked. Look for a full shell and firm meat.
- Frozen fish is a good choice, as freezing keeps water inside fish tissues, thus preserving
juices and maximizing flavour and texture when cooked. Frozen fish should be somewhat shiny
and have no white freezer-burn spots.
Linda Knittel, MA, is a health writer specialising in nutrition,
alternative medicine, and yoga. She has recently discovered that Artic char makes great fish
Copyright © 2009 Aisle7 All rights reserved.
Learn more about Aisle7.
Learn more about the authors of Aisle7
The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes
only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult
your doctor, practitioner, and/or chemist for any health problem and before using any
supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications.