Omega-3s cannot be produced by our bodies so we need to get them from food sources. Marine omega-3s is the best and most concentrated, although seafood is not the only source. A reduction in chronic inflammation, boosting heart health by lowering blood pressure, reduced arthritis symptoms, depression and some cancers have all been attributed to consumption of more marine omega-3s. Recent studies have also indicated that a reduction in both dementia (by 39%) and Alzheimer’s (by 50%) have been seen in people who eat three or more servings of fish in a week.
Although the consumption of seafood is touted as a preventive health measure, a large number of people are concerned about its toxicity. Avoiding fish due to contaminant risk is a far flung misconception. Nowhere on this Earth can one find a totally pure, contaminant-free piece of fish. All fish, wild or farmed, contain some chemical residue. The most common are dioxin, carcinogens polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury. In order to produce greater yields, farmed seafood is subjected to pesticides and antibiotics and may have more chemicals. Toxins like antibiotics, cleaning chemicals and pesticides pollute water in ocean pens and open nets used in aquaculture. Many fish farmers, however, are eco-conscious and use approved chemicals certified by the Global Aquaculture Alliance. Although most fish have traces of mercury, healthy adults would have to eat fish such as shark or tilefish for many years to acquire mercury poisoning.
US, domestic, wild-caught fish is certainly the most sustainable. It is believed that 20-32% of wild-caught seafood imported to the US is harvested illegally, without necessary oversight. Foreign entities also misrepresent the quality of their fish, jeopardizing safe, sustainable seafood imported into our country. When cheap species are labelled as expensive ones or even come from a different county, we are subjected to “fish fraud”. Imports of farmed shrimp from many Asian countries has been refused by the FDA as a result of these countries polluting, using slave labor and destroying natural habitats. Look for country of origin on the package or near the seafood display.
Certain basic guidelines should be followed in order to get the best seafood available. Use retailers that have strong toxicity and sustainability standards verified by third parties such as Whole Foods Market, Wegmans, Safeway, Target and Walmart. To avoid high levels of toxin, look for seafood that is low on the food chain like shrimp, scallops, clams, salmon, oysters, catfish, sardines and tilapia. Avoid predatory fish like swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin and bigeye tuna to minimize mercury. Search out labels that ensure sustainable seafood like a ‘green’ check mark from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and a ‘blue’ check mark from the Marine Stewardship Council. For reputable buying guides for domestic and imported seafood, check out websites like NOAA’s FishWatch and Seafood Selector. Ultimately choose US wild-caught or farmed seafood for the best health benefits.
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