• Seafood, Omega-3 and Mercury

    October 3, 2017
  • Seafood: Fish, Shellfish and More

    There is a lot of information about seafood and I find a lot of people get confused about what is good for them and what isn’t. Because of the confusion, I find people are choosing to skip seafood OR are choosing certain kinds thinking it is really, really healthy for them when it is just good for them. Here I want to clear up some of the confusion and hope that it allows you to enjoy fish without worry.

    FIRST, SOME DEFINITIONS:

    • Seafood: food from the sea. Anything marine life that we use for food.
    • Fish: seafood that has fins.
    • Shellfish: seafood with exoskeletons. Mollusks, like oysters and scallops, have a shell. Crustaceans, like shrimp and crab, have a harder outer surface.
    • Sea vegetables: are exactly what they sound like; plants that we eat such as seaweed and sea asparagus.


    WHICH ONES SHOULD WE EAT?

    All of them! Unless you have an allergy to fish or shellfish (two different categories of seaf

    ood and two different allergies) then there is really no health concern for most people. But what about mercury? Give me a minute. I will get to that soon.

    Preparation is important. There is a big difference between shrimp cocktail and fried shrimp, baked cod and fried cod, and tuna and tuna salad. I am saying there is a difference – and not that you should 100% completely avoid the fried stuff. Just know that one is a better choice than the other. And even then, how YOU may prepare tuna salad and how OTHERS prepare isn’t likely the same.

    OMEGA-3 BENEFITS:

    Cold water FATTY fish. This includes:

    • Salmon (wild and farmed)
    • Mackerel
    • Herring
    • Anchovies
    • Sardines
    • Albacore tuna

    Think about the fish that you can find in the cans in the grocery store. If you go for the canned or packets of fish, choose the kind packed in water, not in oil. Since the healthy fat is in the fish, choosing the fish packed in oil is adding unnecessary fat. Now it is important to NOTE that all fish and shellfish contain some omega-3 fats, but these listed here are the higher sources.

    PROTEIN: ALL fish and shellfish are a good source of protein. It is pretty much all protein really. The fatty fish noted above have the healthier fats and along with protein. If you really need or want LEAN protein like cod, tilapia and light tuna are the ones to look for. But they don’t have much in the way of omega-3 compared to the fish listed as good sources of omega-3.

    Why not FRIED? It isn’t because the fried fish or shellfish have less nutrition because of the method of preparation. It still has the protein and the omega-3 fats, but what is it adding? The breading or batter ADDS to the fish and doesn’t provide much benefit other than taste preference.

    WHAT ABOUT MERCURY?

    While we want the health benefits of seafood, we don’t want the potential risk of mercury that some seafood may bring, especially women who are pregnant (or may become pregnant), who are nursing, or young children.

    However, it turns out that the seafood we tend to eat the MOST in the U.S. isn’t the high mercury stuff. And the scare about mercury leads people to cut out seafood altogether. But, pregnant women and children really should be getting is it regularly (a couple of servings a week) since it helps with brain development.

    High mercury seafood includes:

    • Shark
    • Swordfish
    • King mackerel
    • Tilefish
    • Albacore (“white”) tuna, has more mercury than canned light tuna (this was in the omega-3 list, so alternate if this is one of your favorites

    The general rule of thumb: the bigger the fish, the more likely to have higher mercury levels. Big fish eat lots and lots of smaller fish, who eat even smaller fish, and they eat even smaller fish…you get the picture.

    For more information on the “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives,” and which ones you should “Avoid” check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website for a ConsumerGuide specific to your area. The Seafood Watch website includes more comprehensive information about the sustainability of fish as well.