What is the healthiest fish? The best choice for you and the planet

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What is the healthiest fish? The best choice for you and the planet
What is the healthiest fish? The best choice for you and the planet

We all try to choose the healthiest food, but when it comes to fish, is one really better than the other? As for seafood as a food group, in terms of nutritional value, they are all healthy.

"As a source of animal nutrients, they contain one of the smallest amounts of saturated fat in relation to protein content," says Lourdes Castro, a registered dietitian at the New York University Food Laboratory. Seafood is not only pure protein, it is rich in vitamins D and B, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium and calcium.

Most importantly, seafood is high in omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, which are essential for the cellular composition of our bodies and can help maintain a healthy cardiovascular and immune system. Since the body is unable to produce its own omega-3 fatty acids, the required amount of these acids must come from the food consumed by the person.

“Our diets are generally not enough omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids,” says Mary Ellen Camire, professor in the Department of Nutrition and Human Nutrition at the University of Maine. Eating seafood twice a week is one of the surest ways to increase your intake of these essential fatty acids.

Surprisingly, this is a fish of the salmon family.

In terms of nutritional value, the clear champion in the healthiest fish competition is salmon. "Fattier fish found in cold water are a better source of omega-3s," Kamir says, and salmon is king in omega-3s per ounce.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommended daily intake of omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids is 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women. That said, one three-ounce serving of nearly every salmon is higher in omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids. Alaskan salmon chinook or chinook salmon (also known as king salmon), coho salmon and sockeye salmon are the three types of wild salmon with the highest levels of omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids.

Wild or Farm Raised?

Sustainability and sustainability are the other side of the issue when it comes to determining the healthiest fish for your own health, the health of fish populations and the planet as a whole.

“There are sustainable sources today, both in the wild and on farms,” said Santi Roberts, senior research director for the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch rating program.

Farmed salmon are not only farmed in a more sustainable, resource-conserving environment for future needs than in the past, but they also outperform in omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids. “In terms of nutritional value, it used to be that wild salmon was superior to farmed salmon,” says Lourdes Castro. However, Mary Ellen Kamir says that thanks to advances in fish farming, farmers can adjust their salmon diets to raise fish with higher levels of omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids than their wild counterparts.

Clean and sustainable fisheries are also a proactive way of raising fish to stay ahead of the curve in response to climate change. “There are not enough fish in the ocean to feed everyone, given the recommended dietary guidelines for seafood,” says Castro.

Camire agreed. “Free-raised fish and other marine life is an attractive idea,” she says, but she wonders how the wild Alaskan marine life will survive and feed over the next several decades. “Given that we are feeding billions of people and the climate is getting hotter, we will have to act differently.”

Other healthy fish and seafood, and fish to avoid

In addition to salmon, there are other varieties of seafood that meet the requirements of both personal health and planetary sustainability. According to Roberts, bivalve molluscs such as oysters, mussels, and clams are relatively high in omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids and are good environmental choices.

Unlike fin fish, bivalve molluscs do not need to be supplemented with feed when they are reared on farms. They get all the nutrients they need from the surrounding water. They can also filter out impurities and neutralize environmental impacts, which Roberts noted is often a problem for farmed seafood.

Mary Ellen Camir also recommended US-bred rainbow trout as a good alternative to salmon. "The omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids in this fish are not as high as in salmon, but they are similar," she says, and US fish farms must comply with federal and state food safety regulations.

Tuna, despite its high content of omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids and excellent nutritional properties, is much more damaging to its source of fish caught. Overfishing has destroyed some wild tuna species, and the fish itself may contain large amounts of mercury.

Both nutritional and sustainability experts do not believe that we should avoid eating tuna altogether, but some research is needed to make sure you choose the most appropriate option. “Bluefin tuna should be avoided until we see major improvements in breeding and population management,” says Santi Roberts.

If you want to eat tuna, striped tuna and longtip tuna contain nearly the same amount of omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, and these two are more common in tuna cans. Roberts recommends looking for the phrases "hook fishing" or "troll fishing" on the label.

Likewise, sardines are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but due to overfishing issues, these types of fish are no longer recommended as sustainable sources.

Reasonable approach when choosing fish and seafood

If in the fish market you are not able to figure out what is written on the labels pasted on the packaging with seafood, this is understandable. But today, applications and websites created by scientific non-profit organizations can help you choose the most useful products.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch rating program has been providing seafood buying advice for 20 years based on sustainability and sustainable fisheries standards.The nomenclature used is simple - green is the best choice, red is a food that should be avoided. The rating will be based on fish and seafood offered by the fishing enterprises and fish farming companies of the world, both caught in the sea and raised on farms.

“It is a dynamic and complex system that we are trying to simplify, which we are doing. You just have to choose green,”says Roberts.

The easiest way to choose wholesome farm-grown seafood is to make sure it is actually grown in the United States, which has stricter food safety standards than many overseas companies. “It's safe to say that our domestic seafood is like the Cadillac of seafood when it comes to sustainability and sustainability,” said Joshua Stoll, assistant professor of maritime policy at the University of Maine School of Marine Science.

Seafood Finder is a new directory from the local network Catch, a program created to support local seafood businesses (of which Stoll is a member). Its location-based search helps consumers find trusted businesses across multiple channels, including local retail, CSA network and PO Boxes, or nationwide drop shipping.

If you're trying to reduce your negative impact on the planet while eating healthy fish at the same time, Stoll suggests that you treat fish and seafood the same way you treat local foods or meat. “It's not just where you get your seafood from, it's who you get it from,” he said.

By purchasing salmon and other seafood from local fish farms and companies that use sustainable fishing and fish farming practices, you will make the best choice for everyone and buy the healthiest fish and seafood.

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