The best — and worst — fish for your health

Lead study author Leah Gerber, an associate professor and senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University, noted the golden rule when it comes to selecting the most healthy seafood: “If the fish is sustainable, then it is likely to be healthy to eat too.”

We know that eating two servings of fish per week is good for us, but not all fish are created equal. The high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish help to lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks, stroke, arthritis, macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease.

But chemical contaminants such as mercury in fish have led to an ongoing debate on whether or not consuming certain fish is indeed healthy, especially considering fish high in Omega-3s tend to be the most contaminated kind.

Good for your health — and the environment too

The study showed that the safest and healthiest seafood choice is also the most environmentally-friendly choice.

Mercury, which occurs naturally in the environment and is also released through industrial pollution, is absorbed by fish once it enters the water. Larger predatory fish such as sea bass, swordfish, some tuna, and grouper tend to have the most toxins. When smaller fish are consumed by larger ones, these contaminants accumulate and concentrate, making the toxins even worse. Unfortunately, cooking the fish does not affect the mercury levels.

Sustainability — meaning fish that are caught and farmed responsibly in a way that does not harm the environment or the species of fish — is also important. Overfishing is the number one cause of low fish populations around the world.

The study, published in the journal, Frontiers in the Ecology and the Environment, showed that it is possible to find a number of species of fish with low mercury and high Omega-3 content — and that were harvested in an environmentally-friendly way.

Analyzing 44 species of fish for health, safety and sustainability, researchers found that health and ecological sustainability fit perfectly together. Unsustainable fish were found to have high mercury content, while sustainable fish had much less.

When choosing which fish to consume, here are some smart and sustainable options: Pacific herring, Red king crab, Pacific cod, Tanner crab, Atlantic pollock , Alaskan pollock, Atlantic mackerel, American plaice, Canary rockfish, Black rockfish, Yellowfin sole, European anchovy, Rock sole, Pacific Ocean Perch, Ocean perch, Alaska plaice, Flathead sole, Skipjack tuna, Arrowtooth flounder, and English sole.

Fish you should avoid consuming on a regular basis include: Bluefin tuna, Yellowtail flounder, Swordfish, Spanish mackerel, and Gag grouper.

Looking for some recipe ideas? Watch chef Curtis Stone make Basa Fish Cakes:

And check out some of our favourite fish recipes:
Fish Friday
Brown Rice Blinis with Smoked Fish and Creme Fraiche
Walnut Fish Tacos
Mushroom Stuffed Fish Fillets
SeaChoice Recipe Corner

Sources: Frontiers in the Ecology and the Environment, Globe and Mail, The Fish Site, SeaChoice

Photo © Chabraszewski

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