I know that fish is one of the healthiest foods we can eat but I worry about the risks associated with eating low quality seafood. Most of us could benefit from the anti-inflammatory omega-3’s contained in fish. The key is to minimize your exposure to contaminants like mercury and PCB’s.
So how do you decide which fish to purchase?
When in doubt, I always refer to the Environmental Defense Fund and their website. The EDF provide education on fish that offer the greatest health benefits and are the best environmental choice for our oceans.
“Not all seafood is created equal and that by using your purchasing power to buy fish caught or farmed using eco-friendly practices, you are supporting healthy, abundant oceans.”
They have a complete listing of the eco-best to the eco-worst seafood options. My favourite part is that they use a little green heart to highlight fish that are particularly good sources of omega-3’s and low in contaminants. A red triangle is used to indicate that a fish is known for being high in mercury or PCB’s.
What are the best fish that are easiest to find?
According to the EDF, salmon (wild from Alaska), trout (farmed rainbow) and tuna (albacore from U.S – Canada and Yellowfin from U.S Atlantic) are great sources of omega-3’s and low in contaminants.
Now this is where you really have to read your labels because you could easily get mixed up without a pocket guide to fish.
Popular fish to avoid due to high levels of contaminants are farmed or Atlantic salmon; canned white albacore tuna, imported big-eye/yellow-fin tuna; and all bluefin tuna. You also need to avoid lingcod, marlin, Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, swordfish and walleye.
How about Halibut? If you are concerned for our oceans, choose Halibut caught in Pacific Canada and Alaska but avoid Atlantic.
With this knowledge, I hope that you will feel less intimidated the next time you approach the seafood counter. Keep your pocket-guide handy and quiz the staff at the seafood counter.
Here are two simple questions to ask the next time you are buying fish.
Is this fish wild or farmed?
Where was it caught?
If no one is available to speak to you then read the labels very carefully. If the label says “fresh”, it doesn’t mean it’s wild; and “farmed” isn’t necessarily bad for your health.
Where is a good place to buy fish?
I usually buy my fish at Community Natural Foods in the frozen section. I have heard that T & T Supermarket is a great place to buy fresh seafood as well. If you buy fish at a farmer’s market be sure to ask questions and don’t assume that they offer eco-best choices.
I recently discovered a community supported fishery out of Vancouver that will ship to Calgary and Edmonton. You buy a share in their company and they provide you with fish throughout the season. A share is $250 and all the details can be found at http://skipperotto.ca/
There are several fish markets in Calgary so go on an adventure and see what you can find. Please let me know if you have a favourite fish market that has knowledgeable staff and fresh product.
BONUS: The EDF has a fantastic printable pocket guide for sushi on their website.