Think you’re doing yourself a favor by eating fish, seafood and shellfish? Be careful what you put on your plate.
Low-calorie, protein-rich, and tasty source of vitamins and minerals? Or, contaminated, antibiotic-laden main dish loaded with toxic mercury?
Confusing, yes. But don’t despair. This post will help you navigate the “waters” to make the best choices when it comes to fish and seafood.
A Pescatarian’s Journey
When my husband started donating to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), he’d find all sorts of graphic photos of abused animals in the mail.
One day he declared: “I’m no longer eating mammals.” And that was that.
(There’s controversy regarding whether or not fish feel pain and suffering. PETA says “yes” while many scientists say “no.” I’m not bringing it up to my husband for fear he won’t eat anything.)
My once steak-loving, grill chef, Oktoberfest aficionado husband became a pescatarian. I didn’t think it would last. But I was wrong.
Not only was he taking a stand against the mistreatment of animals, he also thought he was embracing a healthier lifestyle.
Farm-Raised Versus Wild-Caught Fish & Seafood
Fish and seafood are often considered “good” fats, particularly the omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and heart disease. I remember feeling so virtuous when I ordered the salmon rather than the steak.
But then I started reading the headlines about farm-raised fish.
Much of the fish we consume is raised in land- or ocean-based aquafarms. On land, thousands of fish are raised in ponds, pools, or concrete tanks while fish in ocean farms are confined to net or mesh enclosures.
Farm fish live in crowded, filthy conditions and many suffer from parasitic infections and disease. To combat this, farm-raised fish get loaded up with antibiotics, which can potentially make us antibiotic resistant. If that’s not enough to turn your stomach, pesticides are added to the fish feed at the first sign of a sea lice outbreak.
Farmed Fish No Healthier Than a Fast Food Burger?
While fish used to be considered healthy, farmed fish is barely any better than eating a fast food burger.
- Farmed fish provide less usable beneficial omega-3 fats than wild fish and actually cause instead of reduce inflammation due to a lopsided omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. While common and inexpensive, tilapia is an example of a farmed fish that has low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and relatively high levels of omega-6 fatty acids that may contribute to inflammation.
- Farmed salmon often has dye added to the feed to make it to appear red or pink versus gray. Studies suggest farmed salmon accumulates more cancer-causing PCBs and poisonous dioxins than wild salmon. Another black mark against farmed salmon — it’s also treated with banned and toxic pesticides.
By eating farm-raised fish, you may be doing your health more harm than good!
Be Mindful of Mercury
As if worrying about farm-raised versus wild-caught isn’t enough, you also need to limit your intake of fish and seafood with high levels of mercury.
Mercury comes from industrial emissions which pollute our oceans and waterways, and it’s toxic to our brain, kidneys, liver, heart and nervous system. Exposure is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children.
The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) provides a great resource to help you pick the healthiest options. Here are the highlights:
- Best Choices: High Omega-3, sustainable and low mercury: wild salmon, sardines, mussels, rainbow trout and atlantic mackerel
- Good Choices: oysters, anchovies, pollock/imitation crab, herring
- Low Mercury but also Low Omega 3s: shrimp, tilapia, clams, scallops, and pangasius (basa, swai or tra also known as “catfish”)
- EWG cautions pregnant women and children to limit: canned light and albacore tuna, halibut, lobster, mahi mahi, and sea bass
- EWG recommends most people limit or avoid: shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, bluefin and bigeye tuna steaks or sushi, orange roughy, and marlin
So Where Can You Find Fish & Seafood You Can Trust?
Even though it’s more expensive, make sure you’re getting wild-caught fish and seafood. You’re either paying for it with your wallet or with your health.
Shopping to cook at home? I recommend Vital Choice as a trusted source for Omega-3 rich salmon and other sustainable and organic products.
I’ve tried several home meal delivery services that offer wild-caught and sustainable fish and seafood dishes on their menus. While other meal delivery services offer organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised options, these two allow you more flexibility with your choices.
Get $35 of your first Sun Basket order with this link:
Get $35 off your first Terra’s Kitchen order with this link: https://terraskitchen.sjv.io/c/407407/349439/5173
Eating out? Unless you’re at a fine dining restaurant, it’s tough to find wild-caught options on the menu. If you do order fish or seafood, choose grilled, baked or poached entrees versus anything fried. You’re not doing yourself any favors by eating the fish and chips.
Thyroid-Friendly Fish & Seafood Recipes
Here’s a quick and easy 4-ingredient salmon recipe — just don’t overcook it. Then I’m sharing a shrimp recipe that you can always spice up a notch or two to your taste. Enjoy!
Baked Salmon With Rosemary & Pecans
- coconut oil (check out this post to see why I use coconut oil)
- 3/4 lb wild salmon fillet, skin on (Vital Choice)
- 2 Tbs pecans, chopped
- 1 Tbs rosemary, chopped
- 1/4 tsp sea salt (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Lightly grease a baking pan with coconut oil.
- Lay salmon in the pan skin side down.
- Sprinkle fish with pecans, rosemary, and sea salt (if desired).
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until salmon flakes lightly with a fork. Don’t overcook it!
Cajun Shrimp & Rice
- 1 lb Shrimp, Deveined
- 1/2 cup Jasmine Rice
- 1/3 cup Onion, Chopped
- 1/3 cup Celery, Chopped
- 1/3 cup Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
- 1 cup Crushed Tomatoes
- 1/2 cup Scallions, Sliced
- 2 T Coconut Oil
- Bay Leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper (add more if you like it spicy)
- 1/4 teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 1 teaspoon Paprika
- 2 cloves Minced Garlic
- 1/2 Lemon
- 1/2 cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
- Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper
- Sauté onions, celery and bell pepper in a medium saucepan with 1 T coconut oil for 3 minutes.
- Add rice and stir to coat.
- Stir in thyme, oregano, paprika, crushed red pepper, bay leaf, and salt.
- Stir in tomatoes and ¾ cup water. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
- Fluff with a fork, remove bay leaf, and stir in scallions.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.
- Add shrimp, juice from 1/2 lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté 5 minutes or until shrimp are done.
- Stir shrimp into rice and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Check out this post to see why I use coconut oil instead of extra virgin olive oil (EEVO) when cooking. But I do recommend EEVO for salad dressing recipes. It’s all about the smokepoint. What’s a smokepoint and why should you care? Please read the post.
*Lisa the Health Coach is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn fees (at no cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.