How to Eat Fish Responsibly

There are so many questions when it comes to safely eating seafood.

I know the nutritional research says fish and other types of seafood are some of the healthiest proteins on the planet, yet I also know the research on toxicity and environmental harm shows plenty of reasons to avoid it.

Should we only be eating fish raised in fish farms that use restorative and regenerative practices, which build up the biodiversity of the oceans and restore livings systems, rather than just “sustain” what is currently a very fragile ocean ecosystem? Or is wild always best? Can we change fishing practices to sustainably harvest wild fish by changing the equipment fishermen use so they don’t kill 10 pounds of seafood caught in the nets as byproducts for every pound of fish we eat? Can we prevent genetic intermingling of wild and farmed stocks by farming only genetically bio-identical, local species of fish that belong in the local ecosystem?

It’s enough to make the fish lover throw up their hands and say, “I’ll have the double cheeseburger with fries.” Eating fish seems impossible if you are interested in staying healthy by getting enough omega-3 fats while avoiding mercury poisoning and destroying the oceans.

But it’s not. We just have to be informed consumers.

We know it’s important to eat the types of fish high in omega-3’s like salmon, sardines, and mackerel for optimal cardiovascular, brain, and whole-body health. We know that farmed fish are often high in toxins like PCBs and dioxins and that they’re also exposed to pesticides and antibiotics, though farmed fish from the US may be a better choice than wild-caught fish from other parts of the world. We also know that looking for the Certified Sustainable Seafood label, from the Marine Stewardship Council, lets us know we’re supporting responsible fishing practices.

Seafood researcher and writer Paul Greenberg tried to simplify the complicated world of eating fish (while also still admitting it’s quite complicated) with three simple rules. He suggests sticking to American seafood because we’re one of the top countries using science-based fish management to protect our resources. Next, he offers that we diversify the types of seafood we eat—shrimp, tuna, and salmon are the top three on American plates, and we’re missing out on more nutritious options while supporting poor human rights on shrimp farms in Southeast Asia and consuming large amounts of mercury in canned tuna. Third, Greenberg recommends embracing more farmed filter feeders, animals like oysters and mussels that get sustenance from water and don’t need feed (which is where a huge portion of smaller wild-caught fish go, to feed larger varieties of farmed fish).

I was grateful to have Paul on The Doctor’s Farmacy last week to discuss more on the world of seafood and how to be a conscious and healthy consumer all at once. I hope you’ll tune in to learn more about this valuable part of a real-foods diet.

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