What’s not to love about gorging on fish? Besides being a delicious sensation on your palate, it is a great source of heart-healthy lean protein. Just having a single or double serving of nutrient-rich fish a week can lower your risk of having a heart attack by up to a third.
That’s not all! Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA – that you get from fish have the potential to reduce inflammation throughout your body, can support your brain health, and lower your triglyceride levels.
With such a string of benefits to be had, it’s no big secret that having fish is good for you. There is a downside though – how dangerous the seafood industry is for the environment! From overfishing and pollution issues to poor farming practices and contamination problems, there are health concerns that you need to think about before you have your next fish steak.
Health Risks Of Choosing A Fish-rich Diet
A number of fish species have high levels of mercury, a dangerous contaminant that can affect your nervous system. Fish consume mercury that’s settled in oceans, lakes, and streams because of pollution or in a naturally occurring form. This mercury then gets converted to methylmercury, a toxin. Large fish, especially ones that are high on the food chain, consume other contaminated fish, compounding their own mercury levels. Consumption of such contaminated fish can lead to mercury poisoning.
Developing nervous systems in infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of mercury. In adults, high levels of mercury exposure can lead to significant damage of the central nervous system. This is why expectant mothers and nursing women are advised to be very careful while choosing the kind of fish they eat.
Mercury poisoning is just one such health risk. Fish can also contain toxicants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and other chemicals used in aquaculture. Overfishing is an environmental risk that can have a particularly destructive impact. Immature fish, unwanted species, vulnerable and endangered species are all significantly impacted by unsustainable farming and overfishing practices.
Eco-friendly Fish That Are Good For You
So how do you choose fish that’s good for you and the environment? Buying sustainable seafood can make a huge difference. To get things started, here’s an excellent list of the types of fish that you can buy while still doing what’s best for the planet!
1. Atlantic Mackerel
As long as you can limit the amount of Atlantic mackerel you eat, it’s a good first pick to eat. While some species contain mercury, this type of mackerel isn’t in any danger of over fishing even if it’s consumed across the world. The Atlantic mackerel is an oily fish and tends to spoil quickly, so you need to finish up as quickly as you can. Most importantly, it is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.1
2. Alaskan Wild Salmon
Whether it’s fresh, frozen, or canned, wild salmon from Alaska is a staple of the best fish to eat. As the salmon is quite popular among seafood aficionados, it is often raised in factory-farm conditions dominated by an influx of chemicals, diseases, parasites, and excessive waste. On the other hand, the Alaskan wild salmon is harvested in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way, which is why it costs a lot too.
The rockfish, a popular seafood menu item in California, is a highly nutritious type that you must try. Backed by conservationists who’ve worked to protect its species, rockfish are recovering from the effects of overfishing. There are over 70 species of rockfish off the coast of California that are all healthy additions to your diet.2
This type of fish can be a hard one to find owing to its dwindling populations because of over fishing. Sardine fishing is even illegal on the U.S. west coast. If you are able to find sardines in your local store, it can make a healthy snack as it’s low in mercury.
Remember this fact – smaller the fish, lesser is the mercury content in it. This makes anchovies, a very popular species of small fish, a smart and healthy option to include in your fish-rich diet. Anchovies are readily available in most stores. The canned and fresh versions are both equally good for you. Try and get anchovies from the Adriatic Sea as it’s harvested in a more eco-friendly manner.
6. Rainbow Trout
This type of fish pays for its popularity too. The way it is farmed varies according to the region. The safest farming techniques are practiced in ponds, raceways, and recirculating agricultural systems. Rainbow trouts farmed this way are the best additions for your meal. Remember to choose the place where you get your trout from wisely.
7. Arctic Char
Not able to find good salmon in your local store or market? Try Arctic char, the perfect alternative to the popular salmon in terms of taste and health. This type of fish is also farmed in better conditions making it cheaper too. This way, you’re even looking out for the environment.
8. Pacific Halibut
This fish is another type that suffers because of over fishing. It’s population is more or less depleted in Atlantic waters. However, the Pacific halibut remains an option as it is farmed using long-lines, a more sustainable and eco-friendly technique.