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How Often Should you be Eating Fish?

All over the world, people are poorly nourished. In some cases this is due to a lack of food, while in other cases it is a lack of understanding about what nutrients your body needs to function properly. Despite adequate availability of a variety of foods to provide the correct nutrients to have a happy, healthy life, there is still a lot of misunderstanding about how to get the nutrients you need. Fish is unfortunately a food that is sometimes left in the dust, even though it is full of some essential building blocks. 


How Often Should you be Eating Fish?

When prepared correctly, fish is one of the most delicious meal options available to us. You should be eating a five ounce serving fish at least twice weekly, with one of your fish choices being an oilier fish, like a salmon or a sardine. If you enjoy a variety of fish that is low in mercury, like salmon or tilapia, you can safely consume up to 12 ounces weekly. If you are going for fish with higher mercury levels, such as tuna or mackerel, try to cap it at about 8 ounces or less a week.

There are a wide variety of fish to choose from, and in the current state of the world, it is now more than ever very important to eat fish that are sustainably sourced. You want to make sure you can continue to eat fish well into your adult life, and that the future generations can enjoy the same fish that you enjoyed in hundreds of years. Be good to the planet and the planet will be good right back to you.


The Health Benefits of Eating Fish

The most obvious benefit of eating fish is the omega-3 fatty acids, which are imperative to brain health, as well as heart health. Fatty fish are the healthiest because they contain more of the healthy fats that are often neglected in the American diet. Fish of all kinds, extremely fatty or only a little fatty, contain nutrients that aren’t easy to acquire in other kinds of food, and which are linked to a lesser risk of heart attack and stroke, two of the leading killers of the developed world. Fish is also full of protein and Vitamin D, two other essential nutrients that aren’t consumed nearly enough in the everyday diet of the American people. Despite these incredible benefits, eating any more than that amount of fish hasn’t shown any evidence of being healthier. So 8oz-12oz is the healthy range for maximum benefits.


What is Sustainability?

Sustainability, at its base form, is the practice of making sure biological processes can continue without threatening productivity or diversity.

Overfishing is a serious problem in the world of sustainability. When we are talking about keeping fish populations sustainable, we mean leaving enough fish in the ocean for populations to be able to grow, respecting and caring for the habitats from which we fish, and actively trying to avoid disrupting communities where fishing is part of their livelihood.


How do I Incorporate Seafood into my Diet?

Sushi is an excellent way to incorporate more seafood into your diet. Sushi is popular just about everywhere and it is easy to come by, especially in big cities. Look for sushi places with sustainable options for an even healthier approach to adding seafood to your diet. If you are a person with a compromised immune system, you are elderly, or if you are pregnant, avoid raw seafood as there are some risks of getting ill from raw fish if your immune system isn’t 100%. Some sushi places are happy to cook the fish for you, but you should request that they chef uses a different knife to cut the sushi rolls for you to reduce the risk of illness that comes from contact with raw fish.

Raw fish isn’t your only option and may not really be your thing, so cooked seafood is another great choice. Some of our favorite recipes made with seafood include One Pan Lemon Parmesan Fish and Asparagus, Crispy Fish Tacos, Grilled Salmon with Jasmine Tea and Chipotle Marinade, Honey Sesame Shrimp, and Low Country Boil.


Sustainable Choices in Seafood Consumption

Making sustainable choices when you decide what to feed your family not only impacts you, but it impacts the whole globe too. Some grocery stores have the information readily available on signage alerting the consumer to where their seafood is coming from, while other stores should have that information on hand. If you are unsure, you can always ask at the seafood counter. If they are unsure, try to buy the fish you know is the most sustainable off hand. There are some apps you can download that will help you find this information, and some grocery stores have policies available to view online about the sustainability of their seafood.

These are the top five choices for fish or seafood dinners that can be found commonly at the grocery store:

  1. Alaskan Salmon- As far as sustainability goes, you can’t get it much better than the carefully regulated waters and fish from Alaska. Fishermen there have been careful not to overtax salmon populations, and so the fish remain happy and healthy and thriving in Alaskan waters.
  2. Catfish- U.S. caught catfish are an excellent, well-fished population that are continuing to thrive. It is more common to find a sustainable source of catfish than it is to find an unsustainable one.
  3. Albacore tuna- These fish are common in the tuna department, especially in the canned tuna department. If you can find a variety that is pole caught instead of caught on a long line, that is your very best bet for a sustainable tuna option.
  4. Alaskan King Crab- Just like the Alaskan salmon, this King Crab is carefully protected and populations are monitored thoroughly. When fishermen are told it is no longer safe to catch the King Crabs, they stop. This is unique to Alaskan waters, so you can feel comfort knowing that your Alaskan King Crab is okay to eat and will be available in the future.
  5. Pacific Halibut- This fishery is in much better shape than the Atlantic Halibut fishery. It has been fished for fewer years and is managed better than the Atlantic fishery, which has been extremely overfished.

Avoid these fish, their populations are heavily overtaxed, and they are having trouble recovering:

  1. Grouper- Growing to a large size has shown to be a disadvantage to these fish. Because of their size, they are a desirable fish for eating. Unfortunately, many fishermen take advantage of the grouper’s unique mating ritual where they all group together to reproduce in one area, and they have been pulling the fish out of the waters during breeding season. This hurts both the current and the future fish populations.
  2. Atlantic Salmon- These salmon are in danger of being completely wiped out. The demand for salmon is so high that they are continuously being fished without having the opportunity or time to reproduce at the rate in which they are being caught.
  3. Bluefin tuna- These fish take a long time to mature and they prefer to travel in schools, making them especially vulnerable. They are often scooped up in big nets, so whole groups are lost without the chance to reproduce. These fish are in high demand because they are extremely flavorful, but they are extraordinarily overfished and, in some places, it is a banned food item.
  4. Wild-Caught Sea Scallops- Sea Scallops are often harvested in a way that makes that destroys their entire habitat, making it harder for them to reproduce. Recently, measures have been taken where divers will harvest by hand instead of using big tools which are the culprits of habitat destruction. Still, it is best to avoid these as much as possible.
  5. Atlantic Cod- This deep-water fish has been suffering in numbers since the 90s. Overfishing during this time led to a lot of pressure on fish populations. If you are fond of cod, as many Americans are, try replacing it with catfish- this is a common alternative that tastes extremely similar.

These fish are sometimes sourced sustainably, sometimes not:

  1. Pacific Cod- this is a neutral, white fleshed fish that tastes excellent with many different things. This is a good choice if the fish was caught in the pacific or farmed in a tank. These are generally a good option. While the Atlantic cod is poorly managed, pacific cod is sometimes more sustainably caught.
  2. Shrimp- According to the World Wildlife Fund, 55 percent of all shrimp consumed globally is produced on shrimp farms! This is great news in terms of sustainability. If you can, look for labels on your packaged shrimp that indicates it was produced on a shrimp farm.
  3. Mackerel- There are some kinds of mackerel that are well managed, but avoid purchasing Spanish Mackerel, as this type is overfished to the point of nearing extinction.
  4. Skipjack tuna- A little smaller than bluefin tuna, and also faster growing and quicker to reproduce, this fish is a better option in terms of sustainability if you want that distinctive tuna flavor in your dish.
  5. Swordfish- Unless your swordfish has been certified sustainable, it is probably not. These fish are often captured using long line fishing, a method of fishing that includes a line out in the ocean with multiple fish hooks. Often these hooks catch more than just swordfish, endangering the lives of all types of marine life, not just the swordfish.

Websites like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s can help you make better choices with a more extensive list of seafood options. This is an excellent resource that is updated frequently with the best fish options, as well as information on what should be avoided. If you are wondering why you should choose certain fish over another, this resource also gives you an incredible depth of information on how and why the fish populations are overtaxed or considered sustainable. They have an app available for download on many devices as well, making sustainability in the grocery store more approachable for the everyday person.


Where Can I Buy Sustainable Seafood?

Many experts are in the agreement that finding sustainable sources are hard, so it is wise to find a fishery that is dedicated to sustainability. Unfortunately, the waters of seafood sustainability can be hard to navigate. Luckily there are some great people out there doing the hard work of sourcing sustainable seafood and keeping the fish populations well managed and cared for. One of the best sources for sustainable seafood you will find is Wild for Salmon, a family owned business dedicated to providing the consumer with seafood that is good in both flavor and environmental impact. They say that “sustainable isn’t simply a word for us, it one of our core values,” and that is reflected in both their business model and in their shipping methods, which is relieving for those of us who think of this whole sustainability thing to be, well, a little fishy!

If you aren’t close enough to visit a Wild for Salmon location in person and don’t want to order your seafood online, try to shop local! Finding a local seafood source may help you to interact with the people who are handling the fish and, in some cases, like with Wild for Salmon, those people are the very people who did the catching of the seafood you are about to eat! Making healthy, sustainable choices does take a little bit of effort, but that effort translates into a big impact on the planet. Making this kind of choice helps maintain fish populations, which helps maintain the populations of several other species higher up on the food chain. Think of the majestic brown bear, forever depicted on nature documentaries as swatting fish out of the water and gnawing on them or bringing them to the baby bear who has yet to learn the art of fishing. Without sustainable fishing practices, these bears have a huge portion of their diet threatened. Eat sustainable seafood and save the world, one bite at a time.


Is it Okay if I Eat Farmed Fish?

Fish farming, also called aquaculture, often has a bad reputation despite being nearly 50% of the seafood market. If you ask for an opinion on aquaculture from most of the American public, you will probably hear something less than favorable. This is because there are some places with pretty terrible aquaculture systems, and these extremes are the ones you will see as the standout examples. These unfairly define what aquaculture is as a whole, instead of representing the bad apples that they are. In fact, many aquaculture practices today are much cleaner and healthier for the environment than they were in the past. As with all things, there was a learning curve where some practices were swapped out for better, more efficient ones. Still, there is a growing awareness for how fishing in general is harming the earth, meaning these aquaculture practices will continue to be even more closely examined. Aquaculture is possibly one of the ways we are going to combat projected food shortages and feeding the expected 2.5 billion more people on this earth before 2050.

The answer then, is yes. You can certainly eat farmed fish, especially if you know that the farm they come from has environmentally healthy and safe practices. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website has some great information on fishing and aquaculture practices that will help you determine what kind of farmed seafood is the best to eat. Oysters, mussels, clams, and seaweed have a low environmental impact by nature, as they don’t require feed. They can collect their own food through their bodies’ filtration systems. Fish like salmon have a higher environmental impact because they need to be fed too and their food is sometimes a source of pollution, but as stated before, there is hope that practices will continue to get better from their days of being an environmental disaster. Even now, there are new food types and different enclosures being developed to help make aquaculture as neutral or positive to the environment as possible.

Every day more people are born into the world. Fish consumption has increased steadily over the last few decades, and will continue to increase as populations around the world grow. Eating fish twice a week responsibly will help you increase your health, but it will also help the earth stay healthy. Make good choices and enjoy that fish fry dinner.


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