Every healthy eating plan should include several servings of healthy fish per week. If you are wondering how to best purchase this healthy protein for your family, read on . . . .
Most supermarkets have a great variety of fish, from fresh to frozen, breaded and stuffed, wild caught and farm raised, you name it. But what does a savvy consumer need to know about how to purchase the healthiest fish for your family? Let’s review just a few basic rules . . . .
First rule of thumb: WILD CAUGHT.
Fish caught in the wild eat what fish eat – plankton, algae, other small fish. And because of this they develop Omega 3 fats – the healthy fats that our bodies need. You may have read about mercury contained in wild caught fish – but recent studies have shown that mercury levels in wild caught fish are not enough to be concerned about.
Farm raised fish, on the other hand, are grain fed – mostly corn. We all know about the issues surrounding corn (pesticides, GMO’s, etc.). And, this diet causes the fish to develop Omega 6 fats – the unhealthy trans fats that clog up arteries and are not good for our bodies. Interestingly, farm raised fish often contain MORE mercury that wild caught fish.
Second rule of thumb: FROZEN/PREVIOUSLY FROZEN IS OK, BUT . . .
Be SURE that there are no additives to preserve color or freshness. If you are purchasing pre-packaged frozen fish, READ the label. Look for “wild caught” and also look in the ingredients list for additives (they will be among the last of the ingredients listed on the label).
If you are purchasing fish from the fish market or counter, the tag on the fish variety may say “previously frozen,” which is fine, but do not be afraid to ask the person behind the counter if they douse it with salt or pump it with carbon dioxide when it gets to the store. Also, be sure the tag says “wild caught,” and if it does not, ASK!
Third rule of thumb: FRESH FISH DOES NOT SMELL FISHY!
Ask to look at a sample of the fresh fish you want to purchase. It should NOT smell fishy, and should not be slimy. It should be shiny, and should bounce back when you press your finger into the flesh. If purchasing a whole fish, the scales should be shiny, not slimy, the eyes should not be sunk in or bulging out, and the skin should bounce back when depressed with your finger.
To get the most benefit of the Omega 3 fats, wild caught salmon will be the best choice. Wild caught halibut and tuna are also high on the list of Omega 3 content. The fish to stay away from: Tilapia. This variety of fish is probably the MOST farmed fish in the world, rarely will you see “wild caught Tilapia” on a label, at least in the United States. While it is easy to find and relatively inexpensive compared to other varieties of fish, recent studies show that this fish is the worst choice in an otherwise healthy eating plan.
So spend some time at your local fish market, and read the labels to see what is available in your area. And don’t get caught up in the marketing on the package of frozen fish – just because the brand name is “wild something” does NOT mean it was wild caught. Flip that package over, and if the first ingredient is NOT “wild caught whatever fish” then do not purchase it.