Sardines, for instance – found in abundance across the Mediterranean and available, just caught, in street markets from Spain to Turkey – are high in desirable omega-3 fatty acids. Those omega-3s have been shown to reduce inflammation, and they may help reduce risk of chronic diseases like cancer, arthritis, and coronary disease.
But . . . fish eaters, beware! All fish are not created equal -- for your health OR for the environment.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium – a magnificent place – publishes a “Seafood Watch” bulletin, which recommends eating fish according to several criteria, including:
- Good source of “long-chain” omega-3 fatty acids,
- Low in contaminants, like mercury
Seafood contaminants include metals (such as mercury, which affects brain function and development), industrial chemicals (PCBs and dioxins) and pesticides (DDT). These toxins usually originate on land and make their way into the smallest plants and animals at the base of the ocean food web. As smaller species are eaten by larger ones, contaminants are concentrated and accumulated. Large predatory fish—like swordfish and shark—end up with the most toxins. You can minimize risks by choosing seafood carefully.Their most recent “Super Green Best of the Best” list (from 2010 . . . perhaps nothing has really changed since then) includes these choices that are good for us AND the oceans:
- Albacore Tuna (troll-or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
- Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
- Mussels (farmed)
- Oysters (farmed)
- Pacific Sardines (wild-caught)
- Pink Shrimp (wild-caught, from Oregon)
- Rainbow Trout (farmed)
- Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)
- Spot Prawns (wild-caught, from British Columbia)
- Arctic Char (farmed)
- Barramundi (farmed, from the U.S.)
- Dungeness Crab (wild-caught, from California, Oregon or Washington)
- Longfin Squid (wild-caught, from the U.S. Atlantic)
- Mussels (farmed)
Here’s another great resource from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF): their "Seafood Selector". The menu offers “fish choices that are good for you and the oceans.” Like the Monterey Aquarium, the EDF offers 'best choices," “OK choices,” and "worst choices." In each of those categories, they highlight “Eco-OK,” “Eco-OK AND Healthy,” and sushi. This comprehensive guide also includes excellent images of all the fish.