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6 of the Healthiest Fish to Eat (and 6 to Avoid)

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
"EatingWell" – Thu, 23 Feb, 2012

sardinesYou probably already know that you're supposed to be eating fish twice
a week. Fish are a lean, healthy source of protein-and the oily kinds,
such as salmon, tuna, sardines, etc.-deliver those heart- and
brain-healthy omega-3 fats you've probably also heard you should be
getting in your diet. (Find out if you need an omega-3 supplement

But then there's also this concern about sustainability-and choosing
seafood that's sustainable.

So, if you're like me, you often stand at the fish counter a little
perplexed: what's good for me and the planet?

Fortunately, Seafood Watch, the program run by the Monterey Bay
Aquarium, has combined data from leading health organizations and
environmental groups to come up with their list "Super Green: Best of
the Best" of seafood that's good for you and good for the environment.

To make the list, last updated in 2010, fish must: a) have low levels
of contaminants-below 216 parts per billion [ppb] mercury and 11 ppb
PCBs; b) be high in health-promoting omega-3 fats; and c) come from a
sustainable fishery.
Related: 7 Simple Ways to Avoid Chemicals & Toxins In Your Diet & Your Home

Many other options are on the program's list of "Best Choices"
(seafoodwatch.org). The Blue Ocean Institute (blueocean.org) also has
sustainability ratings and detailed information.

6 of the Healthiest Fish to Eat

Here are 6 fish-that are healthy for you and the planet-that Seafood
Watch says you should be eating.

1. Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
Many tuna are high in mercury but albacore tuna-the kind of white
tuna that's commonly canned-gets a Super Green rating as long as (and
this is the clincher) it is "troll- or pole-caught" in the U.S. or
British Columbia. The reason: smaller (usually less than 20 pounds),
younger fish are typically caught this way (as opposed to the larger
fish caught on longlines). These fish have much lower mercury and
contaminant ratings and those caught in colder northern waters often
have higher omega-3 counts. The challenge: you need to do your
homework to know how your fish was caught or look for the Marine
Stewardship Council (MSC) blue eco label.

Related: 16 Easy, Healthy Tuna Recipes

2. Salmon (wild-caught, Alaska)
To give you an idea of how well managed Alaska's salmon fishery is,
consider this: biologists are posted at river mouths to count how many
wild fish return to spawn. If the numbers begin to dwindle, the
fishery is closed before it reaches its limits, as was done recently
with some Chinook fisheries. This close monitoring, along with strict
quotas and careful management of water quality, means Alaska's
wild-caught salmon are both healthier (they pack 1,210 mg of omega-3s
per 2-ounce serving and carry few contaminants) and more sustainable
than just about any other salmon fishery.

Related: Easy Salmon Cakes & More Healthy Salmon Recipes

3. Oysters (farmed)
Farmed oysters are good for you (a 3-ounce serving contains over 300
mg of omega-3s and about a third of the recommended daily values of
iron). Better yet, they are actually good for the environment. Oysters
feed off the natural nutrients and algae in the water, which improves
water quality. They can also act as natural reefs, attracting and
providing food for other fish. One health caveat: Raw shellfish,
especially those from warm waters, may contain bacteria that can cause

4. Sardines, Pacific (wild-caught)
The tiny, inexpensive sardine is making it onto many lists of
superfoods and for good reason. It packs more omega-3s (1,950 mg!) per
3-ounce serving than salmon, tuna or just about any other food; it's
also one of the very, very few foods that's naturally high in vitamin
D. Many fish in the herring family are commonly called sardines. Quick
to reproduce, Pacific sardines have rebounded from both overfishing
and a natural collapse in the 1940s.

5. Rainbow Trout (farmed)
Though lake trout are high in contaminants, nearly all the trout you
will find in the market is farmed rainbow trout. In the U.S., rainbow
trout are farmed primarily in freshwater ponds and "raceways" where
they are more protected from contaminants and fed a fishmeal diet that
has been fine-tuned to conserve resources.

6. Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
Freshwater coho salmon is the first-and only-farmed salmon to get a
Super Green rating. All other farmed salmon still falls on Monterey
Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch "avoid" list for a few reasons. Many
farms use crowded pens where salmon are easily infected with
parasites, may be treated with antibiotics and can spread disease to
wild fish (one reason Alaska has banned salmon farms). Also, it can
take as much as three pounds of wild fish to raise one pound of
salmon. Coho, however, are raised in closed freshwater pens and
require less feed, so the environmental impacts are reduced. They're
also a healthy source of omega-3s-one 3-ounce serving delivers 1,025

6 Fish to Avoid

A number of environmental organizations have also advocated taking
many fish off the menu. The large fish listed below are just six
examples EatingWell chose to highlight: popular fish that are both
depleted and, in many cases, carry higher levels of mercury and PCBs.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has also posted health advisories
on some of these fish at edf.org.

1. Bluefin Tuna
In December 2009 the World Wildlife Fund put the bluefin tuna on its
"10 for 2010" list of threatened species, alongside the giant panda,
tigers and leatherback turtles. Though environmental groups are
advocating for protected status, the bluefin continues to command as
much as $177,000 a fish. Bluefin have high levels of mercury and their
PCBs are so high that EDF recommends not eating this fish at all.

2. Chilean Sea Bass (aka Patagonian Toothfish)
Slow-growing and prized for its buttery meat, Chilean sea bass has
been fished to near depletion in its native cold Antarctic waters. The
methods used to catch them-trawlers and longlines-have also damaged
the ocean floor and hooked albatross and other seabirds. At present,
there is one well-managed fishery that is MSC-certified. EDF has
issued a consumption advisory for Chilean sea bass due to high mercury
levels: adults should eat no more than two meals per month and
children aged 12 and younger should eat
it no more than once a month.

3. Grouper
High mercury levels in these giant fish have caused EDF to issue a
consumption advisory. Groupers can live to be 40 but only reproduce
over a short amount of time, making them vulnerable to overfishing.

4. Monkfish
This strange fish resembles a catfish in that it has whiskers and is
a bottom dweller, but its light, fresh taste made it a staple for
gourmets. The fish is recovering some after being depleted, but the
trawlers that drag for it also threaten the habitat where it lives.

5. Orange Roughy
Like grouper, this fish lives a long life but is slow to reproduce,
making it vulnerable to overfishing. As Seafood Watch puts it: "Orange
roughy lives 100 years or more-so the fillet in your freezer might be
from a fish older than your grandmother!" This also means it has high
levels of mercury, causing EDF to issue a health advisory.

6. Salmon (farmed)
Most farmed salmon (and all salmon labeled "Atlantic salmon" is
farmed) are raised in tightly packed, open-net pens often rife with
parasites and diseases that threaten the wild salmon trying to swim by
to their ancestral spawning waters. Farmed salmon are fed fishmeal,
given antibiotics to combat diseases and have levels of PCBs high
enough to rate a health advisory from EDF. Recently, however,
freshwater-farmed Coho salmon have earned a Best Choice status from
Seafood Watch. There is hope consumer pressure will encourage more
farms to adopt better practices.

Related: Ditch These 4 Foods to Clean Up Your Diet

Which fish on these lists do you eat or avoid?

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.



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