How To Choose The Healthiest Seafood
If you’re a lover of seafood, you’ll be happy to know that it can be a great addition to your keto menu. There is certainly plenty of variety to choose from, but how do you know which are healthy and which you should avoid?
Farm Raised Vs. Wild Caught
The majority of seafood available on the market today has been farm-raised. It’s less expensive and certainly more readily available, but is its quality as good as that of wild caught varieties?
The answer to that question is a resounding NO! Farm-raised seafood doesn’t even come close in terms of nutritional value, sustainability, and impact on the environment.
There are a lot of good reasons to avoid farm-raised seafood whenever possible:
~ They are full of disease and antibiotics. Because so many are crowded into such a confined space (a lot more than would be found in any natural environment), these fish literally swim in their own waste. Viruses, bacteria, sea lice and other pests can spread very quickly. To try to combat this, they are given hefty doses of antibiotics, which are passed on to you when you consume the fish.
~ They have deformities and genetic mutations. These have been linked to the use of pesticides and antibiotics.
~ Fish farms contaminate natural waterways. Their waste leaches out into the environment in numerous ways, from the farm facility itself and also from our household waste products.
~ Farmed fish are fed unnatural diets. They’re regularly fed things like genetically-modified corn and soy products, canola and wheat, rendered fish and animal parts (including feathers, feet, etc.), and other ingredients that were not fit to be sold to humans for consumption. Some of the smaller fish that are being used as feed are now approaching the point of extinction.
~ They have inferior nutritional quality. Because of the poor diet they receive as well as the contaminated conditions in which they’re raised, farmed fish consistently rate lower in nutritional value. For example, their level of Omega-3 fatty acids is much lower than that of wild caught fish. They also contain higher levels of Omega-6 fatty acids, which we only need in small amounts. Most people already get far too much of this in their diets.
What Are Some Good Alternatives?
Your very best options for seafood are wild caught Alaskan salmon, sardines and anchovies (there are other good choices as well, which I’ve listed below). All are high in healthy Omega-3 fats but low in mercury and other toxins. In general, the closer to the bottom of the food chain a fish is, the lower the amount of toxins that will have accumulated in its body.
Even when you opt for wild caught seafood, there are still some things you should be on the lookout for.
First, fish are very often mislabeled. One study found that anywhere from 25% to as much as 87% of fish (depending on the variety) is mislabeled in some way. It may be labeled as wild caught when it’s actually farm-raised, or be labeled incorrectly altogether. For example, according to another study, red snapper is one of the most often mislabeled fish, with an error rate of 87%. You’re actually getting something called tilefish, which has a very high level of mercury. Tuna is also often mislabeled.
Different varieties of fish vary widely in their level of toxins as well as their sustainability. Some are already endangered, and a great many are NOT caught using sustainable methods.
Something to consider when choosing a seafood is the level of mercury it contains. Mercury is HIGHLY toxic! Those fish with the highest levels should be avoided, or at least eaten very sparingly. This group includes ahi and bigeye tuna, bluefish, grouper, mackerel, orange roughy, shark and swordfish. Fish may also contain other heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead.
Also high in mercury, but less so than those in the list above are albacore tuna, Chilean sea bass, halibut, perch and yellow fin tuna. It’s probably wise to limit consumption of these to just once every few weeks or so.
Bass, canned light tuna, cod, lobster, mahi mahi, monk fish, perch, skipjack tuna, and snapper have moderate levels of mercury, so it’s probably best not to consume these more than about once a week.
The lowest mercury levels are found in this group, so you can pretty much eat them whenever you want: Alaskan salmon, anchovies, catfish, clam, crab, crawfish, fish roe, flounder, haddock, herring, oysters, sardines, scallops, shrimp, squid, trout and tilapia.
Just a note on shrimp – though it doesn’t contain a lot of mercury, it does often have high levels of bacteria and viruses. I highly recommend always buying only the wild-caught variety. You’ll want to be sure to cook it thoroughly to kill any germs that might be present.
It’s worth mentioning here too that if you do eat seafoods that are high in mercury, you should also consider adding some chlorella to your diet. Chlorella is a sea vegetable that has many benefits. One of them is that it is a powerful chelator of mercury and other heavy metals. This means that it binds to the heavy metals in our system and carries them out to be excreted in our stool.
If you choose to use a chlorella supplement, look for one that says it has a broken cell wall, (fermented chlorella would also be a good choice) and that has not been freeze-dried or pasteurized. Cilantro, zinc and selenium (a trace mineral) are also good chelators.
The Best Seal of Approval
Whatever type of seafood you’re considering, the best choices will be those that have the certification of the Marine Stewardship Council. The MSC has very strict guidelines, and they follow production every step of the way, from harvesting all the way through the manufacturing process, to be sure that it is sustainable. You can read more about the various sustainability ratings here.
I hope this information will help you in making delicious, healthy seafood choices to add variety to your keto meals. Keto on, friends, and make it a great week!