We’re all heard that fish is healthy and we should eat more of it. Even Health Canada recommends eating at least 2 servings of fish every week, which is about 150 grams. However, Canada’s Food Guide does not tell us what type of fish to eat, while the media is full of information about mercury in fish, overfishing, and omega 3 fats. This guide will help you in choosing fish that is right for you and sustainable for the environment.
Fish is an excellent source of lean protein and omega 3 fatty acids, called DHA and EPA. DHA helps in the development of our brain, eyes and nerves, and EPA helps prevent heart disease. Fatty fish such as salmon, rainbow trout, Atlantic mackerel, Arctic char, herring, anchovies and sardines are all good sources of omega 3 fats.
Mercury can be found naturally in bodies of water, rocks and soil. It can also be released into the environment from coal power plants, metal mining and burning of waste products. Traces of mercury can be found in most fish, although the levels are higher in some fish than in others. Generally larger fish that live longer contain higher levels of mercury than smaller fish. Mercury is toxic and can have many adverse health effects especially to the nervous system.
The following fish are safe for adults to eat everyday without worrying about the mercury content:
- Arctic char
- Atlantic mackerel
- Rainbow trout
- Light canned tuna
Fish that is safe to eat in moderate amounts (4 servings per week):
- King mackerel
- Spanish mackerel
- Mahi mahi
- Black cod
- Tuna steak
- Albacore (white) canned tuna
- Atlantic halibut
- Bluefin tuna steak
- Red snapper
Fish that should be rarely eaten due to high mercury content:
- Sea bass
- Orange roughy
- Tuna steak
- Yellow pickerel
Note: pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult a dietitian about safe levels of fish consumption.
When buying fish, try to choose fish that is farmed or fished in a controlled way and does not lead to: 1) overfishing, 2) habitat damage, 3) upsetting of the balance in the ecosystem. Look for the “Certified Sustainable Seafood” blue label on the packaging when buying fish.
The bottom line
If you want fish that is a good source of omega 3 fats, low in mercury and is eco-friendly choose rainbow trout, Atlantic Mackerel, Arctic char, herring, sardines and wild Pacific salmon. And try to get at least 3 servings of fish every week. To help you out, here are my favourite recipes for salmon, halibut and trout. Bon Appétit!