Things to Consider when Buying Fish and Seafood

11:21 AM Posted by jo


Eating fish was always important when I grew up. The schools in my country served fish for lunch twice a week and it was mandatory to eat the school lunches. I didn't exactly enjoy eating fish every Tuesday and Friday, but now when I look back I realize it was pretty healthy for me. I spent the summers at my grandparents' house and my grandfather went fishing in the Baltic Sea at least a few times a months. The fish was guaranteed fresh and we often ate fish for dinner. I don't think anyone thought of the possibility that the fish could be contaminated and should not be eaten so often back then. 

Omega is good for us but the fish is contaminated

It can be tricky to figure things out. We are told that omega 3 oils are essential and needed in order to be healthy, but at the same time it is hard to find fish that is not contaminated. Fish has been known to be contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury,  the pesticides DDT and dieldrin, and  PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls). A lot of harmful chemicals are being dumped in lakes, streams, oceans, and rivers and are eventually absorbed by the fish. Eating a lot of fish containing mercury can lead to mercury poisoning.

And then it is the farm- raised fish

It is not as simple as to just buy a piece a fish at the market.  A lot of fish such as carp, eels, tilapia, catfish, shrimp, and crayfish are farm raised today. They are fed inferior feed such as soy (most likely genetically modified) and cereal-based food and their meat is deficient or very low in omega- fatty acids. Farm raised fish is cheaper so it is understandable that people buy it, but unfortunately many don't realize that farm raised fish is not a good source of essential fatty acids. It is not always easy to find out if the fish is farm raised or not, so you may have to ask the staff in the store. Salmon gets its pink color  from eating shrimp, so farm raised salmon needs to be enhanced with a color to make it look more appealing since it is not fed shrimp.

Cordain wrote down tips on how to minimize your risk of eating contaminated fish:

  • You're better off choosing fish that comes from Alaska and Pacific Ocean. The waters are cleaner with less pollution.
  • Eat fish that are not predators such as catfish, pollock, halibut, flounder and clams.
  • Enjoy the big fish more sparingly since they tend to accumulate more mercury. Minimize the consumption of shark, tuna, and swordfish.
  • Improper handling of the fish is also a problem. Fish are often not stored at the right temperatures and could easily be contaminated with bacteria. The shelf life of most fish is 7-12 day after being caught but the fish are often kept on the boat for about 6 days after the catch. Once on land the fish are transported to various locations and may end up on the display counters for a few days. 
  • Fresh fish doesn't have an odor. Once spoiled, a warning compound called trimethylamine is released. So fresh fish is pretty much odorless, so don't buy the fish if it has an odor and smells "fish".

Cordain also provides tips on how to shop for fish:

  • Once the whole fish passes the odor test - check the gills to make sure that they are moist and bright red. If the gills that are brown or clumped together then the fish has been on the shelf too long.
  • You don't want the fish to sit in the cart and get spoiled while you do most of your shopping so make sure that buy the fish last. Go straight home and refrigerate the fish in it's original package. Keep it in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
  • Wash the fish in cold water and cook it very well to minimize your exposure to parasites and bacteria.  It is done when it is opaque and flakes easily when poked with a fork.
  • Make sure you freeze the fish if you don't plan on eating it right away.
  • Watch out when you buy fish that says it has previously been frozen. This can indicate that the fish was frozen because it once didn't sell as fresh, or that the expiration date expired, was frozen by the store and was thawed again.
  • Check for freezer burns - they are light colored, cottony spots on the fish. It is not unusual that frozen fish is allowed to thaw and then refrozen again for several times. You also want to make sure that the fish doesn't have ice crystal coatings. The best quality  frozen fish are the ones caught at sea and individually frozen on the ship. Many have labels stating they were frozen at sea.

It is also important to chose wisely when you buy omega- 3 oils. Some fish oil supplements were found to contain PCB's so it is important to pick a reliable company that tests their products thoroughly. Remember, canned tuna is not a good option.

Johanna is an aromatherapist and she is passionate about educating people about health, essential oils, real food, natural remedies, and nutrition so they make healthier choices in their lives. 
Follow Johanna on twitter and facebook for more health tips and information.

This post is linked to:
Fresh Bites FridayFight Back Friday Monday Mania , Domestically Divine , Simple Lives 
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