Choosing your Fish Wisely Liimits the Risks of Mercury Contamination

Fish has made the news a few times lately. It’s certainly a complex issue, as waterways are increasingly polluted and so many people are deficient in the omega-3 fats critical for health. So, should you or shouldn’t you eat fish?


Here, I will review a few of the fundamentals that need to be factored in to help you optimize your diet while reducing your exposure to environmental toxins like methylmercury as much as possible.

Fish has always been the best source for the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, but as levels of pollution have increased, this treasure of a food has become less and less viable as a primary source of healthful fats. However, there are still exceptions, and the key is to understand which types of fish are the least contaminated.

Interestingly enough, and fortunately for us, the types of fish that tend to suffer the least amount of toxic contamination also happen to be some of the best sources of fat and antioxidants. So, by choosing wisely, the benefits of a diet high in fish can still outweigh the risks.

Why Wild-Caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon is a Good Option

There are three major differences between wild-caught and farmed salmon, and once you realize how different the fish are, based on how they were raised, you’ll see why opting for the cheaper alternative isn’t the wisest choice:

1. Fish Health — Wild salmon return to their native spawning grounds each year, without you having to do anything, while farmed salmon are kept in pens. Naturally, fish swimming in the wild get more exercise, and this alone make wild fish healthier than their incarcerated counterparts. As explained by Tony Farrell with the University of British Columbia Zoology department, fish kept in constrained environments become the aquatic version of “couch potatoes,” with similar health consequences as humans face when we don’t exercise enough.

Recent research has shown that survival rates of fish that have received sufficient exercise is 13 percent higher than the “couch potato” controls, and the exercise-conditioned fish had better growth, and stronger immune systems, courtesy of certain gene activations.

2. Nutritional content — Wild salmon swim around in the wild, eating what nature programmed them to eat. Therefore, their nutritional profile is more complete, with micronutrients, fats, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants like astaxanthin (which gives salmon its pink, or in the case of sockeye, red-colored, flesh).

Farmed salmon, on the other hand, are fed an artificial diet consisting of grain products like corn and soy (most of which is genetically modified), along with chicken- and feather meal, artificial coloring, and synthetic astaxanthin, which is not approved for human consumption, but is permitted to be used in fish feed.

Mother Nature never intended fish to eat these things, and as a consequence of this radically unnatural diet, the nutritional content of their flesh is also altered, and not for the better. Farmed salmon tastes different than wild-caught, and much of it has to do with the altered fat ratio, which is dramatically different. Farmed salmon contains far more omega-6, courtesy of their grain-based diet.

The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat of wild salmon is far superior to farmed. Wild salmon typically has 600 to 1,000 percent more omega-3s compared to omega-6s. So whereas farmed salmon has a 1 to 1 ratio of omega-3s and omega-6s — again due to its “junk food” diet — the ratio for wild sockeye salmon is between 6 and 9 to 1. This is important, because if you’re trying to improve your omega-3 to omega-6 balance, you simply will not accomplish it with farmed salmon.

3. Environment — Probably around 99 percent of farmed salmon are raised in net pens in the open ocean. All the excess food that is dropped in ends up going out in the environment — the genetically engineered ingredients, the pesticides, the antibiotics and chemical additives. Anything the fish do not consume, along with all their now unnatural waste products, end up contaminating the environment.

According to a new report from Scotland, some salmon farms have increased their use of pesticides 110 percent over the past four years, adding to the toxic burden of both the environment and your body. To learn more about the many hazards of fish farming, check out FarmedAndDangerous.org.3

Wild at top, Farmed at the bottom

There’s also the vegetarian or vegan ethical aspect. Wild sockeye salmon are the vegetarians of the salmon world. Their diet consists of krill, plankton and algae, and they are caught at the very end of their life cycle. By the time they enter the fishing grounds, they’ve lived 95 percent of their natural life in the wild. At the end of their life, they fight their way up-river to spawn, after which they die a natural death — unless they’re caught by a fisherman or get eaten by some other predator.

Beware of Mislabeled Salmon
Unfortunately, salmon are often mislabeled. According to Hartnell, studies have discovered that as much as 70 to 80 percent of the fish marked “wild” were actually farmed. This includes restaurants, where 90-95 percent of salmon is farmed, yet may be mis-listed on the menu as “wild.” The following tips that can help you determine whether the salmon is authentically harvested Alaskan fish are:

1. Canned salmon labeled “Alaskan Salmon” is a good bet, as Alaskan salmon is not allowed to be farmed.

2. In restaurants, mislabeled salmon will typically be described as “wild” but not “wild Alaskan.” This is because authentic “wild Alaskan” is easier to trace. The term “wild” is more nebulous and therefore more often misused. In many ways it is very similar to the highly abused “natural” designation.

3. Whether you’re in a grocery store or a restaurant, ask the seafood clerk or waiter where the fish is from. If it’s wild, they will have paid more for it, so they’re likely to understand the value proposition. Since it’s a selling point, they will know where it came from. If they don’t have an answer for you, it’s a red flag that it’s farmed, or worse… The US Food and Drug Administration is moving forward with approving genetically engineered salmon to be sold, and as you know, GE foods still do not need to be labeled in the US.

4. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as all salmon labeled “Atlantic Salmon” currently comes from fish farms.

5. Sockeye salmon cannot be farmed, so if you find sockeye salmon, it’s bound to be wild. You can tell sockeye salmon from other salmon by its color. It’s bright red as opposed to pink. The reason again for this bright red color is its superior astaxanthin content. Sockeye salmon has one of the highest concentrations of astaxanthin of any food.

By Dr. Joseph Mercola .. read complete article at articles.mercola.com

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