If you’re like most North Americans, you’re probably falling short of the recommended 8 ounces of fish and seafood per week (equivalent to 2 servings). Ocean fish is most abundant source of omega-3-fatty acids DHA and EPA in the diet which are critical for heart health and offer a variety of other health benefits. According to the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, only 1 in 10 Americans meet seafood intake recommendations and per capita consumption of seafood has gradually declined since 2004. In contrast, Americans are advised to eat less red meat, yet consume 3 x the amount of beef as compared to seafood, despite the fact that seafood consumption is endorsed by the American Heart Association, Alzheimer’s Association, American Diabetes Association and Arthritis Foundation to maintain overall health and prevent or improve certain health conditions.

Let’s break down your seafood barriers! As a supermarket dietitian, I’m here to help you make informed choices that will empower you to eat more seafood. Here are tips on how to navigate the top 3 issues faced by consumers at the fish counter.

Health Benefits vs. The Risks of Consuming Seafood

A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that the health benefits of consuming fish and nutrients such as omega-3-fats far outweigh the risks associated with the potential intake and exposure to mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins. Furthermore, many of the toxins of concern are readily consumed and found in greater quantities in red meat, dairy, eggs and vegetables. Conversely, the long chain fatty acids, omega-3-fats are abundant in fatty fish, including salmon, sardines and tuna and have been associated with the treatment of heart disease, certain types of cancer, clinical depression, anxiety and offer therapeutic benefits in the treatment of arthritis. Low seafood intake and the lack of omega-3-fats in the diet is high on the list of preventable causes of death in the U.S., and is associated with more than 84,000 preventable deaths each year.

Wild or Farm-Raised Fish

Now, more than ever, awareness on making sustainable seafood choices is readily promoted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) certification process that can guide consumers in stores and via mobile Apps to make the best wild or farmed choices for your budget.

The health benefits of consuming any fish is better than eating no fish at all. Wild fish stocks need attention to flourish in our oceans from being over-fished and seafood guidance or rating systems can help you choose the best choice, whether it’s line or net caught, farm or wild. When consuming wild fish, choosing a wider variety of fish will help relieve pressure on certain species and including smaller fish, lower on the food chain have less exposure to environmental toxins that may be of concern to some individuals.

Either way, wild or farmed, seafood is an ideal protein at meals that can help optimize the nutritional benefits in the diet.

Fresh or Frozen

Die-hard sushi lovers would proclaim that the best fish they’ve ever consumed was fresh. However, this is highly unlikely in the U.S., since 50-60% of sushi is frozen at some point. In fact, FDA regulations require sushi, sashimi, ceviche, tartare and any other fish that is intended to be served raw, must be frozen first to kill parasites. In addition, the fish beautifully displayed at your local grocery store – has likely been frozen at some point in its journey from the ocean. Developed by the Japanese fishing industry in the 90’s, “super-freezing” technology helped fisherman preserve their catch hundreds of miles off the coast. Using dry ice and liquid nitrogen, large fish can be preserved with no decomposition for up to two years and at 70-degrees below zero, requires a band-saw to cut. 

Frozen fish is a safe, affordable and readily available choice for consumers seeking fresh, delicious seafood. Furthermore, choosing frozen fish is a great choice to reduce food waste. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, reported that nearly 47 percent of the edible U.S. seafood supply is lost each year from consumer waste.

Dive in and enjoy more seafood for improved health. Whether you’re on a budget, pregnant or simply seeking a versatile protein addition to your meals, don’t let misconceptions or confusion stop you from enjoying the taste and many benefits of consuming seafood more regularly. Whether you prefer grilling, baking, microwaving, broiling, steaming or sautéing, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the bounty seafood provides. 

Learn more about the nutritional benefits of seafood here. Share your comments in the comment section below!

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