1. Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
Many tuna are high in mercury but albacore tuna gets a Super Green rating as long as it is “troll- or pole-caught” in the U.S. or British Columbia. The reason: smaller, younger fish are caught this way. These fish have lower mercury and contaminant ratings and those caught in colder northern waters often have higher omega-3 counts.
2. Salmon (wild-caught, Alaska)
In Alaska, biologists are posted at river mouths to count how many wild fish return to spawn. If the numbers begin to dwindle, the fishery is closed before it reaches its limits. This close monitoring, along with strict quotas and careful management of water quality, means Alaska’s wild-caught salmon are both healthier and more sustainable than just about any other salmon fishery.
3. Oysters (farmed)
Farmed oysters are good for you. Better yet, they are actually good for the environment. Oysters feed off the natural nutrients and algae in the water, which improves water quality. They can also act as natural reefs, attracting and providing food for other fish. One health caveat: Raw shellfish might contain bacteria that can cause illnesses.
4. Sardines, Pacific (wild-caught)
The tiny, inexpensive sardine is making it onto many lists of superfoods and for good reason. It packs more omega-3s per 3-ounce serving than salmon, tuna or just about any other food; it’s also one of the very, very few foods that’s naturally high in vitamin D.
5. Rainbow Trout (farmed)
Although lake trout are high in contaminants, nearly all the trout you will find in the market is farmed rainbow trout. In the U.S., rainbow trout are farmed primarily in freshwater ponds and “raceways” where they are more protected from contaminants and fed a fishmeal diet that has been fine-tuned to conserve resources.
6. Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
Freshwater coho salmon is the first and only farmed salmon to get a Super Green rating. Many farms use crowded pens where salmon are easily infected with parasites, may be treated with antibiotics and can spread disease to wild fish. Coho, however, are raised in closed freshwater pens and require less feed.
6 Fish to Avoid
A number of environmental organizations have also advocated taking many fish off the menu. The large fish listed below are just six examples EatingWell chose to highlight: popular fish that are both depleted and, in many cases, carry higher levels of mercury and PCBs.
1. Bluefin Tuna
In December 2009 the World Wildlife Fund put the bluefin tuna on its “10 for 2010” list of threatened species. The bluefin commands as much as $177,000 a fish. Bluefin have high levels of mercury and their PCBs are so high that EDF recommends not eating this fish at all.
2. Chilean Sea Bass (aka Patagonian Toothfish)
Chilean sea bass has been fished to near depletion. The methods used to catch them have also damaged the ocean floor. EDF has issued a consumption advisory for Chilean sea bass due to high mercury levels: adults should eat no more than two meals per month and children aged 12 and younger should eat it no more than once a month.
High mercury levels in these giant fish have caused EDF to issue a consumption advisory. Groupers can live to be 40 but only reproduce over a short amount of time, making them vulnerable to overfishing.
This strange fish resembles a catfish in that it has whiskers and is a bottom dweller, but its light, fresh taste made it a staple for gourmets. The fish is recovering some after being depleted, but the trawlers that drag for it also threaten the habitat where it lives.
5. Orange Roughy
This fish lives a long life but is slow to reproduce, making it vulnerable to overfishing. As Seafood Watch puts it: “Orange roughy lives 100 years or more—so the fillet in your freezer might be from a fish older than your grandmother!” This also means it has high levels of mercury.
6. Salmon (farmed)
Most farmed salmon are raised in tightly packed, open-net pens often rife with parasites and diseases that threaten the wild salmon trying to swim by to their ancestral spawning waters. Farmed salmon are fed fishmeal, given antibiotics to combat diseases and have levels of PCBs high enough to rate a health advisory from EDF.
Now that you know what fish you should add to your diet, check out some of our favorite fish recipes!
One sweet, tangy and salty mixture does double-duty as marinade and sauce. Toasted sesame seeds provide a nutty and attractive accent.
Tangy plain yogurt mixed with the classic ingredients for chermoula—a Moroccan spice mix—serves as both the marinade and the sauce in this salmon dish. If you like your food on the spicy side, add a pinch of cayenne to the mixture.
Fish and chips are traditionally sold wrapped in paper to soak up all the grease—not a good sign. To cut the calories in half and reduce the fat, we coat the delicate fish in a crispy cornflake crust and then bake it along with sliced potatoes. Serve with: Coleslaw and malt vinegar or lemon wedges.
The great thing about barbecuing oysters is you don’t need to shuck them. Put the oysters right on the grill and cook until the steam inside the oysters pops the shells open. Drizzle with a little spicy Thai sauce and you’re done.
Even sardine skeptics will enjoy this lemony pasta with crispy breadcrumbs. Substitute two 5- to 6-ounce cans chunk light tuna for the sardines if you prefer. If you are using tuna or can’t find sardines packed in tomato sauce, add 2 tablespoons tomato paste in Step 4 with the lemon juice. Serve with a salad of bitter greens tossed with a lemon vinaigrette and a glass of Pinot Grigio.
You probably already know that you're supposed to be eating fish twice a week. Fish are a lean, healthy source of protein—and the oily kinds, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, etc.—deliver those heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fats you've probably also heard you should be getting in your diet.
But then there's also this concern about sustainability—and choosing seafood that's sustainable.
So, if you're like me, you often stand at the fish counter a little perplexed: what's good for me and the planet?
Fortunately, Seafood Watch, the program run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, has combined data from leading health organizations and environmental groups to come up with their list "Super Green: Best of the Best" of seafood that's good for you and good for the environment.
To make the list, last updated in January 2010, fish must: a) have low levels of contaminants—below 216 parts per billion [ppb] mercury and 11 ppb PCBs; b) be high in health-promoting omega-3 fats; and c) come from a sustainable fishery.
Check out the slideshow above for 6 fish you should eat and 6 you should avoid.