Seafood: Can it Be Sustainable and Safe?

Ellen Haas Health Guide
  • High on my list of favorite foods is seafood. I love its light, delicate flavor and because it is extremely versatile, seafood can be the center of many delicious dishes. It also is a favorite of mine because it is so healthy! Medical experts recommend that we eat at least two servings of fish each week. I eat far more than that.





    However, contamination of our oceans, overfishing, and the risks that are the result of inadequate government regulation have created a dilemma for consumers today. I have been concerned about this issue for some time.


    On the one hand, seafood provides true health benefits because it is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals and low in artery-clogging saturated fat. Fish also contains polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, a fat that can promote heart health and may lower certain blood fats in people with type 2 diabetes.

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    On the other hand, seafood can pose considerable health risks when contaminated with substances such as metals (e.g. mercury and lead), industrial chemicals (e.g. PCG/s) and pesticides (e.g. DDT and dieldren). Thanks to thorough testing over the past few years, we have learned that, unfortunately, many of our oceans, lakes and rivers have become increasingly tainted.


    Two recent studies provide authoritative scientific assessments, concluding that the health benefits of eating fish and shellfish clearly exceed the risks from contamination by toxic chemicals, heavy metals or microbes. But these studies also recognize that contaminants were present in some fish and pregnant or breast feeding women and young children should avoid large predatory fish like swordfish and shark.


    What all this means is that consumers should be alerted but not alarmed about the risks from eating fish. Yet, seafood safety and sustainable seafood from clean waters is still part of an unfinished agenda. We still need a mandatory seafood inspection program and more labeling about what fish to eat and what to avoid. Work continues to make seafood truly sustainable and safe.


    Organizations like Environmental Defense have developed a really useful guide of the Best and Worst Seafood Choices. It can be an invaluable resource the next time you visit the market. The Blue Ocean Institute's Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood is another handy resource.


    Useful guidance and informative features about seafood are always available on Check out our tips on picking out, cooking, and storing fish. There are also hundreds of FoodFit seafood recipes are easy to prepare and so good to enjoy.


    This week, I have picked one that is always a winner at Ellen's Healthy Table.

Published On: September 20, 2007