One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to come up with monthly “resolutions” for myself and for anyone who follows this blog. Cooking Light magazine (which is one of my favorite sources of recipes and ideas for healthy living) had the same idea, so I am shamelessly borrowing their healthy habits! This month’s healthy habit is to eat more fish.
Seafood is a great high protein, low fat food. It’s also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids. It also has the advantage of being very fast to cook, a big plus for medical students, residents and busy docs.
How do you decide on which seafood to buy?
There are two things that should guide you in picking fish. Importantly, one of them isn’t price. You need to know about sustainability and toxicity when choosing your seafood. Seafood that is caught or raised in a sustainable fashion with low toxicity is more expensive, but worth the extra cost.
It’s a sad fact that the oceans are being heavily overfished. It sounds like an easy fix to farm raise the fish, but it’s not always true – sometimes the pollution that results from fish farms is worse than the overfishing.
The Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium is an amazing resource to find out which seafood is being caught or farmed responsibly. It’s available on line or as an app for your phone. Look for labels from the Marine Stewardship Council or Friend of the Sea, too.
For docs, it’s important to know that, like all foods, there are contaminants that can occur in seafood. The risk – unless you are immunocompromised – is tiny compared to the benefit, though. Another serious issue is the concentration of heavy metals (mercury and lead, in particular) in some of the larger fish. This is particularly important for women of child-bearing age and for children. Heavy metals are concentrated in large fish because of the food chain. It makes sense that smaller fish will have negligible (or absent) levels. Fortunately, they are also higher in omega-3 fatty acids making them an even better choice! Sardines, anchovies and mackerel may not be on your usual list of foods, but give them a try. Here’s some good sardine recipes to get you started.
What about tuna?
Canned tuna is a cheap and high-quality food, so it’s high on the list for medical students and residents. Unfortunately, all tuna is not created equal – so you have to pay attention. It’s more expensive, but look for pole-caught tuna in the store. Blue fin tuna, and most other tuna used in sushi is incredibly overfished and should be avoided.
Fast, easy recipes to get you started
Marinated Salmon with Mango-Kiwi Relish
I teach a course, Online Consumer Health, at Tufts University School of Medicine. One of my students designed a site, Safe Fish, Smart Baby: Fish Consumption Advice for Pregnant Women, and her final paper at http://wp.me/sah6H-fish. I thought you would enjoy it after your fascinating post – love the monthly habits idea!