Seafood and Your Health

Seafood plays an important role in a balanced diet. START’s partnership with Monterrey Bay Aquarium has focused on helping people make seafood choices that are good for the ocean, Monterey Bay has now identified a list of seafood that’s caught or farmed responsibly AND is excellent for human health. This “Super Green”* list highlights products that are currently on the Seafood Watch “Best Choices” list, are low in mercury and are good sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Many types of seafood are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help boost immunity and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and other ailments. Omega-3s are especially important for pregnant and nursing women, and young children. However, some fish also contain toxin levels that can pose certain health risks if eaten too frequently.

Seafood contaminants include metals (such as mercury, which affects brain function and development), industrial chemicals (PCBs and dioxins) and pesticides (DDT). These toxins usually originate on land and make their way into the smallest plants and animals at the base of the ocean food web. As smaller species are eaten by larger ones, contaminants are concentrated and accumulated. Large predatory fish—like swordfish and sharks—end up with the most toxins. You can minimize risks by choosing seafood carefully.

The Super Green list is based on dietary requirements for an average woman of childbearing age (18-45, 144 pounds) eating eight ounces of fish per week. The list also applies to men and children; children should eat age-appropriate portions to maximize their health benefits while minimizing risk. The recommendation of 250 mg of omega-3s refers to the combined level of two omega-3s of primary importance to human health: eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA).
The Super Green List *

These items have levels of mercury below 216 parts per billion (ppb), provide at least 250 milligrams per day (mg/d) of omega-3s and are classified as a Seafood Watch “Best Choice.”

Atlantic Mackerel
(purse seine, from Canada and the U.S.)

Freshwater Coho Salmon
(farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)

Pacific Sardines

(wild-caught, from Alaska)

Salmon, Canned
(wild-caught, from Alaska)

Other healthy “Best Choices” are low in contaminants and provide a smaller amount of omega-3s (between 100 and 250 mg/d, assuming eight ounces of fish per week).

Mercury data are taken from a study published by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Stonybrook Universit, compiled from more than 300 government databases and peer-reviewed scientific studies on mercury levels in U.S. seafood. Omega-3 data are primarily from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (version 25).

Other Healthy “Best Choices” **

These items contain moderate amounts of mercury, provide between 100 and 250 mg per day (mg/d) of omega-3s and are classified as a Seafood Watch “Best Choice.”

Albacore Tuna
(troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)

Sablefish/Black Cod
(from Alaska and Canadian Pacific)

Reprinted from the Monterrey Bay Seafood Watch Program website. Seafood Watch ® a registered service mark of the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Foundation.

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