Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
May 18, 2011

Grocery Store Seafood: What to Eat and What to Avoid

By Mark Sisson
184 Comments

In the comment section of last week’s post on farmed seafood, readers asked about the safety of regular, everyday seafood that you can find in any supermarket in the country – the popular, easily obtainable species that conventional supermarkets proudly display on ice, in frozen sections, and in cans and packets. Not crayfish, New Zealand green lipped mussels, and boutique tank raised Coho salmon, but tilapia, cod, and crab. They may not be ideal or as sexy as some of the species from last week, but they are common.

So – what’s common? To make this as objective and universal as possible, I’ll examine the ten most common seafoods consumed by Americans. As of 2009, they were, from most eaten to least eaten: shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, pollock, tilapia, catfish, crab, cod, clams, and pangasius. Shrimp I’ll cover in depth next week, catfish and clams were handled last week, and I covered farmed versus wild salmon a couple years ago, but what about the others? Which are worth eating? Which should be avoided?

Let’s take a look.

Tuna

The tuna is a big predatory fish, rather high up on the food chain. As such, it tends to accumulate heavy metals present in the food chain, with mercury being the most egregious of the bunch. Mercury in tuna gets a ton of bad press, not because it’s the worst offender – that honor is shared by shark, marlin, king mackerel, and a few other niche fish – but because it’s the second-most consumed fish in the nation, and small children and unborn fetuses are particularly vulnerable to it. You don’t see toddlers clamoring for king mackerel casserole, do you? It’s also affordable, comes in convenient cans, mixes well with mayo, tastes relatively mild (as opposed to canned sardines or mackerel), and is a staple for bodybuilders everywhere. It’s essentially really easy to eat a lot of canned tuna on a regular basis, so the relatively elevated levels of mercury in tuna are problematic.

There are many species of tuna with varying mercury contents. Canned white, or albacore, tuna has more mercury on average than canned light tuna, which is skipjack, tongol, or smaller yellowfin; pregnant women and small children are advised to eat no more than six ounces of the former or twelve ounces of the latter each week. To be on the safe side, I’d suggest those groups avoid the stuff altogether and maybe eat sardines, mackerel, or wild salmon for the omega-3s instead. Both canned varieties tend to have less mercury than tuna steaks or fillets, probably because larger (and thus, more mercury-rich) fish produce better steaks, while smaller fish work better in cans. Other types of fresh or frozen tuna you might run into include ahi, also known as yellowfin (longline caught yellowfin are larger and contain higher levels of mercury, while troll/pole-caught yellowfin are smaller and contain lower levels), and albacore, which is more expensive than ahi and milder.

Bottom line: Tuna is tasty, especially the steaks, and it’s a decent source of omega-3s, but the mercury content can’t be ignored. Avoid if you are pregnant, nursing, or a small child, and don’t make tuna of any kind a daily staple. Look for troll and pole-caught tuna over longline-caught tuna, as the former tend to run smaller and accumulate fewer contaminants than the latter. Also, Atlantic tuna seems to run with higher mercury content than Pacific tuna, regardless of species, with ahi/yellowfin running lower than albacore.

Salmon

Regular grocery store salmon is almost always of the farmed Atlantic variety, which happens to be the variety I already lambasted. Avoid it and stick with wild Alaskan salmon, the fisheries of which are extremely well managed and sustainable. There’s also wild Pacific salmon caught off the coasts of California, Washington, and Oregon, which I sometimes get at local farmers’ markets. I still like Alaskan sockeye salmon best, even the frozen stuff, but they’re all worth eating.

Bottom line: Eat wild salmon, which is a great source of protein, omega-3s, and selenium. Avoid farmed salmon (unless it’s that fancy tank-raised Coho salmon I mentioned last week).

Tilapia

Tilapia is fast-becoming a consumer favorite, for a few reasons. It’s cheap to raise. It isn’t carnivorous, meaning farmers can use corn and soy pellets without springing for comparatively pricey fishmeal. The fish’s vegetarianism also endears tilapia to those who worry about the state of wild fish stocks (a concern that, though I also share it, must be meted out against concerns about corn and soy subsidies). Parents and schools love it because it’s bland enough to feed to picky kids with dysfunctional industrial taste buds (just add ketchup). Plus, it’s technically fish and therefore “healthy,” meaning heart disease patients and hospitals can satisfy the AHA’s recommendations that folks eat at least two servings of fish a week by eating a few inexpensive, inoffensive tilapia fillets.

Don’t tell them that they aren’t getting much omega-3 out of it, though. According to the USDA nutrient database, tilapia contains very few omega-3 fatty acids at just 200 milligrams per 100 gram serving. In fact, that same 100 gram portion contains very few fatty acids in general – 800 mg saturated fat, 700 mg monounsaturated fat, and 200 mg omega-6 polyunsaturated fat. According to a recent study, however, tilapia has far more omega-6 than the database would suggest, with most of it coming as arachidonic acid (which admittedly isn’t as problematic as excessive dietary linoleic acid). Overall, it’s a lean fish, akin to chicken breast. I find it pretty inoffensive if uninteresting. It’s low in contaminants, inexpensive, and melds into any dish without asserting itself. Good as a cheap source of protein, but not as a source of unique marine nutrition.

Tilapia comes frozen, whole, live, or in fresh fillets. Most frozen tilapia comes from China or Taiwan, while fresh comes either from US or South/Central American farms. Live tilapia are US farmed, and pretty rare (go to Asian supermarkets for these). Asian tilapia is inexpensive, but the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch recommends against eating it very often due to poor farming conditions. Stick to US farmed tilapia if possible. South/Central American also gets good marks. Tilapia farming is fairly intensive, and caged tilapia raised in freshwater ponds can pollute surrounding waters, but standards seem to be changing for the better.

Bottom line: American and S/C. American tilapia is a safe source of protein, but it’s not a good source of omega-3s. If environmental impact matters, buy American. Avoid Asian imports (at least until the aforementioned farming standards are adopted worldwide).

Crab

Who doesn’t enjoy crab? Some might balk at the prospect of dismantling an exoskeleton for a modicum of interior meat, but it’s difficult to deny that the meat itself tastes great. But is regular, everyday grocery store crab safe to eat, let alone healthy? Yes. Dungeness, Alaskan king, snow, kona (also known as spanner or frog crab), and stone crab are all excellent choices. All are wild-caught – as a commenter pointed out last week, there are no commercial farmed crabs – and all are low in contaminants. They’re even harvesting crabs from the Thames in London and finding that they’re relatively low in toxins and metals.

Crab meat is lean, except when dipped in clarified butter, and it’s a good source of selenium, B-vitamins, and zinc. The shell isn’t edible, but it does make a fine stock, so be sure to save your shells.

The crab’s main internal organ, the hepatopancreas, is a delicacy also known as “crab mustard” or “crab butter.” It’s tasty, smooth, and high in fat, but it’s also where industrial contaminants tend to accumulate. In fact, one study (PDF) of blue crabs caught in the Newark Bay region of New Jersey found that the hepatopancreases contained astronomical levels of dioxins – over ten times as much as the muscle meat, enough that, in the authors’ opinion, regular consumption would drastically increase cancer incidence. This is an extreme example, not indicative of most crabs sold for food. Newark Bay blue crabs aren’t available in stores near you (or anywhere; they’re actually banned), and as a whole, blue crabs are relatively free of contaminants. Just be aware that the potential exists for toxin accumulation, especially in the hepatopancreas. I know you guys love slurping up the weird bits of the animals you eat, and the hepatopancreas is undoubtedly chock full of fat and micronutrients, so check your sources before guzzling crustacean digestive glands and viscera. If the waters are clean, you’re in the clear.

Bottom line: Go for it. Grocery store crabs are wild-caught, low in contaminants, and perfectly good to eat.

Cod, Pollock, and Haddock

Purists may disown me, but I’m grouping cod, pollock, and haddock together because they are extremely similar to the lay fish-eater: lean, white, firm, wild-caught fish that people confuse. Cod, pollock, and haddock are even leaner than tilapia and almost as mild, with firm flesh. They’re also wild caught as a rule, which makes for a very clean and contaminant-free fish. I’ve noticed that it’s getting more and more expensive, probably due to lowered worldwide fish stocks. Multiple seafood advisory groups have actually listed cod as endangered and a “poor choice” for regular eating, but not because it’s dangerous or unhealthy.

These fish are perfectly healthy, but they’re also fairly devoid of impressive nutrition, except for decent amounts of selenium and B-vitamins. Like tilapia, consider them sources of lean protein. If environmental concerns speak to you, go easy on it or stick to “bottom longline, jig, or trap” caught Pacific cod, as the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch recommends. You won’t be missing anything vital. All haddock seems acceptable, but Icelandic pollock trapped using Danish seines or trawls is apparently unsustainable.

If you can find them, canned cod livers are delicious, an excellent source (PDF) of vitamin A, vitamin D, and omega-3 fats, and far more interesting than regular cod fillets. Just be sure to buy livers canned in their own cod liver oil.

Bottom line: Healthy and low in contaminants, but sustainability may be an issue. Stick to Pacific cod, specifically bottom longline, jig, or trap caught Pacific cod, to minimize impact on wild fish stocks. Avoid Icelandic pollock caught using Danish seines or trawls. All haddock is good to go. None are strong sources of omega-3s.

Pangasius

Pangasius, which sells for cut-rate prices and hails from Vietnam, is an intensively farmed river catfish. Retailers often call it basa, or simply “catfish.” It runs lean and mild, contains very few omega-3s, absorbs all flavors, and works well as a canvas for batter and dipping sauce, making pangasius another one of those “fish for people who hate fish.” Whether it’s unsafe or not depends on who you ask – and it’s difficult to figure out who’s telling the truth. Domestic catfish farmers will say imported basa is raised in filthy Mekong river waters and pumped full of cheap feed and antibiotics, and that it isn’t even a true catfish; they also put out a television ad saying as much. The other side says the opposite. For what it’s worth, the Seafood Watch approves (though it prefers American catfish).

Bottom line: Pangasius is another bland, boring fish that may or may not be raised in horrid, unhealthy, polluted conditions. It’s probably safe, but is cheap protein worth the trouble? It might be.

Other Tips

  • Let your nose be the guide when shopping for fresh (or previously frozen, which often masquerades as “fresh fish”) fish at the supermarket. Don’t be shy; position your snout inches from the product and breathe deeply. You’ll know it when it’s bad, because the smell of bad fish is unmistakably and unavoidably putrid. Saltwater fish and shellfish may smell faintly of the sea, which is okay, but freshwater fish should be close to odorless.
  • Visit dedicated fish markets for fresh fish. There, the turnover rate is high and fish is usually fresh and of high quality. At most grocery stores, fish languishes on ice and doesn’t sell as quickly. Hardier meats like beef, pork, or whole chickens can handle a few days without the quality changing, but seafood quality goes downhill fast. If you have an Asian supermarket nearby, they’re also a good source of fresh seafood, since they serve a customer base that eats far more seafood than most Americans.
  • If you’re going to buy the “local catch of the day,” check the local fish consumption advisories for heavy metals and other contaminants using this tool.
  • Ask the fishmonger how the seafood was raised or, if wild, where it was caught and what method was used to catch it. Be wary of imported seafood from Asia.

I know I’ve missed a few examples of store-bought seafood in my attempt to be as universal as possible. Heck, I’ll probably hear it from non-US readers who feel left out, but I can take it. Lay it on me. Let me know what local offering I’ve missed (remember, I’ll bee covering shrimp next week) and I’ll try to get to them. Thanks for reading!

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

184 Comments on "Grocery Store Seafood: What to Eat and What to Avoid"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Crunchy Pickle
5 years 4 months ago

Thanks for the tips! Do we conclude that canned wild pink salmon is a viable option then? It is fairly cheap and easy to have on hand…

Dana
Dana
5 years 4 months ago

I think about the worst thing you can expect from canned wild salmon is if the can is lined with BPA. If you can’t find any evidence that the canner *does not* use BPA lining, I’d keep consumption of canned fish to a minimum. But one thing about canned salmon (for those reading who might not know) is that it’s usually canned with some of the bones. Great source of calcium if you can stand the thought of eating bones. I haven’t managed it yet.

Nancy
Nancy
5 years 4 months ago

The skin and bones in my alaskan canned salmon are my favorite part! The skin has lots of flavor and the bones are soft and crunchy at the same time. Yum. I do get it in BPA free cans.

Shema
Shema
5 years 4 months ago

Where do you get BPA free cans from? What brands? I’d eat more wild salmon in cans if I could find it in BPA free cans…

Dave, RN
Dave, RN
5 years 4 months ago

Almost all canned salmon is wild caught. It will say so somewhere on the lable.

Nancy
Nancy
5 years 4 months ago

Vital Choice has BPA-free cans. I guess they had a problem with some non-BPA-free lids but are working to resolve that.

Lila
5 years 4 months ago

I am not keen on the texture of bones in my canned salmon either, so I just crush them up with the back of my fork and just mix everything together.
If I recall correctly, if the cans are lined with vinyl, then BPA may be present. The salmon I buy does not have a white vinyl liner, so BPA is probably not there.

MaryLouise
MaryLouise
5 years 4 months ago

I admire you folks who can enjoy crunchy fish… I’ve never been able to eat the bones in canned salmon even though I know they’re good for me. I think it triggers too many bad childhood memories of poorly filleted panfish :/

Keet
Keet
5 years 4 months ago

Dana, If you make Salmon Patties out of it, you’ll never even know the bones are there. Mash up the salmon really well (the bones are soft & easily crushed) with egg & some flax meal or other acceptable “binder” (almond flour would probably work). Add some dill, garlic, onions, whatever you like & mash it all up together & then form into patties & fry in butter or bacon grease til golden. I promise you can’t even tell the bones are in there. 🙂

Maryanne
Maryanne
5 years 4 months ago

The bones in canned salmon are soft and yummy – give them a try!

Vanessa
Vanessa
5 years 4 months ago

I’m afraid BPA-free doesn’t mean ‘safe’ – all plastic leaches stuff that disrupts your endocrine system as much or more than BPA, and I haven’t found any cans that aren’t plastic lined.

See this for more:http://myplasticfreelife.com/2011/04/bpa-free-does-not-mean-safe-most-plastics-leach-hormone-disrupting-chemicals/

Toby
Toby
5 years 4 months ago

I love it but it’s packed with sodium.

jj
jj
5 years 4 months ago

Vital Choice has a “no salt added” very low sodium canned salmon option (40mg per serving). If you buy enough to get their free shipping, the cost is essentially the same as grocery store canned salmon.

The Primalist
5 years 4 months ago

I’m curious about canned wild salmon too..

That and smoked salmon (yum!).

bbuddha
bbuddha
5 years 4 months ago

I’ve had canned salmon, very good sprinkled over a salad. Not a fan of smoked salmon though

Larry
Larry
2 years 11 months ago

The best tasty salmon canned is “Wild Sockeye Salmon – canned by Oceans”

Anne
Anne
5 years 4 months ago

I have 1/2 -1lb of wild-caught salmon per week WITH the skin. The skin is ok and I’m not overdoing it right?

bbuddha
bbuddha
5 years 4 months ago

when I have grilled salmon I always eat the skin, I hope it’s healthy cause it tastes so good YUM

Peggy The Primal Parent
5 years 4 months ago

Yes yes yes! I can eat crab!!!

Hey, what do you think of canned wild salmon? I’ve always wondered about that…

jj
jj
5 years 4 months ago

Don’t forget canned salmon. Traditional packed alaskan canned salmon is super tasty, as convenient as canned tuna, and an excellent source of calcium if you mash the bones in. I like to mix it with an egg and some grated veggies and fry into salmon cakes. Even my toddler wolfs them down.

What about flatfish like sole & flounder? I notice they’re always very cheap and I’ve been wondering if there’s a health reason why they’re not a great choice.

Ella
5 years 4 months ago

I used to eat lots of canned wild Alaskan salmon, but got concerned about the BPA’s so I stopped.

The question is, do the high levels of Omega 3’s cancel out the BPA’s from a health perspective?

You really can’t win these days!

bharath
bharath
5 years 4 months ago

hey anyone from india here?? esp from chennai… would be wonderful to get to know your exp with primal lifestyle…

Caitlin
Caitlin
5 years 4 months ago

Am I getting the same amount of nutrients from frozen salmon? I usually have individually quick-frozen wild pacific salmon because it can be kept for much longer. The only thing I worry is about a loss of nutrients.

Dana
Dana
5 years 4 months ago

I hope this doesn’t go into moderation because of the link, but this web page is very helpful in making decisions about nutrient intake vs. food preparation.

http://nutritiondata.self.com/topics/processing

I don’t think much of the Self magazine nutrition site in general, but that chart is quite useful.

Daniel
Daniel
3 years 1 month ago

that website is nonsense though so I don’t know if you can really trust that chart. They also grade foods by how full it makes you feel, and they claim lowfat milk is more filling than vitamin d milk..neat little chart but who knows if it’s at all accurate.

Tim
Tim
5 years 4 months ago

Freezing will not cause any significant loss of nutrients. Indeed, since frozen fish is often frozen on the boat soon after it was caught, it will have had much less time to spoil than the unfrozen fish.

Jenny
Jenny
5 years 4 months ago

Still wondering about shrimp, farmed in Asia vs. wild or what…

Jenny
Jenny
5 years 4 months ago

Duhr, just saw the promise to cover shrimp in-depth next. Sorry! I should’ve looked past the headers…

Annika
Annika
5 years 4 months ago

Thanks Mark, an interesting read!
Personally, I don’t eat tuna or cod because of the sustainability issue and huge overfishing – I reckon if we’re going to be living primally, we should make sure the generations after us can too, and because these fish are so popular, the best way I can do that is by abstaining altogether. Food for thought 🙂

Alison Golden
5 years 4 months ago

I made tuna sandwiches for my kids’ lunch today. They absolutely love them. I cringe. No more than once a month in this house.

mm
mm
5 years 4 months ago

I’d be more worried about selenium than mercury in tuna… tunafish have more selenium than mercury. Selenium (with the help of zinc) is used to disable mercury. But too much selenium (400ug/day) = selenium poisoning. Too bad nutritional analysis of selenium content in tuna can’t be used as a reliable source of bio-available selenium for the same reason that mercury content in tuna can’t be used as a reliable source of bio-available mercury.

Dana
Dana
5 years 4 months ago

“To be on the safe side, I’d suggest those groups avoid the stuff altogether and maybe eat sardines, mackerel, or wild salmon for the omega-3s instead.”

Also eat salmon for the vitamin D. It is one of THE best sources of dietary vitamin D, hands down. Every chart I’ve run across places it high on the list. It’s no accident that northern-latitude traditional cultures eat a lot of it–Inuit and northern Pacific coast Indians around the Pacific, Scots on the Atlantic, etc.

jamie
jamie
5 years 4 months ago

what about snapper?

Dana
Dana
5 years 4 months ago
The cod issue worries me, not because of the muscle flesh but because of the livers–cod liver oil, when not sanitized to death, is a fantastic source of vitamins A and D. Dr. Weston Price used it in his nutritional therapy for poor kids in his hometown. It works best when accompanied with high-vitamin butter oil. Most people don’t take cod liver oil anymore, though, so this might not be a concern for a while, if ever again–and educating people about the few other sources of vitamin D in the human diet, and getting them to eat land-animal liver, will… Read more »
IcarianVX
IcarianVX
5 years 4 months ago

This is all great info. Now, if I just ate fish, it would be all that much better. 🙂

Mary Anne
Mary Anne
5 years 4 months ago
I’ve noticed that most people who don’t eat fish have an aversion to the ‘fishy taste.’ If fish tastes ‘fishy,’ it is rotten and no one should eat it. Even oily (good fat) salmon has a wonderful, what I call, ocean breeze smell and taste when it is fresh. My dearest girl friend would NOT eat any fish I prepared; then she gained a partner with a boat and they went up the inside passage to Alaska where he bought fish right off the boats. Suffice it to say, she eats fish now. Yes, she’s still my dearest girlfriend, even… Read more »
Nion
Nion
5 years 4 months ago

I’d also suggest looking at the eyes of ‘fresh’ fish. If the eyes are clouded white and flat, it’s not fresh and it’s likely been frozen. Look for bright, clear raised ones.
When you touch the flesh, it should spring back under pressure. IT should NOT leave a mark.
And the gills should be bright and pink/red, if it’s grey, it’s rotting.

Suvetar
Suvetar
5 years 4 months ago

I think by law all commercially sold fish has to be deep frozen for a certain time to kill parasites.
So whatever says fresh, or wild caught, still was previously frozen.

That’s what my butcher told me anyways.

MaryLouise
MaryLouise
5 years 4 months ago

I think that’s true for salt-water fish (particularly if it’s going to be eaten as sashimi/sushi), but not so for shellfish or freshwater fish. They don’t have the same parasite exposure or burden.

I buy shrimp in particular that are sold specifically as never previously frozen.

Nion
Nion
5 years 4 months ago

Are you in the US? Here in Canada (Vancouver) i can get fresh fish caught the same day at Safeway.

James Wilson
James Wilson
5 years 4 months ago
Yes it’s true in Canada if you live near one of the coasts you can get fresh marine fish. I lived for a while in St. John’s Newfoundland (pronounced Newf-in-LAND). Some of my favourite meals were to go to small seafood restaurants down near the quay. The fish were fresh, some nights we would order pan fried (sautéd-French for fried btw) cod fillets. The chef would walk down to his waiting boat and pick out a live codfish and carry it back to the kitchen. I have never tasted fish before or since that was that fresh, never frozen alive… Read more »
mm
mm
5 years 4 months ago

Newfie!

MaryLouise
MaryLouise
5 years 4 months ago

Great info!! It’s good also to keep in mind that seafood has seasons too, just like fruit & veg (even dairy). Eating what’s in season can help with sustainability.

I can remember to limit tuna, but beyond that I think I’ll stick to buying from the local fish market (Empire Fish) and the natural foods co-op. They do a lot of the legwork already, and only buy sustainably caught/raised goods.

The Primalist
5 years 4 months ago

I just bought a couple of tins of cod liver (in it’s own oil) from a specialty food store – I’ve never come across it before, so I’m excited to try it. Although I do supplement with fermented cod liver oil, and if it tastes anything like that, perhaps I should tone down my enthusiasm :p

mm
mm
5 years 4 months ago

A company called TouSain sells cod liver in its own oil in blue tin cans in regular grocery stores where I live in Montreal (ingrediets: cod liver, cod liver oil)

Barrie
Barrie
5 years 3 months ago

TouSain sounds like a coined name derived from ‘tout sante’, which may or may not be grammatically correct French, but would roughly translate as ‘full health.’ I’d be willing to bet it’s a Quebec-based company that is trying to provide healthy food to its constituents (unless it’s just a bandwagon jumper!).

Liz V
Liz V
5 years 4 months ago
A great source for canned tuna, wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, and shrimp is Wild Planet Foods. The tuna is low mercury (62% less than average brands) and is the best tuna I’ve ever had. They lightly cook what is basically sashimi-grade in the can (BPA free)and it is so juicy and moist we often just eat it straight out of the can. And all of their seafood is sustainably caught. If you can’t find the brand in stores, they offer free shipping in the continental U.S. No, I don’t work for them 🙂 But really, it’s the best tuna, salmon,… Read more »
Lester San Jose
Lester San Jose
5 years 4 months ago

I remember reading about Sardines in the Blueprint. Are these still a go? Thanks!

Uncephalized
Uncephalized
5 years 4 months ago
I am always suspicious that the crappy fatty acid profile of tilapia (and the bland, boring taste) is more to do with its typical grain-based diet than an inherent characteristic of the fish. I am very curious to find out what they taste like when raised on naturally-grown (from compost) duckweed, algae and the occasional insect or worm. I bet they taste better and have better fatty acids too. I will find out as soon as I get my home aquaponics setup ready to go. I’m also considering barramundi (although I don’t know if those are easy to get in… Read more »
Steph
Steph
5 years 4 months ago

I was suspicious of tilapia when I found out that they’re grown in tanks with bass so that they can eat the bass crap.

I know, I know — lots of things are bottomfeeders, and I eat them cheerfully, but the lack of flavor in tilapia never worked for me, and the crap-eating just confirmed that feeling. And if I’m going to go to the trouble of preparing and cooking fish, it had better have an Omega-3 kick.

So in short: lack of tilapia consumption — still justified! 🙂

jj
jj
5 years 4 months ago

I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds tilapia flavorless & bland.

I don’t find it much trouble to cook, just dip fillets in some egg, dip in ground dried coconut as a breading and then pan fry. It’s how my dad used to do trout when we went fishing as a kid… just substituting his cornmeal with coconut.

Joe Brancaleone
Joe Brancaleone
5 years 4 months ago

Wild Planet claims their canned tuna is much lower mercury content ( <50% ) than conventional tuna steaks; because they use only smaller fish. Is there independent confirmation of this marketing, or should my wife who breastfeeds our baby avoid even that brand?

Greg
Greg
5 years 4 months ago

Not worth the risk, tell her to stop eating the tuna. My best friends two sons are autistic and they think the cause was his wife eating too much tuna during pregnancy/breast feeding.

mm
mm
5 years 4 months ago

wow, your best friends don’t know anything about the full range of physiological and neurological effects of mercury poisoning if they think a severe mercury load caused autism but conveniently did leave any other non-autistic damage anywhere else on their bodies (i.e. straw coloured tongue, detectable mercury-laden and defective bones, liver & kidney damage or failure, etc.), nor has it occured to any one of you that healthy tuna fish have their own ways of neutralizing mercury from their bodies.

Sabrina
Sabrina
5 years 4 months ago

In my humble opinion, no pregnant or breastfeeding woman should have any amount of tuna given the reality of today’s polluted seas. Take it or leave it, this is the advice that I have given to all my siblings and friends. I have a child with Autism as well and while mercury certainly isn’t the only factor, it can be a significant one.

mm
mm
5 years 4 months ago

Only if you
a) have a poor understanding of the science involded,
b) are intellectualy lazy and can’t be bothered to look at all the research objectively, and
c) think all autistics are brain-damaged retards.

Tim
Tim
5 years 4 months ago

The best understanding we have at the moment is that autism is caused by a combination of a genetic predisposition that interacts with prenatal stresses to disrupt brain development.

We don’t know exactly which stresses are most important, but infections, maternal allergies and medication use are possible candidates.

A good and recent analysis of this that is free to read is:

“Prenatal risk factors for autism: comprehensive meta-analysis.” Br J Psychiatry. 2009 Jul;195(1):7-14.

ShannonCC
ShannonCC
5 years 4 months ago

I’ve found that the skinless and boneless sardines packed in water taste a lot like tuna. Not as good for you as the ones with skin and bones, but it’s like tuna without the big mercury worry.

heather
heather
5 years 4 months ago

I agree. I was scared of sardines for the longest time and when I finally tried them, I had no idea what the fuss was about. If you like tuna, you’ll like sardines. I have substituted boneless skinless sardines in every tuna recipe we have and nobody has noticed the difference.

Chris
Chris
5 years 4 months ago
I often buy packs of wild, “cold smoked” salmon instead of uncooked fish. It’s very easy to add to salads, tastes great, and is cheap or comparably priced relative to raw wild salmon. Any thoughts on the health effects if any of cold smoking? I am careful to choose products with no additional additives like brown sugar, which seems to come up a lot in this type of item. The convenience and price factor get me eating a lot more salmon and I love it, just want to make sure I’m not adding any unnecessary carcinogens into the mix… Thanks.
Chris
Chris
5 years 4 months ago

This may have been covered already, maybe I missed it..But I heard that GMO tuna is now legal to sell to consumers, but it’s only the females. Can anyone point me in the right direction with this? Thanks.
-Chris

Tim
Tim
5 years 4 months ago

There is no such thing as GMO tuna. There is a modified salmon that grows faster than usual, but it hasn’t been approved by the FDA yet.

Judy
Judy
5 years 4 months ago

I’m wondering about oysters? How do they rate on the health chart? Love them, but don’t eat them often.

Mike
Mike
5 years 4 months ago

WHAT ABOUT OYSTERS?

Primal Toad
5 years 4 months ago

Mark covered shellfish last week. Any and all farm raised oysters are ok!

Aram Hovsepian
5 years 4 months ago

Oyster are excellent source of minerals. Great product to consume

primivore
5 years 4 months ago

i’ll second that! i’ve seen great results in overall exercise performance and fat loss/muscle gain since focusing on increasing my zinc intake via a few cans of wild oysters (in water) per week along with higher selenium intake via brazil nuts daily to support testosterone production. it’s funny how the most mundane solution can work almost like magic. good call man.

mm
mm
5 years 4 months ago

Be careful you don’t poison yourself with selenium; the toxicity threshold for chronic use is very low; daily expose to only 400 micrograms is enough to eventually induce such unpleasant symptoms as all your hair falling out…

Selenium is good for neutralizing mercury (unless you’re going throught chelation therapy), and the stated selenium content of fish can’t be relied upon if chemical analysis does not take into account that a portion of the selenium is made bio-unavailable from bonding with and neutralizing the mercury in fish

Andrea Reina
Andrea Reina
5 years 4 months ago

Hi Mark,

Great breakdown. What about the articles that say mercury isn’t an issue for fish as selenium (high in fish) is protective?

http://www.wfoa-tuna.org/health/ralstonraymond.pdf
http://www.mercuryfacts.org/fselenium.cfm

Kit Perkins
5 years 4 months ago
Steven
5 years 4 months ago

Chris Kresser from the Healthy Skeptic talked about this too. He said the selenium in fish binds to mercury, thereby making the mercury unable to bind to our body and cause damage. It means you might absorb a bit less selenium, but all is well.

Provided the fish has more selenium than mercury it shouldn’t be much of a problem. In addition amino acids can get rid of heavy metals.

mm
mm
5 years 4 months ago

Only thing that annoys me is the scientific articles I’ve read are quite confusing on the matter – it seems even when selenium neutralizes mercury in the body the mercury isn’t automatically expelled it can stay in our bodies for a while…. yet, the literature seems to suggest strongly that this bio-unavailable mercury, even in places like the brain, appears to cause no damage.
Either way, good news is the brain, despite its obvious vulnerability, is much better at neutralizing/metabolising mercury quickly than other organs such as bones… to the point where a major concern for mercury exposure is bone cancer

IdealPeace
IdealPeace
5 years 4 months ago

I had some fresh Icelandic wild haddock the other day, can defintely see why they arent a good source of Omega 3’s, there was very little fat in the fish to begin with.

Randy
Randy
5 years 4 months ago
Great post. I am a big fan of wild-caught Alaskan fish, especially salmon. Don’t shy away from frozen fish. Especially for AK salmon and halibut, it is usally flash frozen soon after harvest and is much “fresher” than a week-old unforzen fish. I also shy away from rockfish, also sometimes known as red snapper (in the case of yellow-eyed rockfish). last year a yellow0eye rockfish caugh in Alaska weighted in at 14 pounds (medium). It was 147 years old, which means it was a tiny fish when Alaska was purshased from Russia way back when. These are slow-growing fish that… Read more »
mm
mm
5 years 4 months ago

Too bad Canada uses farmed fish, I’d love to buy canned BC salmon instead of giving my money away to my neighbours down south… or should I say, up north-west?

Mary
Mary
5 years 4 months ago

Is anyone else worried about the radiation from Japan infiltrating the fish supply? I haven’t seen any testing of the fish or findings so I’ve just stopped eating ocean fish.

Suvetar
Suvetar
5 years 4 months ago

Same here. I only eat fish from my bro-in-law who fishes at high elevation lakes and streams in Idaho.
Golden Trout is da bomb 🙂

Tim
Tim
5 years 4 months ago

This isn’t something to worry about. The amount of radiation released has been tiny in comparison to the natural levels of radiation in the Pacific.

A small drop in a very large ocean!

patti
patti
5 years 4 months ago

We’re also concerned about the radiation affecting the tuna & Pacific caught salmon we eat… glad you brought it up – although, I wish we didn’t have to discuss such things.

mm
mm
5 years 4 months ago

Radiation as a form of oxidative stress/inducer of free radical chemical reactions is something that sounds so very scary. Who wouldn’t be afraid of opening a can of glowing fish? But in terms of molecular damage to the body, radiation plays a miniscule role for most people compared to the more mundane free radical health destroyers of glucose, fructose, overcooked protein and too many polyunsaturated fatty acids…

Robert
Robert
5 years 4 months ago

What say you about swordfish and lobster?

Suvetar
Suvetar
5 years 4 months ago

I love fish, but for whatever reason Salmon makes me gag.
It has to swim in butter for me to choke it down.

Primal Toad
5 years 4 months ago

I love salmon but thats still a fantastic idea. Cooking itina fair amount of butter and then dipping it in butter.

Primal Toad
5 years 4 months ago
I LOVE the fact that all crab is wild caught. I am also a little pissed. I went to Chicago for the New Year and my lovely brother had snow carb that he purchased from Jewel Osco. I was an idiot and did not eat it. I was going to and then decided against it because I thought it was farmed raised. Well, I learned a ver valuable lesson. I can’t wait to leave tomorrow morning for Chicago to buy some crabmeat. I am interested to find out more about lobster too. And, Mark, What about amphibians and reptiles? Are… Read more »
Mary
Mary
5 years 4 months ago

What about fresh Halibut from Alaska?

steve cornell
steve cornell
5 years 4 months ago

I love Halibut! And I am fortunate to be able to buy fresh Halibut when its available.

driverspice
driverspice
5 years 4 months ago

I buy flounder fillets. They are wild caught and mild tasting.

Brandon Berg
Brandon Berg
5 years 4 months ago

About the crab’s hepatopancreas–that’s kind of a combination liver/pancreas, right?

On Monday you told us that toxins don’t accumulate in the liver, but here you say they do, at least in crabs. Is that because their livers are different from ours, or is it just that some crabs are under such a heavy toxic load that the toxins accumulate because they’re coming in faster than the hepatopancreas can break them down?

Tim
Tim
5 years 4 months ago

It has some of the functions of the liver, pancreas and gut, but it is very different from any mammalian organ. It seems to accumulate metals as a way of detoxifying them.

steve cornell
steve cornell
5 years 4 months ago

Any thoughts on freshwater trout?

Josh
Josh
5 years 4 months ago

Is the mercury in tuna really that bad? It seems there is more than enough selenium to counteract it. Not sure how rigorous this analysis is (or if this group has some hidden agenda) since I’m no expert in this field, but it looks pretty convincing:
http://www.mercuryfacts.org/fselenium.cfm

That same site links to a study a few years ago in Lancet indicating that pregnant women eating more fish during pregnancy was beneficial to the child:

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673607602773/fulltext

Thoughts?

Aram Hovsepian
5 years 4 months ago

Low price on tulapia is achieved by converting the young females to males through the use of the hormone drug 17alpha-methytestosterone.
I highly doubt that it is good product to consume.

Spartacus
Spartacus
5 years 4 months ago

This reminds me of this TED talk I saw:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EUAMe2ixCI

J.
J.
5 years 4 months ago

I am one of those fish haters…and you pretty much listed all the fish that I can actually eat as Omega three worthless, except for tuna.

I do love me some crab, though. Not so much shrimp. Scallops are okay because they are somewhat like crab (at least to my taste).

Nutritionizt
5 years 4 months ago

Always, always, always be aware of mercury contamination. While the benefits of some fish may outweigh the potential harm in mercury consumption, there are steps that can be taken to remove unwanted mercury.

For example, chlorella, another organism from the sea (isn’t it neat how nature gives us the antidote to the poison in the same context?) can be taken to expel mercury. One study demonstrates this effect: http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jts/35/1/101/_pdf/-char/ja/

Always know the source.

Nigel
Nigel
5 years 4 months ago

What about the radiation from Fukushima? The FDA is not testing anything.

Tim
Tim
5 years 4 months ago

The radiation released is miniscule compared to the amount of natural radiation in the Pacific. This is not something we have to worry about.

Fish caught in Japanese waters and imported to the US are being tested, but nothing above ordinary has been detected so far.

Nutritionizt
5 years 4 months ago

I wouldn’t be quick to dismiss the radiation threat. According to this article, “A water sample taken just outside the water intake for the No. 2 unit showed the level of radioactive iodine-131 at 7.5 million times the allowable limit, the most dangerous level of radiation so far detected.” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703712504576244251331137870.html)

Also, it’s interesting to note that the FDA only inspects about 2% of all seafood. Any information released from them should be evaluated more scrupulously.

Tim
Tim
5 years 4 months ago

Take a swimming pool of water at, at say 20 million times the allowable limit with 100 million rem (limit is 5 rem per year).

Dilute this 2,500 cubic meters of dangerous water into the pacific, which has a volume of 622 million cubic kilometers.

Dilution = 0.0000025/622

Final radioactivity you would be exposed to if you drank the entire volume of the pacific = 0.4 rem per year

Radiation you would be exposed to if you drank 1 liter of the pacific = 0.4/1,000,000,000,000

Dose = 0.00000000000004 rem

The dose you get from your own body’s natural radiation is 0.04 rem per year.

Tim
Tim
5 years 4 months ago
Take a swimming pool of water at, at say 20 million times the allowable limit with 100 million rem (limit is 5 rem per year). Dilute this 2,500 cubic meters of dangerous water into the pacific, which has a volume of 622 million cubic kilometers. Dilution = 0.0000025/622 Final radioactivity you would be exposed to if you somehow managed to drink a cubic kilometer of the pacific = 0.4 rem per year Radiation you would be exposed to if you drank 1 liter of the pacific = 0.4/1,000,000,000,000 Dose = 0.00000000000004 rem The dose you get from your own body’s… Read more »
Tim
Tim
5 years 4 months ago
Add to this the fact that most of the radioactivity released has been iodine 131, which has a half-life of only 8 days. So for example, one month after a release of 1,000 curies of radioactive iodine, only about 63 curies will remain. About 1% of the radiation is cesium 137, which has a much longer half life (30 years) and so will persist in the environment. This means that if you are concerned about long-term effects, you have to divide all the numbers above by a further factor of 100. However, since the numbers are already so small, this… Read more »
Stephanie
5 years 4 months ago

What about shrimp? We have bought locally caught fresh shrimp at a popular fish market here in FL. Nothing frozen or at the grocery store.

ruben
5 years 4 months ago
I think fish is a very controversial issue, at least with me, i have a very peculiar perspective about eating fish, mainly tuna, salmon, tilapia and the sort. I say this based on the omega-3 oils, which are non saturated fats and find them to be more damaging in the long term than any other food item. Tuna specifically has a high content of heavy metals, that can potentially be catastrophic to people sensitive to heavy metal toxicity, salmon (unless is wild caught) is down right nasty, i wouldn’t consume any farm animal under any circumstance. Tilapia is mostly farmed… Read more »
cj
cj
5 years 4 months ago

Even Alaskans eat canned salmon. It is jarred/canned just as one would preserve anything else from the summer harvest. It is caught and immediately processed. I think it is healthier in some ways because it is the only way outside to get the bones. Here, they would be used in stock, etc. and the eggs eaten. Try and get the beautiful red sockeye. It is worth the $5 tag versus the $2. All the red oil contained. The cans are safe…white inside.

cj
cj
5 years 4 months ago

I’ve also noticed the ‘scam’ going in many grocers in the lower 48. Frozen fish labeled ‘wild caught’ and ‘alaskan wild salmon’.

If you look for the tiny smudged stamp in black….you will see ‘product of China.’ It is barely visible.

Wyatt
Wyatt
5 years 4 months ago

Mark, You’d think after five years you would run out of stuff to talk about… But the articles like this are ridiculously informative. Thanks.

Molly Bachert
Molly Bachert
5 years 4 months ago

Nice photo in the serenity pool at Four Seasons Wailea! One of our favorite places to weekend!

Dennis
Dennis
5 years 4 months ago
Very good post indeed! I am a fishmonger by trade, so this topic is right up my alley! I am confused about your tuna section though. Albacore(tombo) is a much much smaller fish then yellowfin(ahi) and is usually harvested younger, hence being lower in mercury then its larger cousin yellowfin. Also, everywhere I’ve ever looked albacore is usually considerably less in cost then yellowfin. At my market currently, albacore $13lb….yellowfin $20lb. Also an interesting note, tuna is the only large pelagic fish that does NOT get infected with parasites. Nice to know. Previous commenters comment about all fish being sold… Read more »
Adrian
Adrian
5 years 4 months ago

Mark I believe the people of the WAPF foundation made a mention in one of there articles. That mercury has always been around via Volcano explosions. They also said a body with good levels of Vit A and Cholesterol can handle mild levels of mercury ill find it.

wpDiscuz