As we know, various types of fish are often highest in omega 3 fatty acids. Perhaps you are wondering: what makes seafood so high in these? Well, as the adage goes, “you are what you eat.” This is true for fish, too.
Cold-water fish eat algae (which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids), and so they end up with high amounts of omega 3s in their tissue. Likewise, salmon eat pink crustaceans called krill, also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, and so they end up with omega 3s in their tissue too. When we consume these omega-rich fish, then, these omegas transfer to us.
To make it even better, algae and krill are rich in a specific kind of omega 3s—EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Of the 11 different types of omega 3 fatty acids out there, these are by far the two most important ones. EPA and DHA are the building blocks of cell membranes and are responsible for the majority of the benefits I mentioned earlier in this chapter. So, this provides a direct benefit for us when we consume the fish that have eaten these omegas.
Now, before you rush out seafood shopping, there is something you should know: not all cold-water fish eat algae and not all salmon eat krill. Farm-raised fish typically do not eat either of these or at least very little of it. More often than not, they eat genetically modified grains and legumes.
So, instead of omega 3s, these farm-raised fish are eating high amounts of herbicides. And quite frankly, so are you when you consume them. (Additionally, farm-raised salmon that do not eat pink krill, do not have the same pink color that wild salmon do, so they are often injected with a synthetic pigment too. Yummy.)
Because of this, farm-raised seafood does not have the same nutrient value as wild-caught seafood. In fact, it has been found that farm-raised salmon has up to 50% less omega 3s than wild-caught salmon. Before you say, “well, it’s better than nothing,” let me explain the other problems with farm-raised seafood.
Farmed fish are raised in pens, in large quantities. They are packed together with very little space, unlike wild-caught fish that grow unimpeded in their natural habitat. This “pen environment” creates an easy breeding ground for bacteria and diseases like Sea Lice. To prevent this, the farm fish are often given antibiotics, chemicals, and more pesticides—which, yes, are often transferred to us when we eat them.
Remember: you are what you eat. Various chemicals found in farmed seafood can interfere with immune response, cause inflammation, disrupt hormones, and contribute to metabolic disorders.
So, how do you choose healthy seafood? First and foremost, DO NOT buy farm-raised anything. That’s my personal and professional opinion. Look for “wild-caught” on the label. But you should also know that the term “wild” has been misused and so you will also want to look for a logo from the Marine Stewardship Council verifying that it actually is wild-caught like the label claims.
If you are trying to buy salmon and it does not say farm or wild, and it does not have a logo, choose Alaskan salmon. Alaska takes the quality of their seafood very seriously, and their salmon is not allowed to be farmed (not even canned Alaskan salmon is allowed to be farmed).
Sockeye salmon cannot be farmed either, so these are two keywords to look for when shopping (though sockeye is unmistakable regardless of the label because it has a very bright pinkish-red color which is very different from other types of peach-colored salmon.)
This is also something to keep in mind when eating out at restaurants since it has been estimated that 90-95% of salmon at restaurants is farmed, even when labeled “wild.” Look for Alaskan or Sockeye on the menu or ask your server for more information.
If you are still unsure, you can go to www.seafoodwatch.org and research a brand or an establishment to determine if it is a quality form of seafood. They even have an app you can download on your phone.