December 14, 2018
We’ve all probably been told that fish is one of the best sources of protein because they are either lower in fat or for some, packed with heart-healthy fats. With many of us eating more fish these days, does the health benefits actually stack up against the contaminants that we so often hear about? The contaminants are real and the concerns, genuine. Just how safe is your seafood? Is wild-caught better than farmed? Are certain types of fish cleaner than others? We have broken down the lengthy discussion to 5 important take-home points for you.
- Contaminants in farmed seafood – It may not be stated explicitly on your seafood packaging if it’s farmed but do pay a closer attention to the packaging the next time you’re in the supermarket because this makes a difference. Drug residues like antibiotics are commonly detected in farmed seafood with shrimps and prawns topping the list in exceeding drug residue limits most frequently. Other problematic imported farmed seafood included crab, some types of catfish, eel and tilapia. Consuming seafood contaminated with antibiotics can cause one to have antibiotics-resistance issues when we use them to treat an infection. Better choices will be wild-caught seafood in clean waters. These are usually overtly advertised on their packaging and they can be rather easy to spot.
- Not all wild-caught seafood is safe to eat – Among them, the larger predatory fish, such as swordfish and sharks, have high levels of mercury. Mercury can impair the nervous systems of developing fetuses, infants, and young children. So, it is best to avoid them altogether especially in pregnant women.
- Choosing better fish – When doing so, select smaller types of fish which are lower on the food chain such as anchovies, mackerel and sardines. These do not stay as long in the waters and are therefore lower in contaminants. They also tend to have higher levels of omega-3 fats.
- Imported seafood – It has been advised by researchers that it is prudent to limit or avoid imported Asian shrimp and prawn and all seafood from Vietnam, even though these may be significantly cheaper. From all the seafood safety inspection data collected, Vietnam had the most drug violations, followed by China and then other countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, India and Malaysia.
- Reaping the benefits of omega-3 without the contaminants – Since contaminants may be removed by responsible fish oil manufacturers, many have turned to fish oil supplements as a safer way to continue reaping the benefits of omega-3 instead of directly consuming seafood. Consuming a high-quality fish oil is a much more practical mean to reach higher doses without the nasty contaminants. In fact, a high-quality fish oil is the ideal choice for pregnant women, children and others who require higher than usual doses. However, not all fish oils are made equal. Purifying and concentrating fish oil are additional and costly processes not carried out by all manufacturers. Furthermore, the health supplement industry is also plagued by inaccurate labeling. According to ConsumerLab.com, in its most recent testing of 24 products, 3 out of 20 products contained about 20 percent less omega-3s than the labels claimed. And 3 products had already turned rancid before their expiry dates.
When choosing a fish oil, be sure to purchase a fish oil that has been tested by an independent third-party and also pay close attention to the labels to determine how much EPA and DHA each pill serves as the content can vary widely across different brands.