Choosing to eat well doesn’t mean a life sentence of raw vegetables for every meal. One of the hardest parts of sticking to a particular eating program, though, is not getting bored with eating the same food all the time. So why not include fish and seafood, with their wide variety of delicious tastes and textures to enjoy? Even people who claim to dislike anything “too fishy,” still have their fish or seafood favorites (the less “fishy” ones of course). How often do you order fish or seafood with your health in mind? There’s nothing fishy about the idea that fish and seafood are beneficial to your diet.
Of course the preparation of any food is important, so frying your once-healthy fish and seafood or drowning it in butter will certainly counteract the good it may do. When it’s properly prepared, though, doctors and dieticians agree that there are a variety of benefits to eating healthy fish and seafood. Oily fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown play an important part in aiding the development of our brains and may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Healthy fish and seafood are also generally low in fat, or at least contain the “good fats.” Short of being pregnant or having a terrible shellfish allergy, you have no reason not to make healthy fish and seafood part of your smart dietary choices.
Not all fish and seafood are created equal (or equally healthy). You’ve likely heard talk about toxins such as mercury. It’s also true that some healthy fish and seafood contain more great Omega-3 fatty acids than others. Women’s Health has conducted research to compile a list of the most healthy fish and seafood, complete with calculations of important nutritional information. It’s an excellent oppor-tuna-ty for you to become an educated consumer. (See what we did there?)
WH Ranks The Most Healthy Fish And Seafood
Safe seafood– we rank everything from Alaskan king crab to striped bass
There are plenty of fish in the sea, but finding the best fish and seafood took thorough analysis. We started with a list of the 20 most popular types of seafood in the U.S. (which explains why hairy anchovies are missing). Using the latest FDA data and a serving size of 3 ounces, we calculated the omega-3 (DHA and EPA) content of each fish, plus other nutritional perks like selenium, a mineral that bolsters cancer-fighting antioxidants, and B12 vitamins, which are crucial to nerve health. Then we factored in average levels of toxins like mercury and PCBs. The result: a safe seafood and fish list that will let you navigate the fish counter like Captain Ahab.
1. Salmon (the wild kind) wins by a waterslide, and is a healthy fish you can count on to pack in nutrition. Most varieties, including coho and sockeye, provide more than three times the 250-mg recommended minimum daily dose of omega-3s. Wild Atlantic salmon is king of the sea with a mighty 1.6 g of the good stuff and a mini mercury count of 0.01 ppm. A serving also gets you 72 percent of your 55-mcg RDA of selenium. Avoid Farmed salmon, which may contain PCBs from polluted water.
2. Rainbow trout (the farmed kind) gets the silver medal for a full gram of omega-3s. Tests on mixed varieties of trout show only 0.07 ppm of mercury, and farmed may contain even less. It also boasts more than twice the 2-mcg RDA for B12 and half the 15-mg RDA for niacin, which lowers bad cholesterol and plays a key role in metabolism.
3. Oysters (from the Pacific) are almost devoid of mercury (0.01 ppm) and pack 1.2 g of omega-3s per 3 oz. Each slippery serving also delivers more than twice the 12-mg RDA of immunity- and libido-boosting zinc. Avoid Wild Eastern and American oysters — they may contain PCBs.
4. Striped bass (if farmed) is not known to contain mercury in any measurable quantity, and packs 0.8 g of omega-3s, more than twice the suggested minimum. Bonus nutrients include about double the RDA of B12 and 72 percent of your daily selenium. Avoid Mercury-laden wild striped bass (0.22 ppm).
5. Pollock (from the Atlantic) — often used to make filet-o-fish, fish sticks, and imitation crab (aka surimi) — is rich in B12 (3 mcg) and selenium (40 mcg) and extremely low in mercury (0.04 ppm). And its 0.5 g of omega-3s is nothing to shake a fin at. Avoid Pacific pollock — it’s more likely to contain PCBs.
6. Flounder and sole are nutritional twins and contain a healthy 0.4 g of omega-3s and just 0.04 ppm of mercury. A single serving has nearly 100 percent of your daily RDA of selenium and B12. Avoid Blackback and Summer varieties — they can pack PCBs.
7. Alaskan king crab deserves its crown as the crustacean with the biggest omega-3 bang (0.4 g) and a piddly 0.06 ppm of mercury. It’s low cal (82 calories per 3 oz), and it contains 50 percent of your zinc RDA and — check it out — five times your B12 RDA. Avoid Blue crab, which has higher levels of PCBs and mercury.
8. Perch (freshwater). One serving provides over 100 percent of your omega-3 minimum, almost all of your selenium (47 mcg), and half of your B12, with no measurable mercury. So eat up!
9. Clams score you 0.2 g of omega-3s (some tests reveal that they can contain as much as 0.5 g). A single serving also has 350 percent of the 15-mg RDA for iron and a colossal 84 mcg of B12. All that with a mere 0.02 ppm of mercury.
10. Scallops have a meaty texture even steak lovers can appreciate. Both the bay and sea varieties are heart friendly, with 0.3 g of omega-3s, more than half your B12 RDA, and only a hint of mercury (0.05 ppm).
11. Shrimp are a dieter’s dream at only 84 calories per serving, with 0.3 g of omega-3s and a super-safe mercury level of 0.05 ppm. The drawback: A serving of shrimp has 166 mg of cholesterol (almost as much as an egg), so if you’re watching your cholesterol, don’t eat the pink critters more than once a week.
12. Catfish (if farmed) has 0.2 g of healthy fats, over 100 percent of your B12 RDA, and only 0.05 ppm of mercury. But the whiskered fish’s biggest claim to fame is 14.3 mcg of muscle- and bone-building vitamin D — almost three times your RDA.
13. Haddock gives up a good bit of omega-3s (0.2 g), 63 percent of your selenium, and over half of your B12 RDA. And barely-there mercury (0.03 ppm) makes it an anytime entr?
14. Tilapia is a freshwater dweller similar to catfish. Though it has only 0.1 g of omega-3s, tilapia is nearly free of mercury (0.01 ppm) and contains 84 percent of your daily selenium and 79 percent of your B12. So you can eat it till the sharks come home.
15. Lobster (the spiny kind). Spiny lobster doesn’t have claws like the monsters from Maine, but its tail has tons more omega-3s (0.4 g vs. 0.07 g) and a lot less mercury (0.09 ppm vs. 0.3 ppm). Other highlights include 50 percent of your zinc RDA, 91 percent of your selenium, and nearly twice your RDA of B12.
16. Canned tuna (light). It’s saddled with more mercury (0.12 ppm) than most healthy fish and seafood on this list, but it has the least of all other types of tuna and still provides 0.2 g of omega-3s. Eat it no more than eight times a month and feel good about getting 75 percent of your niacin RDA and more than 100 percent of your selenium and B12.
17. Cod (from the Pacific) supplies almost twice the omega-3s of Atlantic cod (0.2 g vs. 0.1 g) and racks up 72 percent of your selenium for just 89 calories a serving. But don’t dine on it more than twice a week, because its mercury count is on the high side (0.1 ppm).
18. Halibut is a very good source of omega-3s (0.4 g) and provides more than 40 percent of your RDA of niacin, 72 percent of your selenium, and 58 percent of B12, so eating it every once in a while is a healthy fish and seafood option. Just keep it to no more than four meals per month because its 0.2-ppm mercury count is twice as high as cod’s.
19. Skipjack tuna is smaller than bluefin or yellowfin and therefore soaks up fewer toxins. It delivers an impressive 0.3 g of omega-3s, 72 percent of your selenium RDA, and 93 percent of B12. Still, it has 0.2 ppm of mercury, so limit it to four meals a month.
20. Orange roughy has two strikes against it: minimal omega-3s (0.02 g) and way more mercury (0.6 ppm) than any other fish listed here. But it’s low in calories and high in protein and selenium (75 mcg). So if you’re craving it, go ahead — just not more than once a month.
One of the best parts of adding healthy fish and seafood to your diet is that much of it is easy to prepare. Broiling, boiling, and grilling are all pretty hard to blunder. And don’t forget that including healthy fish and seafood in your diet also means adding sushi, sashimi, and nigiri to the mix. So many possibilities, so little time!
At Ceres Bistro in Worcester, Massachusetts, we feature fish and seafood on both our lunch and dinner menus. Choose from oyster and shrimp appetizers, tuna dishes, broiled cod, or even fish stew, all crafted to delight your taste buds. We know how important it is to do your pre-meal menu research when you are careful about what you eat. Please take your time perusing our online menus or give us a call if you ever have any questions. No matter what, though, remember to consider healthy fish and seafood when you need to jazz up your boring eating routines. It’s the prawn – ahem, we mean dawn – of a new day!
Speak up in our comments section below and let us know about your favorite fish and seafood dishes!