Why You Should Be Eating More Seafood
Steering clear of fish for environmental and health reasons? The bigger risk might be not getting enough of it.
Is It Sustainable?
Concerned that your seafood habit could be hurting the environment? Here are some helpful resources:
Synthesizing the work of several research organizations, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s SeafoodWatch.org applies a rigorous, science-based grading system to rank various types of seafood as “best choices,” “good alternatives,” or species to “avoid” based on where and how they are grown or harvested. Its “Super Green List” advocates seafood choices that offer the most health benefits and the lowest risk to human safety and the environment. For research on the go, the same group offers a Seafood Watch app that allows you to type in the fish you’re considering to see how it stacks up.
Read up at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s FishWatch.gov to learn what earns a particular seafood the title of “sustainable.”
The Pearl App (www.pearlapp.co), which recently launched in our region, allows users to search seafood options on the menus of local restaurants. You can quickly see, for example, where a restaurant sources its oysters and whether its fish meets certain sustainability requirements.
The Environmental Defense Fund’s online Seafood Selector (seafood.edf.org) tracks hundreds of fish species, offering an eco-rating for each type of fish, as well as information about its health benefits.
Seafood and Pregnancy
Andrea Albersheim remembers her go-to craving when she was expecting her daughter back in 2015: anchovies preserved in salt and olive oil. In the eyes of the misinformed, she may as well have been downing shots of whiskey.
Many pregnant women began shying away from all varieties of seafood after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a 2004 advisory warning of dangerous mercury levels in select species of fish. Though the warning applied only to certain large predators such as shark, tilefish, swordfish and king mackerel, some Americans stopped eating seafood altogether.
Just this year, the FDA revised its recommendation, stressing the dietary importance of seafood for expecting and breastfeeding moms and young children, along with a “best choice” list of the options that pose the lowest risk. For example, not all tuna is cause for mercury concern—just Bigeye, which is rarely sold in the can in the U.S. In fact, 90 percent of the seafood sold in the U.S. is naturally low in mercury, says Albersheim, who serves as communications director for the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, a national nonprofit based in Rosslyn.
Federal nutrition guidelines now encourage pregnant women to eat 8 to 12 ounces of omega-3-rich seafood per week, while supplementing with vitamins.
Whitney Pipkin is a freelance writer in Northern Virginia who often writes about food and food producers.