Which Fish Should You Cook For Your Wellness Goals (While Being Ethical)?
Whatever your health or wellness goal, fish is an essential food category to incorporate into your diet. Whether you would like to build muscle, slim down, or just live longer, eating fish is an easy way to support your ambitions. It is high in protein and vitamin B12, low in saturated fat, and packed with healthy omega-3 fats. Not all fish are created equal, though. Some are better choices than others--both nutritionally and environmentally.
Picking the best fish can be difficult. At the grocery store, you want to look for fish fillets that are firm, have no smell, and look moist. If buying fish with skin attached, they should be bright and metallic. For fresh fish, choose fish from the United States. Those most environmentally conscious, buy frozen fish and defrost them at home. This drastically reduces the waste since fresh fish are either sold or thrown out.
Next, consider some ethical aspects of eating fish. Wild caught is better than farm raised. Similar to other types of farmed animals, farmed seafood can be exposed to antibiotics, dyes, overcrowding, and subpar nutrition. For example, farmed salmon are not fed the same diet as wild salmon. Since their diet is mostly pellets, and not krill like wild salmon, they are also fed dye to make their flesh a more vibrant pink color. The Environmental Defense Fund is a great resource for choosing fish that aren’t from harmful farming or fishing practices.
Now onto some three fish that you should consider adding into your routine.
Halibut Halibut is a powerhouse for healthy fats and vitamin D, a vitamin that many people are deficient in, especially during the winter months if you live in the Northern US. Vitamin D is key for calcium absorption, muscle recovery, and hormone production. Halibut is an ideal fish to buy frozen, since it is a cold water fish commonly found right around the North Pole. Once caught, it is immediately frozen to preserve freshness. This meaty, white fish has a delicate flavor that tastes great simply with sautéed olive oil, salt and pepper, or topped with bolder flavors like pesto, olives, and sundried tomatoes.
Mackerel Mackerel is another fish high in healthy fats. It is also high in protein with about 35 grams of protein per fillet. Mackerel is a warm water fish that tastes great paired with chili and citrus or smoky flavors. In tropical regions, you can find fried mackerel prepared similar to red snapper. One variety, king mackerel, has high levels of mercury, so pregnant women should avoid it. Predatory fish, or fish that eat other fish, like king mackerel typically have the highest levels of mercury. Smaller fish usually have lower levels.
Sardines What an underappreciated fish! Sardines are an awesome source of protein, healthy fats, vitamin D and calcium. Sardines are typically eaten whole, including their very soft bones. Just like human bones, their bones are packed with calcium. They are usually found in US grocery stores in canned or jarred in oil. Swap sardines in for canned tuna in a quick sardine salad. Break up the filets with a fork before adding it to your usual tuna salad recipes. Did you know canned tuna is the most consumed fish in the US, either as albacore tuna or skipjack? Give the tuna a break!
One more recommendation: back away from the tilapia. Most tilapia is farmed and provides minimal healthy fats. Branch out and try some new fish varieties. On busy weeknights, fish is an ideal option since it can be defrosted in less than 10 minutes and quickly cooked in our frying pans in the same amount of time. You can have a healthy, environmentally friendly, and delicious dinner in 20 minutes. Don’t be koi, get cooking!
Ashley Reaver is a registered dietitian who is passionate about all things food. A home chef herself, she enjoys educating those she works with about their health and wellness and loves to share her tips and tricks in the kitchen. Ashley cooks with Made In. Follow her @myweeklyeats.