A few months ago, I wrote a hearty defense of fish as part of a healthy diet.(see http://mdprevent.blogspot.com/2013/03/in-defense-of-fish-consumption.html). Since that time, meaningful studies continue to emerge supporting the value of including fish. A recent study showed that pesco-vegetarians (vegetarians who also consume fish) do better than any other category of eater, including pure vegans, when it comes to overall mortality. The study, however, did not distinguish among types of fish.
In my practice, I counsel many patients about the importance of consuming fish. Many patients say they already do. On closer scrutiny, it turns out that most are eating tilapia, farm-raised salmon, and canned tuna fish. When I recommend fish, these are not my first choices. As a choice, they are undoubtedly preferable over hamburgers, hot dogs, and cured meats. They are also superior to other forms of red meat and caged fowl. But when it comes to choosing among fish, they rank low.
My first choice and champion remains wild Alaskan Salmon. One of the great things about wild Alaskan Salmon is that the salmon is often caught after it spawns and closer to the end of it's life cycle. This allows for sustainability of the species and is ecologically friendly.
I make a point about Alaskan salmon because wild Alaskan salmon as opposed to its Oregon and California counterparts, has far less Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) contaminants. In fact, last year, Oregon issued a safety alert about wild Oregon Salmon being highly contaminated. So please take note when selecting wild Salmon, it's source is equally important to it being wild.
Tilapia and other farm raised fish, including salmon, contain far less of the essential Vitamin D and health promoting omega-3s than does wild Alaskan Salmon. In fact, wild Alaskan salmon has four times the Vitamin D as it's farm raised equivalent. Wild salmon tends to be leaner, having less saturated fats, and is an excellent and essential source of Vitamin B12 and protein. It alo contains an generally considered healthy anti-oxidant called astaxanthin. Free of articial dyes, food additives, antibiotics and growth hormones, Wild Alaskan salmon is my ultimate food.
What about other fish?
I like wild sardines and herring. As small, non-predatory fish, they also contain few contaminants and are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Costco and many supermarkets sell wild sardines in a can and wild herring in wine sauce.
What about tilapia, a perennial favorite?
Here's a snippet from Wikipedia discussing the problem with tilapia.
"Typical farm-raised tilapia (the least expensive and most popular source) have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids (the essential nutrient that is an important reason that dieticians recommend eating fish), and a relatively high proportion of omega-6. "Ratios of long-chain omega-6 to long-chain omega-3, AA to EPA, respectively, in tilapia averaged about 11:1, compared to much less than 1:1 (indicating more EPA than AA) in both salmon and trout," reported a study published in July 2008. The report suggests the nutritional value of farm-raised tilapia may be compromised by the amount of corn included in the feed. The corn contains short-chain omega-6 fatty acids that contribute to the buildup of these materials in the fish."
Tuna, wild or otherwise, is a predatory fish and therefore accumulates lots of mercury. As does cod, halibut, sole, lobster, shrimp, etc. Again, given the choice between red meat and these seafood, the fish are better. Of course, that assumes the fish are not soaked in butter or drenched in a fatty mayonnaise.
The evidence against red meat and dairy, by the way, continues to mount. The recent link of L-carnitine, a by product of meat and whey protein degradation, with inflammatory heart disease, combined with the well established dangers of high saturated fat consumption in terms of heart disease, cancer, stroke, dmentia, etc. should give you meat eaters serious pause for reconsideration.
There's nothing fishy about wild Alaskan Salmon. How about some for dinner?