Photo: How to eat the healthiest and sustainable fish

How do you like your Rainbow trout? The correct answer is farmed (US) or land-based farmed (Canada) (Credit: Sifu Renka via Flickr)

I became a committed vegetarian at 16. But when recent blood work indicated I was anemic, I decided to eat SeaChoice green listed species to add more variety to my diet.

Fish supplements are good but there are many benefits to eating whole fish: high-quality protein, iron, healthy fats, fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E, and minerals like selenium.

Lisa Marie Bhattacharya (Whitaker) R.H.N., nutritionist with Inspire Health, answered my fishy questions:

Whole fish versus supplements?

Supplements can be helpful, but our bodies are genetically programmed to recognize whole foods and all their intricate components. Isolating individual factors misses subtle nutrients that have a synergistic benefit when eaten. Vitamin C complex, for example, is more effective than in its isolated form, ascorbic acid. Same goes for the B complex—the sum is greater than its parts.

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Fish health perks besides omegas?

Studies show that salmon contain small protein molecules called "bioactive peptides" that may provide support for cartilage, insulin effectiveness, and control of inflammation in the digestive tract. They also provide one of the highest amounts of vitamin D—a nutrient not naturally abundant in a lot of whole foods, as well as selenium, a common deficiency in our corner of the world in part from soil depletion due to high rainfall.

Healthiest fish preparation?

Avoid high heat, which destroys beneficial nutrients. Barbequing is out and frying, too. Poach, gently sauté, or bake fish (not above 325º F/177º C) so as not to damage delicate omega-3s and other healthy, sensitive components.

How can I add more fish to my diet?

  • Get the biggest bang for your buck with one of the heavy-hitters (the highest in omega-3s): salmon, halibut, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, or rainbow trout. Add them to brown rice pasta or salad with plenty of cold-pressed olive oil and fresh lemon juice
  • Sauté cakes made from fresh or frozen locally caught fish on low to medium heat
  • Try pickled herring (without white vinegar), a Scandinavian delicacy, on top of a whole grain cracker or bread
  • Bake a fish casserole with brown rice, veggies, and a béchamel sauce
  • Add anchovies (buy whole and rinse off salt) to your favourite dish or Caesar salad dressing
  • Breakfast on kippers and toast
  • Try these sustainable seafood recipes

What new sustainable green-listed seafood will you try?

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

January 23, 2012

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Jun 04, 2013
7:02 AM

Your naturopathic doctor is very ignorant. Mercury content is generally low for most of the ocean fish and a little higher for the larger fish breeds (eg. Tuna, Swordfish). Although mercury is not great, the amount you get in fish and then absorb is very low. If you are indeed really concerned, eat fish that are in the lower food chain (eg. Sardines). If it is any proof to you, look at some Asian countries who eat fish daily, in more polluted waters, and live longer, healthier lives.

Feb 12, 2012
4:42 AM

a few vegetarians opt to eat fish eggs which provide essential amino acids for brain development. another way is to eat greek chicken eggs as these chickens feed from a little plant. wheat grass contains some of these amino acids as well.

Feb 07, 2012
6:21 PM

I am so skeptical to eat any seafood anymore, particularly after the nuclear accident in Japan. How has that affected our marine food systems?

Jan 28, 2012
12:14 PM

My Naturopathic doctor informed me that fish once a month was more then enough in terms of mercury content now being passed on my fish. This is naturally what my body seemed to be asking for, but it saddens me that this is the actual fact now.

Jan 23, 2012
11:44 AM

"Avoid high heat, which destroys beneficial nutrients. Barbequing is out and frying, too. Poach, gently sauté, or bake fish (not above 325º F/177º C) so as not to damage delicate omega-3s and other healthy, sensitive components."

I'm wondering at the validity of this statement. The idea is that it's the heat that destroys the nutrients. BBQ'ing and pan frying heat the surface of the meat to extremely high temperatures but NOT the center of the meat. Take a chunk of beef and put your pan to as high as it will go. Stick the beef in and let it cook 1 minute on each side without touching it. Cut it open. The inside will still be cold and you'll have a little border around the outside where the heat actually caused the reaction with the flesh to cook it.

Granted you will be safer poaching (can't get higher than about 250 tops) or sauteing lightly, something tells me that if you don't raise the internal temperature to more than what it should be (never higher than 160 for anything as far as I'm concerned and that's a high number), the nutrients aren't going to make the conscious choice to die because they sense they are in the BBQ.

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