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Healthy Seafood: What to Buy

Fish is a great source of lean protein and one of the best ways to get a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, those good fats that protect your heart, support your brain, and keep your cells healthy. However, since our oceans and rivers are not as clean as they once were, not all fish is equally healthy.

Fresh versus Farmed

The huge demand for seafood has also encouraged many fisheries to catch more fish than our waters can sustainably produce, resulting in diminishing fish stocks and damage to the ecosystem. For that reason, fish farming seems a logical solution; but not all farmed fish are thought to be healthy. For example, farmed salmon has been shown to contain chemical pollutants. On the other hand, farm-raised trout, catfish, shrimp, striped bass, sturgeon, Arctic char and flounder are healthy and sustainable choices.

How to Shop for Seafood

If you shop at a fresh seafood counter, ask your supplier where the fish came from and how it was caught. Another great resource is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app found at You can also join a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) and receive locally caught seafood weekly or monthly. Find one at

Here are a few other tips for choosing the healthiest seafood:

  • Know that fish high on the food chain, such as swordfish, shark, tuna, king mackerel, tilefish and lobster, may contain higher levels of contaminants. It is wise to limit eating canned tuna to once a month.
  • When buying fish, choose firm, shiny flesh that will spring back when touched.
  • Fish should have only a mild smell, like seawater, but not a strong fishy odor.
  • Shellfish, such as oysters, clams and mussels, must be alive when purchased.
  • Lobsters and crabs should be alive or frozen when purchased.
  • Shrimp are usually frozen and often precooked. Look for a full shell and firm meat.
  • Frozen fish is a good choice, as freezing keeps water inside fish tissues, thus preserving juices and maximizing flavor and texture when cooked. Frozen fish should be somewhat shiny and have no white freezer-burn spots.