For the last few years, my overarching dietary choices have be made with a pretty much equal split between health and environmental concerns. However, I’ve always found the environmental side of things tricky to broach on this platform. This summer, I started to eat fish again, something I have gone back and forth with several times throughout my teens and early adult years. As someone with a strong coastal and fishing family history, as well as a marine biology student, it felt odd for me to completely distance myself from a diet that included seafood. But the murky waters of fish sustainability made me feel very uncertain about whether or not eating fish was an environmentally sound choice to make. With my background in the seafood industry still leaving me confused, I realised that there’s probably a lot more people out there not knowing how to approach eating seafood in a sustainable way, so throughout August I’ll be posting a special series looking at seafood sustainability in depth. Think of it as your extended guide to fish sustainability. I have definitely got Zanna to thank for kickstarting this series, as her vocalism over the last few months on environmentalism has given me the confidence to talk about it on my own platform.
If you feel as though you’re a bit clueless about the current situation of our oceans, or would like to know more, then I highly recommend you check out A Plastic Ocean and Chasing Corals, both available on Netflix. Please bear in mind that all documentaries, especially many on Netflix, do come with at least a certain level of bias, but I feel that these two present a fairly accurate view of their subjects.
Starting off the series is a short note on nutrition, in order to explain why you might wish to consume fish and other seafood over alternative food sources…
Due to the environment in which the fish live and consume food, they are higher in certain vitamins and minerals, such as iodine, than land-based animal products. With most fish being highly active, fish is also a high-protein option. Whilst most fish are a source of omega fats, including omega-3, oily fish unsurprisingly contain a significantly greater amount in oily fish. Where white fish contain oils only in their liver, oily fish store oils within their tissue, which aids in insulation of cold water species. An additional benefit of consuming oily fish is that fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D, are better absorbed due to the higher fat content. Speaking of vitamin D, fish are one of the few good dietary sources of D3, with most other sources being considered too low in concentration to be significantly beneficial.
Studies have also linked fish consumption to increased grey matter in the brain, and thus lower risks of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disease. However, as far as I know these studies have thus far only shown correlation and not causation.
Here, I have focused on the benefits of white fish and oily fish, but haven’t gone into other forms of seafood, as fish are more commonly consumed. And of course, you can get all these nutrients from other sources, such as seaweeds for iodine, so if you don’t want to eat fish, that’s okay too. However, I hope that this series will enable those who do wish to eat seafood will be able to do so in a better informed way by the end of this series. Stay tuned for more!