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A Sea of Confusion: What Are Your Best Seafood Choices?


podcast cover for A Sea of Confusion: What Are Your Best Seafood Choices?

Season 2 of the Science of Self-Healing Podcast has a NEW host! Please welcome Dr. James Odell, the Medical and Executive Director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years.

Are you unsure about how to shop for fresh, high-quality seafood? If so, this podcast episode is just for you! 


In this podcast, Dr. Odell explores the challenges of selecting safe and sustainable seafood options in a polluted and overfished ocean.


From mercury contamination to the environmental impact and problems associated with farmed fishing (aquaculture), Dr. Odell will discuss the risks associated with various seafood choices, while offering practical insights and expert advice for making informed decisions that prioritize both personal health and the health of our planet. 


Lastly, Dr. Odell will share practical tips to help you identify the freshest seafood available. Learn how to spot the signs of quality and freshness, so you can confidently select the best seafood to put on your table!


Transcript: A Sea of Confusion: What Are Your Best Seafood Choices?

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Science of Self-Healing podcast. For health and wellness knowledge from a different perspective. Produced by the Bioregulatory Medicine Institute, also known as BRMI. We are your source for unparalleled information about how you can naturally support your body's ability to regulate, adapt, regenerate, and self-heal. I'm your host, Dr. James Odell, the medical and executive director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years. And remember, this podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the direct care of a qualified health professional who oversees and provides unique and individual care. The information here is to broaden our different perspectives and should not be construed as medical advice or treatment. Let's get started.


In today's podcast, I'll be discussing the best seafood options. 


The global market for seafood products continues to increase year by year. Food safety considerations are as crucial as ever in this sector, and higher standards of quality are demanded even as products are shipped greater distances around the world. There's also great interest in the beneficial effects of marine functional compounds such as omega three, polyunsaturated fats and other types of nutrients within fish. Seafood is well known as a low calorie food, and research continues into the nutritional effects on obesity, heart disease, and others. In addition, byproducts of marine food processing can be used in nutraceutical applications. 


With all the news about polluted oceans, overfishing, and sustainability issues, it is a sea of confusion when it comes to choosing the right seafood. So let's dive in and find out what choices are best avoided and what are worth bringing to your table. 


Let's start by talking about the problems of eating seafood. 

Basically, it's a toxicity issue. Our oceans are contaminated with plastics, toxic metals like mercury, and other hazards such as polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCB's. 


Secondly, 50% of global fish production is farmed. Some of it is in overcrowded, disease ridden pens. These fish are often fed poor quality food with added antibiotics to control disease. 


Thirdly, many species of fish have been overfished or caught unintentionally, which is known as bycatch. As a result, certain fish populations have declined significantly. 

Let's start by addressing the most important problem, mercury contamination. As you know, mercury is a neurotoxin and an immunological toxin. Mercury released from industries such as coal burning accounts for 50% of the emissions in the US and makes its way into the streams, rivers, lakes and eventually into the ocean. Along the way, it's converted into the more toxic methylmercury, which is highly absorbable in living beings. Microalgae soak up the methylmercury, which is then eaten by the small fish and then by larger fish in a process called bioaccumulation. This means that the largest fish at the top of the food chain have the largest amounts of mercury. 


Some species are known to accumulate high levels of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, because they are large fish, and others because they take a long time to mature, consuming mercury over many years. 


Sadly, mercury levels have risen by 30% in the northern Pacific waters in the last 20 years. Because of this, large fish such as marlin, shark, swordfish, bluefish, and certain types of tuna, as well as king mackerel, should be avoided entirely due to their position at the top of the food chain. 


Atlantic flatfish such as flounder and sole should also be avoided since they tend to take a very long time to mature and therefore tend to accumulate more mercury toxicity. 

The safe limit of mercury from fish consumption has been set by the EPA guidelines at 0.3 parts per million. To put this into perspective, eating tuna slightly exceeds this number, and shark, as well as swordfish, are about three times this number. Pile fish from the Gulf of Mexico is almost four times the safety number. 


Thankfully, scallops, clams, shrimp and oysters have a much lower mercury level, all under 0.015 parts per million, although there can be other problems with these, as I will discuss later. 


While this is a concern for everyone, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of mercury.


So now that we briefly discussed the problems of consuming fish with high mercury contents, let's go to a farmed fish. 


As most of you know, farmed means that the fish are grown in tanks, ponds or pens known as aquaculture. They are fed man made feed, sometimes such things as fish oil, other fish, poultry feces, soybeans, ground up chicken feathers. And they're not free to forage their own food. Since they are kept in crowded areas, they spread disease easily, and they suffer from parasites such as sea lice, and can also suffer from genetic issues as well. 

To control the diseases and parasites, they're also fed lots of antibiotics. This gets passed on to humans. These problems can also pass to other wild fish in the area when penned fish escape and breed with natural fish. 


In addition, farm fish pollute the environment. This is especially a problem with many foreign countries like China, where fish are raised with antibiotics and waste.


And lastly, farm fish also tend to be higher in mercury since they are poorly fed and have a single source of feed. So you can see, farmed fish are generally not a good choice. It's not as nutritious and it can contain a whole lot of toxins. 


The main farm fish are salmon, tilapia, catfish, and carp. If you like any of these in general, try to avoid the farm versions of these and opt for the wild caught. As a rule of thumb, it's really important to avoid any fish from China. 


However, it's important to note that not all farm fish and shellfish are problematic. Some aquaculture operations use very responsible farming practices that minimize environmental impacts and produce healthy nutritional products. So I'll guide you in ways that you can support aquaculture practices and which types of farm seafood to avoid here shortly. 

Since farm fish like salmon is very popular, let's talk about it for a minute. When shopping for salmon, avoid salmon sold as Atlantic salmon. Avoid salmon sold as Atlantic salmon, which is farm grazed and full of toxins. Opt instead for Alaskan salmon. This also means you should avoid farmed fish from Norway, Canada, Chile and Scotland. The main concerns with farmed salmon from these countries involve their heavy use of antibiotics and other chemicals used to control parasites. Farmed salmon also has higher amounts of mercury than wild salmon since the commercial feed contains higher levels of mercury than their diverse diet of wild fish normally consume. 


Wild caught salmon, of course, is your best buy or best choice. But if you want to buy farmed salmon, get it from New Zealand. This is your best choice of farmed option or Atlantic salmon farmed in Maine or the Faroe Islands. Or certified salmon by Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) or Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).


Tilapia is also a popular choice, so let's talk about that for the minute.

The problem with tilapia is it has low levels of omega three fatty acids and very high levels of omega six acids. Tilapia lacks nutrition mostly because it has a higher fat content than other fish. Specifically, it contains far fewer of the omega three fatty acids. 


Perhaps more concerning is that fisheries in China have been observed using livestock feces to feed their farm tilapia. Again, don't buy fish from China. 


Additionally, unsafe chemicals may be used. Experts agree that avoiding farm tilapia from China is the way to go, especially since it's the largest producer of tilapia. 


If you enjoy tilapia, opt for the wild caught if at all possible, or farmed from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Ecuador, or Peru and make sure that it is certified. 

But avoid tilapia farmed in Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, Taiwan and China. 


Of course, we need to also talk about farmed raised shrimp. In countries such as Thailand, shrimp are grown in shrimp ponds and similar to farmed fish, the shrimp are fed harmful chemicals and pesticides that have the potential to lower sperm counts in men and even cause breast cancer or be a co-cause of breast cancer in women. 


According to consumer reports, about 94% of us shrimp supply is imported from countries such as India, Indonesia, and Thailand. And unfortunately, unfortunately, most of that is farmed. Similar to farm fish. This raises many concerns. 


Consumer reports tested close to 300 bags of shrimp and found high numbers of bacteria in many of the samples, small quantities of antibiotics, and even a few samples with MRSA. 

What you probably already know is that boiling and grilling but not frying, preserve shrimp's nutritional value and are considered the healthiest ways to eat shrimp. 


Consumer reports also recommends that consumers should buy wild caught shrimp from the US, despite its higher cost. Not imported. Do not buy imported shrimp. 

However, they also recommend that you buy shrimp that has been caught without harming other sea life such as turtles and sharks, which means you should avoid Argentine red shrimp. Argentina has a bad reputation of harming other sea life when they catch their shrimp. 


Another choice is to buy shrimp that has been caught from the United States or Canada or

farmed in the U.S. only. So best to stay local with this. 


Lastly, I want to list some of the best choices from the seafood watch organization for buying farmed fish. This is farmed fish. They suggest bass, catfish, salmon from New Zealand, sturgeon, and trout. 


As for their suggestions for farm shellfish, they suggest clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, and shrimp from the United States. 


Finally, I'd like to address some sustainability issues related to seafood populations and their harvesting methods. 


These concerns include overfishing of certain populations or harvesting practices that unintentionally catch other marine life and environmental impacts. Overfishing of fish populations occurs because of many factors such as high consumer demand, advancements in fishing technology, illegal fishing practices, inadequate management, bycatch, and habitat destruction. 


The demand for certain fish, coupled with efficient fishing technology leads to unsustainable catching rates. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing worsens the problem by exceeding sustainable quotas. 


Ineffective fishery management and insufficient enforcement of regulations contribute to overfishing. While bycatch further reduces the fish populations. Habitat destruction, including the degradation of marine habitats, also diminishes fish populations productivity. The most overfished fish are bluefin tuna, shark, cod, grouper, halibut, and orange roughy. And the most overfished shellfish are giant clams, abalone, oysters, scallops, conch, and shrimp. 


So consider avoiding Atlantic lobster, shrimp, tuna, swordfish, cod and flounder as they are often caught using trawling nets and long line methods. These methods are known for their high levels of by-catch, unintentionally catching other species in the nets and lines. 

Unfortunately, this by-catch includes turtles, sharks, small whales, dolphins and other marine life causing significant harm to these species. 


Also, be sure to ask your store or restaurant if they sell or serve sustainable seafood. Not all stores will have an answer, but in time, by continuing to ask, you'll make a difference. 

You can also support businesses such as Whole Foods, the Cheesecake Factory, Blue Apron and Hellofresh, to name a few companies that follow the sustainability recommendations from seafoodwatch.org dot. 


Lastly, inspect the fish you purchase. Whatever the variety, all fish have certain characteristics that indicate freshness. They should have bright, clear, full eyes that are often protruding. As the fish loses freshness, the eyes become cloudy, pink, and sunken. The gill should be bright red or pink. Avoid fish with dull colored gills that are gray, brown, or green. Fresh fish should be free of loose or sloughing slime. The flesh should be firm yet elastic, springing back when pressed gently with the finger. With time, the flesh becomes soft and slips away from the bone. The skin of a fresh whole fish should be shiny and have scales that adhere tightly. 


Characteristic colors and markings start to fade as soon as the fish leaves the water, but the skin should still have a bright and shiny appearance. 


Raw shrimp meat should be firm and have a mild odor. The shells of most varieties are translucent with a grayish green or pinkish tan, or light pink tint. The shell should not have blackened edges or black spots. This is a sign of quality loss. Cooked shrimp meat should be firm and have no disagreeable odor. The color of the meat should be white or pink with pink tints. 


Tiger shrimp have bluish colored shells with black lines between the segments of the shells. This is not black spots - that's characteristic of tiger shrimp. 


So in conclusion, while fish can be a nutritious addition to a balanced diet, it's crucial to make informed choices here. Opt for smaller fish with low mercury levels. Choose farm fish and shellfish from only reputable sources, and buy from reputable sources that care about sustainability. Also, be sure to check out seafoodwatch.org for information about your favorite seafood. 


My personal favorites are Alaskan salmon, wild Alaskan pollock, rainbow trout, Pacific cod and I also enjoy mahi mahi, halibut, and snapper. But these again likely contain toxins, so I limit them to no more than once every other week. 


So by navigating the waters of fish consumption with care, we can enjoy the benefits of a nutritionally rich food while safeguarding our health and our planet. 


Thank you for tuning in and remember to stay informed, stay curious, keep deep diving, and until next time, be well.


Thank you for your time today, and remember that this podcast is made possible by the Bioregulatory Medicine Institute, also known as BRMI, a nonprofit, global, non political, non commercial institute to promote the science and art of bioregulatory medicine. We extend our gratitude to each and every one of you for listening today, and if you haven't already, make sure to visit us at brmi.online. A treasure trove of invaluable information awaits you there. Connect with us across various social media platforms as well. Come and become a member of our thriving tribe. If you've enjoyed today's episode, we invite you to show your support by rating us, leaving us a review, or sharing the podcast within your circle. Our podcast and mission flourish through sharing, and your participation means the world to us. Our organization is sustained by donations, each of which is tax deductible and fuels projects like this. Visit our website, brmi.online, to contribute or simply to explore the wealth of uncensored and impartial information we offer. No contribution is too small. In just two weeks, we'll be back delving into another captivating topic. Until then, we thank you once again for listening. May wellness and wisdom be your path. Be well.



1 comentário


Ann Green
Ann Green
19 hours ago

This article is very useful in helping us recognize the quality and freshness of seafood dishes in important meals and events. foodle

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