If you’re breaking out the grill this summer, I have a challenge for you. Try stepping out of your comfort zone. Think outside the burgers and dogs’ box.
Because for my money, there’s NOTHING tastier than grilled fish.
You can sear the fish right on the grates to get those delicious grill marks. Or you can cook them on a cedar plank or salt block to boost flavor while raising your presentation game.
But before you send out the invites for your next big cookout… before you go shopping, choose the fish for your dish… and before you light that grill… there’s something you need to know.
While fish ARE a delicious and healthy dinner choice, some seafood may be hiding a dark secret. And you should scratch these three interlopers off your shopping list.
BAN these 3 fish from your dinner plate
You probably don’t need me to tell you that omega-3 rich seafood is good for your health. But the harsh reality is seafood surprise has taken on a whole new meaning. Because mercury levels are on the rise in many of our favorite fish.
In fact, there are three fish, in particular, that I want you to promise me you’ll never toss on your grill OR your dinner plate again.
Swordfish: It wasn’t that long ago that swordfish was the undisputed king of date night. Just about every restaurant you walked into during the Reagan years featured it as their catch of the day. But the swordfish’s popularity was its downfall too. Over-fishing sent prices skyrocketing, and Americans moved on to less pricey choices. These days the fish is staging a comeback. But while the price is falling, the mercury levels are jumping, so it’s best to avoid this old-time favorite.
Spiny dogfish: Technically, the spiny dogfish is a small shark. It’s not quite a household name yet, but it’s getting there. In fact, it’s so hot that one website excitedly called it a “well-kept secret” and pointed out it’s a good substitute for cod. But unlike spiny dogfish, cod’s mercury levels have been sinking in recent years. They’re still a bit too high for comfort, so you’ll likely want to limit your cod too. But spiny dogfish’s mercury levels have jumped by as much as 61 percent since the 1970s.
Albacore, Ahi, and Bluefin Tuna: This is a tough one because tuna is not only a common fish favorite, it’s an excellent source of omega 3’s. But tuna tends to be very high in mercury. And some varieties are worse off than others. For example, one study found mercury levels in Atlantic bluefin tuna have jumped by up to 3.5 percent per year, every year, since 2012. Tests have revealed a single serving of tuna could deliver DOUBLE our weekly “limit” of mercury. If you simply must have a tuna steak, opt for skipjack, which is typically lower in mercury.
Gulf tilefish, king mackerel, marlin, and orange roughy are all higher in mercury too.
3 delicious low mercury options to try
But don’t make the mistake of swearing off seafood either. There are far too many health benefits that come from including some in your regular diet. Fish provides us with necessary nutrients, including protein, vitamin D, B12, iron, selenium, zinc, and iodine.
So just commit to making some different choices at the seafood counter. Like picking out one of these three delicious, lower-mercury selections instead…
Salmon: Wild salmon and Alaska salmon are terrific sources of the essential omega-3 fatty acids I’ve already mentioned. And this lower-mercury fish holds up well to baking in the oven, browning in a pan, or grilling outdoors. Just make sure you’re buying from a seafood seller you trust. Some shady markets have been caught labeling farmed salmon as wild-caught.
Sardines: Sardines may be a humble and unassuming fish. But there also healthy and delicious too. Just like salmon, sardines are a good source of fatty acids. But they’re also an excellent source of brain-friendly B12. And if you haven’t had grilled sardines yet, you’re in for a treat. A dash of olive oil, salt, and pepper is all you need. Just keep an eye on them because they cook up quick.
Shrimp: Make like an Aussie and toss some shrimp on the barbie. They’re lower in mercury and packed with protein which is excellent for aging muscles. Plus, shrimp deliver a healthy dose of astaxanthin. This powerful antioxidant can help naturally reduce your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Other safer low mercury options include oysters, scallops, flounder, whitefish, anchovies, and squid.
In general, you want to avoid all farmed fish. Choose wild-caught, cold-water seafood whenever possible. It will be lower in mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants. And smaller species are often safer as mercury and other pollutants accumulate in the bodies of larger fish.