Farmed vs Wild Fish: Which is Healthier?

No one would doubt that the health benefits of eating fish are extraordinary. High in protein, but lower in calories and cholesterol than other meat sources of protein, fish are almost always the protein cornerstone of any healthy diet.

Nutritional Benefits of Fish

Fish is touted as being high in good fats—omega-3 fatty acids in particular. Eating fish and consuming fish oil has been shown to benefit your health more than many other food sources. You should aim for consuming two servings of fish a week to reap the heart healthy benefits. Doing so has been shown to reduce depression and inflammation, lower your risk of certain cancers, and slash the likelihood that you will develop heart disease by around 35%. 

The versatility of fish is a culinary plus as well. Whether it’s raw, grilled, poached, fried, baked or roasted, fish is loved around the world, providing something for everyone. Finding an option that suits you should not be a problem.

Fish Farming

Fish farming started years ago when concerns arose regarding the impact that over-fishing was having on the oceans. Fish fanatics tried to alleviate that fear by turning to farmed fish. Fish farming can reduce the environmental impact on the oceans, because the fish are contained in pens within larger bodies of water. Fewer boats contaminate the ocean with gasoline, and the habitat in the wild is not changed. However, there may be health consequences involved in the trade off.

Fats 

Omega-3s are the fats that are found in fish that so many people are after. The fats in fish oil reduce the stickiness in the blood, making clots less likely. Some farmed fish that have been studied have higher quantities of omega-3s. This is because farmers have added the beneficial fat to their plant-based feed. Fish in the wild eat small fish like krill, and consume the fats on their own. On the other hand, contaminants from the smaller pens and pollution in the water are held in the fat. Because of those contaminants, you should cook your fish in ways that reduces the fat–in turn reducing the benefit of the fish.

Additives

Since the fish are eating plant-based feed and not foods that change their color make up, they are fed additives that change the color of the meat. Salmon, for example, is gray when it’s farmed, so the fish is altered in order to obtain that beautiful, natural pink color that so many consumers want to see before they sit down to a meal. The color has not been found to be harmful, but it does not occur naturally. 

The Trade Off

The health benefits of fish are outstanding. If your only opportunity for fish consumption is to eat farmed fish, most nutrition experts suggest that you take it. Even the reduced benefit of omega-3 in farmed fish is better than not getting anything at all. So, while wild fish is clearly more beneficial than farmed, both will help you improve your nutritional health.

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