10 Things You Need to Know about Seafood

North Coast Seafoods
3/17/2021

fishing boats in the ocean with beautiful snowy mountains in the background

What You Need to Know about Seafood

Seafood is one of the most complex and misunderstood foods in the world. There are seemingly endless varieties of fish and shellfish available to enjoy. Many seafood lovers, who would not hesitate to order salmon, shrimp, or scallops at a restaurant, do not prepare seafood in their home kitchen because they are not sure how to cook it.

After 60+ years in the seafood industry, there is a common set of questions that we at North Coast Seafoods hear time and time again. So we’ve broken down the most frequently asked questions about seafood.

Here’s are the Top 10 things you need to know about seafood:

Jump to Specific Questions:

    What are the health benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients found in Seafood?

    Caesar Salad topped with a crispy salmon fillet in a white bowl

    Eating 2-3 servings (at least 8 ounces) of fish and shellfish each week, as recommended by the USDA, has been linked to the following possible benefits:

    Every five years, the USDA revises their Dietary Guidelines and each time seafood gets a bigger shout out for being a nutritional powerhouse. This recommendation was reinforced in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is also supported by the American Heart Association (AHA). View them here.

    Should I eat wild caught or farmed seafood?

    An Alaskan fisherman lifts two king salmon onto a boat

    Both Wild Caught and Farmed seafood can be high quality, sustainable, and delicious choices. And both are essential to ensuring continued seafood availability for future generations.

    • North Coast proudly provides a wide variety of both wild caught and ocean raised seafood.
    • Some species cannot be farmed and are only available as wild – such as cod, haddock, flounder, and swordfish.
    • We encourage our customers to eat locally wild caught seafood whenever possible. For us in New England, that is Atlantic Pollock, Ocean Perch, Sea Scallops, Monkfish, Haddock, Mackerel, Bluefish, and more!
    • However, not everyone has local wild caught seafood readily available to them (due to their location) or it may not be sustainable (due to overfishing concerns). Contrary to popular belief, local seafood is not always sustainable.
    • Sustainable Ocean raised seafood like Salmon, Shrimp, Arctic Char,  Steelhead Trout, Mussels, and more can be great options. 

    When purchasing both wild caught and farmed seafood, it is important to check that the product is Certified Sustainable to ensure that it has been produced according to responsible standards. Look for the MSC logo on wild caught seafood and the ASC or BAP logos on farm raised seafood.

    Which is better – Fresh or Frozen seafood?

    This is probably the question we get most often and a question that has an incredibly intricate, multi-dimensional answer. BOTH fresh and frozen can be excellent options, depending on a variety of factors.

    • For fresh seafood, you must evaluate:
      • 1) The starting quality of the fresh fish in question
      • 2) How it was caught and handled while at sea
      • 3) How long it was at sea
      • 4) How it was processed and sold
    • For frozen seafood, it depends on:
      • 1) The starting quality of the seafood being frozen
      • 2) HOW the seafood was frozen (slow or quick frozen)

    Advancements in “Flash Freezingtechnology have revolutionized frozen seafood, making it possible to retain it’s natural freshness, nutrients, texture, and flavor without compromising quality.

    Fresh doesn’t inherently equate to superior quality, just like frozen doesn’t always mean inferior quality. There is a lot that can happen between time of catch, the time you are purchasing at the store level, and the time you are finally cooking.

    When buying fresh seafood, it is important to purchase from a trusted supplier or retailer and evaluate quality based on the specifications laid out below. North Coast is proud to offer premium quality seafood, available directly from the source, and delivered to your door.

    Browse our online shop to learn more about our fresh and frozen offerings.

    What should I look for when shopping for fresh seafood?

    Fresh cooked and raw shrimp, sea scallops, salmon, and cod in two rows on a bed of ice

    • There should be no foul odor at the fish counter (an ammonia or “fishy” smell).
    • Fish should have a slight shine.
    • Avoid dry looking fish or fish with off colors.
    • Whole fish eyes should have be bright red or pink gills with clear, full eyes.
    • Cloudy, sunken eyes are indicative of poor-quality fish.
    • Make sure there is no darkening, brown, or yellowish discoloration around the edges of fish fillets and steaks, especially if the edges appear dry or soggy.
    • Once purchased, keep it cold and get it refrigerated as soon as possible!

    Can pregnant women eat seafood?

    Yes, and they are encouraged to do so!

    • The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that pregnant and nursing moms eat 12 ounces of fish weekly for the health of their babies
    • Nutrients found in seafood – such as Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Zinc, Iodine, Selenium and Iron – are vitally important during pregnancy and early childhood development.
    • Recommended to avoid the few fish that have comparatively higher levels in mercury: King Mackerel, Marlin, Orange Roughy, Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico and Bigeye Tuna (usually only found in sushi).
    • Canned or pouch tuna such as Skipjack and Albacore, as well as Ahi and Yellowtail tuna are safe to consume while pregnant as long as they are cooked.

    Should children eat seafood?

    Most definitely! The nutrition that a proper seafood diet provides is influential in a child’s physical and developmental health, the FDA and EPA support.

    • The nutrients, vitamins, and minerals found in seafood are incredibly helpful during childhood development.
    • Omega-3’s are crucial for proper brain development and decrease the risk of developmental disorders. There is also strong evidence to show seafood can improve focus and grades in school, reduce anxiety and ADHD symptoms, and help kids sleep better.
    • Fish is an excellent source of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and iron – all of which are extremely important for infants and young children.

    We believe in the importance of a healthy seafood diet for children so strongly that in 2014, North Coast Seafoods began our K-12 “Real Food for Healthier Kids” seafood program to “offer all school children the health benefits of adding seafood to their weekly school lunch program.”

    Read more about our Sea to Schools lunch program, right here.

    Is there Mercury found in fish?

    What is Aquaculture (or farmed seafood)?

    Ocean raised Salmon in a Norwegian fjord

    By definition, the raising of aquatic organisms from juvenile through adult stage under carefully controlled conditions.

    • Aquaculture is the fastest-growing means of food production worldwide, according to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), accounting for more than half of all seafood consumed by humans.
    • Used to rebuild wild stocks for recreational and commercial fisheries.
    • Reduces pressure on depleted wild fish stocks and contributes to sustaining these resources for future generations.
    • Allows for better control of quality, size, and flavor profile.

    It is important to remember that just like farm-raised chicken – there are good farms and bad farms. North Coast is committed to sourcing only from Certified Sustainable operations through our partnerships with the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) to ensure the highest quality process and end product.

    How does Seafood compare nutritionally to other proteins?

    Seafood is a nutrient dense food and an excellent source of protein, often with fewer calories and saturated fats as compared to other center of the plate proteins. See the figures below for a comparison to other center of the plate proteins, based on a 4-ounce raw portion.

    Statistics pulled from the USDA Nutrient Database.

    Seafood Nutritional analysis

    Check out our Seafood Nutrition blog series, written by our in-house Registered Dietitian. Learn more here!

    What does Sustainable Seafood really mean?

    Check out our first blog post of our new series: Sustaining the Future of Seafood. Learn more here!

    Before diving into the particulars of overfishing, stocking density, and other important aspects of seafood sustainability, let’s zoom out and focus on the big picture: virtually all forms of seafood contribute less to global warming and environmental degradation than beef and pork. If you want to help the planet with a no-brainer, totally uncomplicated dietary modification, swap out that pork chop or T-bone for seafood of virtually any description.

    That said, some seafood is exceptionally sustainable – mollusks, wild fish from well-managed fisheries, and herbivorous farmed fish like tilapia raised without chemical or antibiotic use are good examples.

    Simply put – sustainable seafood means seafood that is caught, farmed, or harvested using environmentally harmonious and socially responsible methods that does not jeopardize long term ocean health or stability of the species in question. Sustainability is crucial to ensure continued availability of seafood for future generations.

    Both wild and farmed seafood can be sustainable. With seafood consumption rising worldwide, well-managed ocean-raised (farmed) fish can take pressure off wild fisheries, where 90% of wild fish stocks are harvested at full capacity.

    For Wild Caught Seafood, sustainability means the populations are well-managed and not overfished, and the fishing method has minimal impact on habitat and other wildlife (limiting bycatch and minimizing damage to marine habitats).

    Fisheries in the US, Canada, and Europe are well-managed by government authorities. So, for New Englanders, local fish is reliably sustainable, as overexploited local stocks such as cod aren’t open to commercial fishing.

    For Aquaculture, sustainability means minimizing impacts to the environment by limiting habitat damage, pollution, escapes of farmed fish and using sustainable feed ingredients.

    Contrary to popular belief, not all farmed salmon, for instance, is raised in pens stocked so tightly that their living conditions are dirty. In Norway, where some of the world’s best salmon is raised, pens are sparsely stocked, so the fish have plenty of room to swim around; the tides flowing in and out of Norwegian fjords are vigorous, washing huge quantities of perfectly clean water through the pens every day. 

    What other questions do you have about seafood? Leave a comment, or ask us on social media!

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