We're wrapping up the last week of the Real Food Challenge by discussing the value of seafoods including oily fish, shellfish and roe. Dense in minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, fish and shellfish number among some of the healthiest foods available; however, they're not without their problems.
Prior to the advent of industrial agriculture, people thrived on local foods, properly prepared through traditional methods that maximized nutrient density incidentally, if not purposesfully. While almost all of the food people traditionally consumed agriculture was grown or raised locally, landlocked tribes and communities often went to very great lengths to acquire mineral-rich seafood, such as dried fish roe.
The Good. Seafoods, particularly fatty fish, mollusks and even sea vegetables number among the most nutrient-dense foods available. They are remarkably rich sources of vitamins, minerals and of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA which are known to support cardiovascular, reproductive and cognitive health.
Eaten raw, foods such as oysters, herring and roe offer present an excellent source of vitamin D. Raw fish roe is a superb source of vitamin E, a nutrient that is otherwise hard to come by outside of nut and olive oils. Clams number among the best sources of iron, while oysters are among the best sources of zinc. Salmon and other fish offer myriad vitamins and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. No wonder traditional land-locked peoples went to such great lengths to acquire these nourishing, powerful foods.
The Bad. Our seas are polluted; fish is farmed intensively and there is an island of plastic containing over 100 million tons of garbage floating in the pacific ocean. As we've addressed earlier in the challenge, if animals are poorly nourished or subject to polluted enivronments, so then is their flesh.
The challenge, then, is not only to nourish our bodies well, but to do so ethically. Consuming fish and shellfish from polluted waters is increasingly risky; moreover, overfishing threatens wild populations and fish farming, in many (but not all) cases, is an environmenal disaster.
A muddled solution. Fish, shellfish and roe, in particular, are rich sources of nutrients and vital foods that offer variety and enjoyment as well as simple sustenance. In our home, we rely largely on foods local to our community: beef, lamb and pork; however, we also enjoy sustainably caught fish as well, relying largely on Seafood Watch a comprehensive consumer's guide to choosing fish and seafood by the Monterrey Bay Acquarium.
Wild-caught salmon, troll-caught skipjack, wild-caught clams, wild-caught spot prawns and wild-caught Alaskan salmon roe all represent nourishing, but sustainable sources of seafood that can be cherished with moderation and pleasure.
Today's assignment is to source some high quality, but sustainable fish or seafood and prepare it well.