5 Things to Know Before You Buy Fresh Seafood

by | Updated: July 10th, 2018 | Read time: 3 minutes

You know to shop organic and local when it comes to getting your bounty of summer vegetables, but what about sourcing fresh seafood?

Follow This Fish Market Sign to Learn How to Buy Fresh Seafood | Vitacost.com/blog

Unfortunately, it’s a bit trickier than it should be. Gone are the days when your grandparents could walk into their local fish shop and trust that they were getting wild, freshly caught fare from the nearby rivers, streams or ocean.

The modern world requires you to become more of a detective.

“Is this fish local?”

“Is this fish farm raised?”

“Is this fish fresh?”

Freshness is one of the most important factors. When you’re buying local fish at a restaurant or mom-and-pop shop, you’re more likely to get the freshest fillet. But if you don’t have those resources, it’s up to you to sniff out the best fresh seafood. Literally, ask to smell the fish before you buy it. Fresh seafood doesn’t actually smell fishy. Instead, it should smell clean and pure with a hint of salty – like the ocean! Any detection of ammonia or fish bait is a red flag.

While it’s important to ask the right questions and smell the fish for freshness, there’s a little more work to be done. Don’t worry. It’s not hard. Simply follow these five fundamental tips and resources, and you’ll have no problem picking out fresh seafood – every time!

Research, research, research. 
Researching in advance of your shopping trip saves both time and frustration. One great resource you can rely on is the Marine Stewardship Council. For 20 years, the Marine Stewardship Council has been part of a team effort to keep oceans healthy and full of life. Choose the blue fish label and make sure the fish you eat can be traced back to a sustainable source.

Learn the healthiest options.   

When choosing the seafood, it’s important to know which fish tend to be naturally higher in mercury – even more so for pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system.   According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, fish with the highest mercury levels tend to be: king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna and bigeye tuna.  

Go wild!  

As noted by Dr. Axe in an article on the dangers of farmed fish, a USDA review confirmed that “farmed fish have less usable omega-3 fatty acids than wild-caught fish and a 20 percent lower protein content.” Farmed fish also have a higher concentration of omega-6 fatty acids. “Imbalances in the levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids create inflammation in the body,” according to Axe.

Keep it local.  

Eating a fish which was caught in Fiji, frozen and flown all the way to Iowa to provide sashimi comes with a huge carbon footprint and an increased risk of bacterial contamination. Choosing local, sashimi-grade fish from local fisheries does make a difference in the health of the food. Plus, the taste doesn’t even compare!

Choose frozen when necessary.
Fresh is best, but frozen is a close second. Buying frozen can actually help you save money when you buy in bulk. Just check that your frozen seafood is wild and not farmed. And make sure to properly defrost the seafood in the refrigerator before cooking. It’s worth noting, however, that freezing fish can definitely change its texture.

Related reading: How to Prevent Foodborne Illness

By implementing these easy tips, sourcing fresh seafood becomes much simpler. Not to mention, you and your family get a richer source of protein and essential fatty acids.