Go fish!

Believe it or not, for once I actually agree with two major public health groups.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently released a joint statement encouraging adults and children to eat more fish. “There is convincing evidence of beneficial health outcomes from fish consumption,” the report states.

It’s true. Eating seafood is the best–and by far the tastiest–way to give your body the inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids necessary to avoid chronic diseases.

Of course, over the years, many of my patients have voiced their concerns about eating fish and seafood, not just because of the dangers of mercury and other toxins, but also because it can be difficult to know whether the seafood in supermarkets is really fresh.

Here are a few simple tips that make it easy to eat more fish without worrying about the freshness factor:

  1. Buy it whole. Check to make sure the eyes are clear and not cloudy, and the gills are bright red and not brown. This ensures that you’ve found a fish caught recently and stored properly. And if you’d rather not cook it whole, just ask the folks behind the counter to fillet it for you.
  2. When buying fillets, they should be firm to the touch and have an iridescent sheen–not dull. Oh, and ask to smell them: They should smell clean, not fishy.
  3. Shellfish should be alive. Oysters should be closed and clams and mussels closed or partly opened (I remember driving home from the Hamptons as a small boy and stopping at the side of the road to buy these by the bushel and my mother examining each one.) When the shell is partly opened, it should close if you tap it. If you’re buying them in bags, which is much more common these days, there should be a date of harvest stamped on it. That stamp is required by law, and if the bag doesn’t have one, don’t buy it!