Is Seafood Healthy? What Every Vegan/Vegetarian Should Know

Is Seafood Healthy? What Every Vegan/Vegetarian Should Know
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.


If you ever get asked why you don’t eat seafood, you need to have your thoughts put together. So, is seafood healthy? Although I think there are some theoretical health benefits to seafood, I choose not to eat it.

Is Seafood Healthy?

Fish can be a source of lots of important nutrients, particularly essential fatty acids (omega-3), vitamin D and minerals from the sea. Seafood is often listed as one of the richest sources of iodine, which is a mineral crucial to the function of your thyroid gland.

Is Seafood Healthy When It Lives In Polluted Water?

Fish and other sea life absorb the toxins in the oceans, rivers and lakes they live in. With high levels of mercury and other heavy metals in our oceans, even the FDA has put out a warning against eating seafood (What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish).

Their warning was only to pregnant women, women who might become pregnant, nursing women and young children, but this was back in 2004 and I don’t imagine levels have gotten better in the last 7 years.

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I don’t know about you, but if the FDA is warning anyone at all not to eat fish, it must be pretty bad and I don’t want to eat it either.

Remember that thing about seafood being a ‘good’ source of iodine? Well, an interesting thing about mercury is that it kicks iodine out of its spot and takes its place in your body. So much for being helpful to your thyroid. Kelp is a much better source of iodine, since (so far, at least) it hasn’t been affected by mercury toxicity.

Is Seafood Healthy When It’s Raised In A Fish Farm?

Farmed fish have most of the same problems as feedlot animals, and may not have the same nutrients as wild fish would have since their diets are often significantly different. Fish farms that aren’t properly managed can also be a source of intense environmental damage and can interfere with the wild fish population by spreading disease and parasites.

When it comes to reasons for being vegan other than health – environmental damage, animal cruelty, social injustice – seafood isn’t really left with any redeeming points. Some might argue that wild fish aren’t subjected to the same cruelty as feedlot animals during their lives, but I don’t think I would be too happy about being hauled out of my life in a giant net with hundreds of people piled on top me.

Getting Seafood’s Health Benefits Without Eating Fish

I already mentioned kelp as being a great source of iodine. If you’re looking for the elusive omega-3 fatty acids, they’re found in good amounts in flax, chia, and some other more obscure sources. They’re also in smaller amounts in hemp, walnuts, and lots of other vegan foods.

Vitamin D is produced in your own skin when it’s exposed to sunlight, and there are some really high quality supplements out there that are much better when you take into account the toxic downsides of fish.

There are plenty of plant sources of omega-3 – flax, chia and hemp seeds are great sources. Flax needs to be ground up for us to digest it, but the other two don’t. Get a tablespoon or two of one of those, and you should be getting your omega-3 needs for the day.

If you’re looking for a more concentrated source of omega-3’s, there are flax, chia, hemp and sacha inchi oils that may be absorbed better for someone who has difficulty digesting fiber.

And lots of research suggests that concentrated DHA (a specific form of omega-3 that our body converts omega-3 to when it’s healthy) is helpful for brain, nervous system and arterial health, as well as being protective from aging, inflammation and some types of cancer.

Most DHA supplements are made from fish oil, but there are some really good sources of algae-based DHA which are just as effective, and don’t have the same concerns of mercury or other toxicities because those accumulate in the fat cells of fish.

The brand I use is Deva, but there are lots of others. Just be sure to check for a cellulose capsule – would be silly to put algae in a gelatin capsule, but you never know!

I’m really interested to hear what you think – do you eat seafood? Did anything here change how you view it? Let me know by leaving a comment below.


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