Seafood Myths You Can Stop Believing

Sometimes you meet those people who just don't like seafood. Or maybe you are one of those people. We don't judge. Either way, seafood tends to draw in many questions. When is it safe to eat? When is it sustainable? How do you decide what to order and buy?

America's relationship with seafood is a bizarre one. Indigenous groups have been fishing for centuries — the original farm-to-table approach. And when European pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts, they began eating and selling local fish (via The Splendid Table). Fast-forward to the 1960s, and sushi was still an adventurous concept for most Americans, who were probably busy experimenting with tuna casserole. (Yum?).

But in recent years, seafood in America has made impressive leaps and bounds: sushi is everywhere, shrimp Louie is almost annoyingly trendy, and lobster rolls seem to get more popular each summer. Recipes have circulated for Peruvian ceviche, Nigerian fish pepper soup, and Nordic cured salmon. Still, among skeptics, misconceptions about seafood remain. Here are a few — and why they may not be as scary as you think.

Canned tuna is dangerously toxic

When it comes to knowing what's in your food, you should always be careful: Especially when it comes to swordfish, marlin, and most infamously, tuna. Tuna often contains notable levels of mercury. The chemical can be harmful to your motor skills and memory when consumed at high levels, according to Healthline. Tuna isn't inherently unhealthy for humans — in fact, it's quite the opposite — but its large size causes it to absorb a high amount of mercury from ocean water, according to VICE.

While that sounds scary, you'd have to eat a lot of canned tuna to feel any effects, according to Melanie McGrice, an accredited practicing dietitian based in Australia. "Tinned tuna is a very low source of mercury, so people would have to be eating at least three cans a day for about six months before it really became a concern," she told VICE. Like we said, that's a lot of tuna. If you're pregnant, though, you should eat tuna sparingly.

Don't order fish on a Monday

Ah, the famous lesson from Anthony Bourdain's memoir, Kitchen Confidential. Don't order fish on Mondays: It's likely old fish from a days-old delivery, and who wants to pay for fish that's on the brink of going bad? "I know how old most seafood is on Monday — about four to five days old!" the celebrity chef and writer noted (via Food & Wine).

Since then, times have changed, and even Bourdain admitted that. Kitchen Confidential was published in 2000, and by 2016, Bourdain reversed his warning. Food standards, he explained, are a lot higher these days — especially compared to Bourdain's understanding of New York's fish markets from 16 years earlier. The very fact that people eat sushi in the United States, Bourdain added, has heightened our expectations for high-quality fish. "It's a better world. You know, we have higher standards, we know more about food, we expect more of our food," he said.

Farmed fish is always a bad choice

In recent years, aquaculture — the practice of farming fish — has received some heavy criticism, and understandably so. Often, fish farms overuse important resources, like fish oil, to produce fish feed, according to Columbia University's Earth Institute. Fish farms are often placed in the actual ocean, and the high concentration of fish causes waste and disease to harm the surrounding environment. The small, contained areas can also lead to fish becoming stressed — something that causes more disease. In other words, farmed seafood can be pretty detrimental to the ocean ecosystem, and to the fish themselves.

That's not to say farmed fish can't get better. Farmers and scientists around the world are experimenting with sustainable methods. Researchers are working to manufacture fish feed that won't sap the ocean of its resources. In Florida, the Atlantic Sapphire Bluehouse is working to raise salmon in indoor, saltwater tanks. The Bluehouse's goal is twofold: The method reduces effects on the ocean's ecosystem. It also provides fish that are free of pesticides, antibiotics, and contamination that comes with a polluted ocean (via POLITICO). According to writer and chef Barton Seaver, it's crucial to handpick producers who are helping, not hurting, the fishing industry (via Get Flavor). In other words, check where your food is coming from: You won't regret it.