If you want to load up on omega 3s, most of us know that wild salmon is a great source. But why is farmed salmon (Atlantic salmon) such a poor alternative? Let me (help) count the ways:

1.) Wild salmon is more nutritious. As with livestock, farmed salmon are fed the same antibiotics used to treat humans, a practice condemned by the World Health Organization for contributing to antibiotic resistance.

Wild salmon are not only drug-free, they have higher levels of omega 3s and lower levels of saturated fats than their farmed counterparts. And, farm-raised salmon have been found to contain significantly higher concentrations of PCBs and other cancer-causing contaminants.

2.) Farmed salmon pollute. They are raised in floating net pens, the marine equivalent of factory farms. The accumulation of waste from these systems can pass through the cages, contaminate the wild fish and spread disease. And, farmed salmon can escape, which further compromises the integrity of wild salmon if exposed.

3.) Farmed salmon may be cheaper at the store, but the long-term effects are costly. The price per pound to feed the farms is no bargain. It takes 3-5 pounds of small fish (for fishmeal) to produce one pound of farmed salmon. Factor in the energy expended to catch, process and transport that fishmeal and suddenly, farmed salmon become costly to the environment, too.

4.) Wild salmon tastes better. Most chefs agree, the texture and flavor of wild salmon is superior over farmed, which can be mushy and pale. Wild salmons’ rich color comes from their diet of sardines and other small fish. Red food coloring is added to boost farmed salmon’s pale color, as noted on packages at Costco.

But is all farmed fish as compromised as salmon? Not necessarily. Some fish are farmed responsibly such as trout and tilapia. Other healthy options for fish are: albacore tuna (troll or pole-caught); mussels and oysters (farmed); pink shrimp (wild from Oregon); and sardines (wild) – one of the highest sources of omega 3s (1,950/mg), calcium and vitamin D.

My commitment to sustainable foods reaches beyond fish. My motto is to “promote a healthy appetite for a thriving planet.” You already know I’m a huge proponent of organic practices in farming, and that includes land animals as well. After all — what they eat, we eat — unless, of course, you are vegetarian or vegan.

Ask your local fish monger how it was caught and its origin. And, download a copy of this sustainable fish buying guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It is the best resource whether you’re at the supermarket or dining in a restaurant www.seafoodwatch.org. The healthier our planet and its occupants, the healthier our bodies.

Fish in a Pocket

Serves 8.

This is always a crowd-pleaser, especially for kids. The opening of the “package” after cooking is like Christmas on a plate. Low-calorie, high flavor, with a variety of additions depending on the season. Most ingredients from the farmer’s market — including the fish.

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups cooked white beans

1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced

1 cup chopped parsley

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt (I use lemon-thyme salt from Whole Spice)

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1/4 tsp. black pepper

2 lbs. halibut, rinsed and patted dry (can also use scallops or salmon)

Lemon/zest

Parchment paper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Gently toss tomatoes, beans, fennel, parsley, oil, salt and pepper in large bowl.

Cut halibut into 6-8 pieces.

Tear off eight 15-inch squares of parchment paper and arrange on baking sheets. Spoon some of bean mixture into center of each square. Place fish on top and drizzle a little oil and squirt of lemon over all.

Fold edges over several times to seal like a “turnover.”

Bake 15 minutes. Transfer each packet to plate. Serve with a knife to slit the package open and be careful of the steam that will escape.

Karen Schuppert is your local nutritionist promoting a healthy appetite for a thriving Napa. For more recipes and information visit her website www.karenschuppert.com

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