By Mercedes Grandin, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on Thursday, February 18 2010
After cautioning against consuming seafood due to the adverse health effects of methylmercury, Oprah medical advisor and TV host Dr. Mehmut Oz named barramundi as one of his “5 Superfoods We Must All Eat Now,” due to its low mercury levels and anti-aging, immune-boosting and cancer-fighting properties.
After revealing barramundi as a No. 1 “Superfood,” show guest and National Geographic writer Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Linging Longer from the People Who’ve Lived The Longest,” touted the species’ benefits.
“Barramundi don’t eat fish, they eat plankton. So what happens is you get a fish that’s very high in omega fatty acids, and because it eats low on the food chain, you don’t get the buildup of toxins like mercury,” said Buettner.
After the episode aired on 10 February, Josh Goldman, CEO of Australis Aquaculture, wrote to Dr. Oz’s producers on 15 February, clarifying that barramundi is a carnivorous species by nature, but can live off of a largely vegetarian diet. Australis grows barramundi in a closed-containment facility in Turners Falls, Mass.
“We selected them because of their ability to utilize grains in their feed, which is important for sustainability, and synthesize omega-3s,” said Goldman. “We feed our barra a largely vegetarian diet (80 percent plant-based), which is substantially less than the 50 percent or more fish meal and oil that is typical for farmed salmon. By minimizing the use of fish oil in the feed, our product is free of detectable mercury, PCBs and other contaminants.”
Goldman also corrected the statement on Dr. Oz’s show that barramundi has higher omega-3 levels than salmon by elaborating that its levels are “comparable” to wild coho salmon.
“Our barramundi have 833 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per 5-ounce serving, which is comparable to wild coho salmon (at 900 milligrams per serving), and unheard of in a mild-flavored white fish,” explained Goldman.