Omega 3’s Are Swimming Your Way – Barramundi Style

Steven P. Timmons

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By Steven Timmons

Eating healthy is getting easier and easier.  People, including food producers, have become better informed and we see innovation coming from every corner of the grocery. The food producers are becoming scientists, and they study their areas of expertise with little regard to the restraints of decade-old ideas on nutrition. As long as we do not restrict their ability to innovate, they will be happy to provide foods for every lifestyle, and the next few decades will be full of dietary choices.

One of those choices has already caught my attention – it is the new fish on the block, the barramundi. Isn’t that a cool name? Known to many as the Asian Sea Bass, Giant Perch or to anglers in Australia as simply the “Barra,” this mild white fish is referred to in grocery stores as barramundi. The scientific name is Lates calcarifer, and the name barramundi is borrowed from the Aboriginal language of Queensland, Australia. The fish, which can grow up to five feet long and weigh over 90 pounds, is sought after by sport anglers because of its tendency to jump from the surface of the water as it fights fiercely on the line. It is a fresh and salt water fish, and is native to Southeast Asia, including all of the northern rivers and shores of Australia.

This is all very interesting, but none of this really matters to those of us who prize our fish based on dietary value. The most important dietary attributes of the barramundi are that the fish can be grown in a sustainable, highly ecological aquaculture system, and that it has a VERY high amount of Omega 3 fatty acids, sustaining a ratio of 1:1 with its Omega 6 fatty acid content. This is even better than the other common Omega 3 fish, the salmon, because salmon has a higher Omega 6 content in relation to its Omega 3’s (3:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3), and twice the calories of the barramundi per ounce of flesh.

Why does this matter?  The typical modern diet contains more Omega 6 fatty acids than Omega 3s in a ratio approaching 10:1. Contrast this to “the good old days” when pre-agricultural man ate a ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 that was close to 2:1. This pre-agricultural diet, followed by hunter-gatherers for thousands of generations, included eating wild animals and fish with much higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids than are found in grain-fed stock today.  The barramundi would have been a great dietary food even by the higher standards of the primitive diet.

In case you didn’t already know, Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic. Studies show that they may prevent or decrease the symptoms of a variety of diseases, including age-related macular degeneration of the eye, prostate cancer, asthma and even Alzheimer’s disease.

In the United States, a company called Australis has created an aquaculture farm for barramundi near the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. The operation is completely indoors, recycles 99 percent of its water, and creates only 15 pounds of solid waste per day. The farm reports that it produces up to two million pounds of barramundi each year with 1000mg of beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids and only 219 calories in an eight-ounce serving.

Perhaps it is time to take a “walkabout” on the less wild side, visit the local market and pick up some barramundi. Oh, what a worldly man will I be!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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