Are 'Wild' Foods Better?
While it depends on what food we discuss, in general “wild” foods have some added nutritional benefits. But the minor nutritional benefits might not outweigh significant cost differences.
Comparison No. 1: Blueberries
- Wild blueberries have twice the amount of fiber as regular blueberries. Wild blueberries are much smaller – they are about the size of a pea – so when comparing a 100-gram serving, you get a lot more of their high-fiber skin when choosing wild.
- Wild blueberries have almost three times as much calcium, too. Although wild blueberries have more calcium, it is still not enough to be considered a “good” source.
- Wild blueberries contain eight times as much manganese than regular blueberries. A 100-gram serving (about ⅔ cup) of wild blueberries contains 2.8 milligrams of manganese. For some children it may actually be too much, because the upper intake level of manganese in children 1-3 years of age is 2 milligrams. It’s about 3 milligrams for children 4-8 years of age.
- The calories of each 100-gram portion are very similar between wild and regular blueberries. The main difference is wild blueberries contain a bit of protein and fat, while nearly 100% of the energy from regular blueberries comes from carbohydrates.
- Wild blueberries have a much lower water content, so they will hold their shape and texture better when used in baking.
- The price for frozen wild blueberries can be as much as twice that of regular unsweetened frozen blueberries.
Conclusions: Although the added fiber wouldn’t hurt, for my family who gets plenty of calcium from dairy products and doesn’t do many blueberry flavored baked goods, it is not worth the significantly-higher ticket price.
Comparison No. 2: Salmon
- Chinook, chum, Coho, pink, sockeye, Masu and Amago are the seven species of Pacific salmon available as “wild-caught” only form June through September. Atlantic salmon or salmo salmar are only available as farm-raised fish to U.S. seafood consumers.
- So typically when you compare wild-caught and farm-raised salmon you are actually comparing two different species.
- Farm-raised salmon has twice as much fat than wild-caught varieties, which may be why it also contains over 45% more calories per serving. Some of this additional fat is saturated fat, but some of this extra fat is the more heart-protective omega-3 fat.
- Wild-caught salmon provides more calcium, potassium, zinc and iron, while farm-raised salmon has higher vitamin A content, likely from fortified feed.
- Both wild-caught and farm-raised salmon can contain mercury and other trace metals; however, salmon is one of the “best” choices on the FDA’s list of lower-mercury seafood options. When it’s eaten in moderation, it should not pose any significant health risks.
- Antibiotics can be used to control infection and disease in farm-raised salmon. Choosing a reliable and sustainable farming practice with proper regulations can help reduce risks of antibiotic resistance.
- Wild caught salmon comes with a higher price tag; however, just how much higher can depend on time of the year and source.
Conclusions: Your heart will thank you no matter the source, especially if you get in the two servings of fatty fish the American Heart Association recommends per week.
These are just two items in the universe that makes up the food we eat every day. When we stop and think about sourcing, not just on these items, but many others, we can make better decisions.
Lauren Cornay, RD, LN, is a registered dietitian at Avera Heart Hospital. Get more insight on nutrition and health.