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The Health Benefits of Eating Fish

Posted by Emily Luxford MS, RDN, IFNCP on May 11, 2018 8:51:00 AM

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Growing up, my mom would make a deal with my sister and me when it came to clothes shopping. She had to like our clothes because she was paying for them and we had to like the clothes because we were wearing them. I recommend a similar approach to my clients about their food choices. You should choose food that serves you in two ways—a food that your body appreciates, and a food that you enjoy eating.

Fish is on my ‘enjoy’ list—perhaps you enjoy eating fish as well or maybe you are simply curious about its benefits. Let me show you how fish benefits your body.

 

Benefits of Eating Fish:

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Did you know there are three types of omega 3 fats and two of them are found in fish? Omega 3 fats have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, inflammation and may even improve blood pressure and brain health. These types of fats are most abundant in oilier fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel and trout. Don’t be alarmed that some of these nutrient rich fish are often sold in cans. This may serve you well as canned fish and are often less expensive and more convenient than their fresh fish counterparts. Canned salmon is versatile for individuals who have limited access to the fresh wild varieties and is a good substitute for eating tuna multiple times per week.

 

Vitamin D

This vitamin is the centerpiece of many nutrition based discussions. It is a priority in health care because of its health benefits and because many people are deficient in vitamin D. Not only does it help with calcium absorption into the bones, emerging evidence noted in the American Journal of Nutrition, Annals of Epidemiology and other medical journals, suggests vitamin D also prevents chronic headaches, muscle spasms, elevated cholesterol secondary to menopause, and even diabetes and cancer.

 

Protein and other nutrients
When compared to poultry and red meat, many fish contain nutrient benefits without the added cost of high saturated fats. Fish provide the body with protein, B vitamins, calcium, selenium, potassium, vitamin D, iron and zinc. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!  

 

Before you say “yes” to fish, there are a few points to consider.

Frequency: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation for adult consumption is two to three times per week or an average of eight ounces per week. Children can safely consume fish after two years of age with a goal of one-two 3oz servings per week.

 

Contamination: All fish contain mercury, an environmental pollutant. However, the larger fish on the fish chain carry more mercury and are also are less abundant in the environment. Do your body a favor by choosing fish with low levels of mercury and protect the environment by limiting your consumption of the larger fish. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a maximum of 6 ounces per week of high mercury fish (i.e. ahi tuna and swordfish). Boost your fish intake with salmon, sole, flounder, freshwater trout or herring to name a few. Click on this link to view the mercury levels in fish as outlined by the Natural Resource Defense Council: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/walletcard.pdf

 

Buy sustainably caught wild fish: These fish are labeled with the Marine Stewardship Council’s designation which indicates sustainably caught wild fish. Wild fish are preferred over farm raised fish because they have less exposure to bacteria, parasites and man-made toxins. Currently, there are efforts to improve the environments of farm raised fish. This is good and important news because the World Bank estimates more than two-thirds of fish will be farm raised by 2030.  For more information on sustainable seafood, visit http://www.sustainabletable.org/898/sustainable-seafood-the-basics.

 

With these fish facts in mind, it is now up to you to determine if this food meets your preferences and the needs of your body.

 

In good health,
Emily

Topics: Health and Wellness