Catch a look at what scientists know about fish, a nutrient-dense, high-protein food. Reel in the surprising diversity of health benefits eating fish can have. Dive into the facts you will need to find the healthiest to eat and why it’s worth it to eat more high-protein foods.
High in protein and low in saturated fats, there are many benefits to choosing to eat fish. A source of vitamin D, selenium, and iodine, fish becomes a nutrient-dense food worth considering. Plus, it’s the primary source of the valuable omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) linked with many health benefits.
High-protein, nutrient-dense fish is linked by research studies to many health benefits:
Fish is a high-protein food with a great mix of the amino acids your body needs to build muscle and create hormones needed to direct healthy digestion and the immune system.
Scientific research shows the protein in fish appears to help lower cholesterol, hypertension, and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have anti-inflammatory effects, with researchers discovering many benefits for some health conditions.
Eating fish, a high-protein food, may help maintain a healthy weight, say researchers. In studies, people who ate a high-protein diet had better body composition (more fat loss and lean muscle mass) than those who ate a low-protein diet.
Compared to meat, seafood contains high amounts of taurine, an amino acid that is considered conditional at times (humans aren’t always great at synthesizing it). Scientists have found taurine is important in immunity and helps keep your calcium, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels stable.
According to research, eating fish impacts brain structure in healthy adults, enhancing their brain power. What a catch!
Fatty fish contain lots of the omega-3 fatty acids linked to brain health as you age. Plus, it’s good for kids too! The scientific opinion of the European Union is that consuming 1-2 (and up to 3-4) servings of seafood per week during pregnancy are associated with better functional outcomes of neurodevelopment in children compared to no consumption of seafood.
Eating 1-2 servings of fish per week is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease mortality in adults: the American Heart Association recommends consuming fatty fish at least twice a week (30-40 grams per day).
Fish is a high-protein, nutrient-dense food. The healthiest way to eat fish is to enjoy it close to its natural form, with minimal add-ons, such as creamy sauces, batter, or fat (fried, deep fried).
Living in the ocean, a place that can be quite dirty, fish can contain mercury and other contaminants. The longer a fish lives, and the bigger it gets, the more contaminants it will likely contain. As such, some suggest eating fish that are smaller, such as anchovies and sardines, reduces the amount of contaminants you may ingest. However, larger fish can vary in their mercury levels (e.g. tilefish caught in the Gulf of Mexico is very high in mercury, whereas Atlantic-caught tilefish is low).
As for farmed fish, farmed salmon is low in mercury and high in omega-3s making it seem like a healthy choice – yet, some would argue we should avoid this fish as it may adversely affect the ecosystem’s integrity and wild fish stocks. Fortunately, more sustainable farming practices are shaping a better future for this industry.
When it comes to catching the healthiest fish for humans and the planet it’s important to look for sustainably sourced fish. To meet the basic protein and recommended omega-3 fatty acid needs of the growing human population, experts estimate a 50% increase in fish production is needed – a resource that is estimated to already be overfished by 3- to 4-fold. Sustainable seafood organizations work with fishing industry partners (fishermen, production plants, restaurants, and consumers) to increase awareness, reduce the impact on the ocean environment, limit any bycatch, and ensure fish populations remain productive and healthy. Look for sustainable labels on your next seafood purchase.
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Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.