For early brain development, a healthy heart for life, and overall well-being, nutrition experts agree on eating seafood twice a week; that’s at least 8oz per week (20% of protein intake) for most adults. Pregnant and nursing women should aim for 8-12oz per week. In stark contrast, most Americans eat just 3.5 oz per week (less than half what we should!).
To be fair, it can be confusing to shop for seafood. Just a few things that might be on a shopper’s mind are: Am I getting the good-for-me omega-3s? Is it sustainable? How much should I worry about mercury?
To answer some of these questions, Harvard School of Public Health conducted a comprehensive analysis of fish and health (Journal of the American Heart Association, 2006). What they found: the benefits of eating fish greatly outweigh the risks. Just what are those benefits? Eating fish, especially fatty fish – here’s what’s in it for you:
• Fatty fish are one of the few food sources of vitamin D, an important nutrient that improves the risk of chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, some cancers, even seasonal flu.
• Fish provides a number of important nutrients for optimal health, including energy-making B-vitamins, vitamin D, antioxidant vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium, and omega-3 fats.
• During pregnancy, omega-3s in seafood are important for the infant’s healthy vision, brain, and nerves development.
• Omega-3s in seafood lower triglyceride levels by 25%-30% (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997), and is related to a 36% reduced risk of death from heart disease, and a 17% reduced risk of deaths from any cause (JAMA 2006)
• Omega-3s in seafood may improve mood, and decrease the risk of depression and dementia
Is salmon the perfect seafood?
It provides omega-3s, is low-mercury, and there are sustainable options! A 3oz serving easily provides half the omega-3s for the week (3oz provides about 1000mg EPA/DHA omega-3s). Plus, there are sustainable options for both farmed and wild salmon. Verlasso is a good choice when it comes to responsibly-farmed salmon. They use 75% fewer feeder fish than conventionally farmed salmon, the salmon is raised in naturally pristine Patagonian waters with plenty of room to grow (they’re never overly-packed into pens), hormones are never used, and the surrounding environment is allowed to rest and rejuvenate after each harvest.
Maximize benefits by eating fatty fish every week such as salmon, trout, oysters, bluefish, herring, sardines, anchovies, Atlantic and Pacific mackerel, and light tuna. But keep in mind that all seafood provides some omega-3s, so you can still enjoy your favorite white fish and shellfish in the mix, too. It’s best to bake, broil, grill or steam fish; frying or dousing in a heavy sauce can cancel out the benefits.
Minimize risk by eating a variety of seafood. Pregnant and nursing women and young children should follow the advice of their healthcare team, including avoiding certain species that are higher in mercury (TSSK: tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel), and keeping white/albacore tuna to 6oz per week or less.