It should come as no surprise, doctors and nutritionists alike have long been touting the amazing health benefits of seafood, but do you realize how truly beneficial a few servings of seafood a week can be? The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults consume at least two servings of seafood per week, especially fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, sardines, and herring, for improved health and wellness.
These oily fish are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA and, unless you take a supplement, consumption of seafood is an easy and delicious, way to get your recommended dosage. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that have been known to protect the body against heart disease by decreasing blood clotting factors, helping to lower cholesterol, decreasing the inflammatory process in blood vessels, and reducing the risk of a heart attack by up to 40%.
Recent studies have also found that Omega-3 fatty acids can also protect the body from developing cancer, thanks to essential cancer-fighting components found in fish, and regular consumption of seafood can lower the risk of a variety of cancers including prostate, breast, rectal, colon, stomach, throat, and pancreatic.
For seniors fighting early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, or even those at risk of developing it, can see benefits from long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially those found in the Omega-3 group, which can actually slow the decline or reduce the development of Alzheimer’s. By having high levels of these fatty acids in the body, the inflammation substances in the brain that are linked to the development of the disease can actually be reduced.
In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids are also a wonderful source of vitamin D, a nutrient key to the maintenance of strong bones, and yet a vitamin many do not get enough of with a regular diet. One serving of fatty fish contains 90% of the recommended daily dietary requirement!
Pregnant women and children alike can also benefit greatly from an Omega-3 rich diet. Researchers have found that a diet heavy in fish and shellfish can play a vital role in an unborn child’s neural and eye development. And children who suffer from asthma have been found to find relief from symptoms when they consumed at least 300 mg of fish oil per day (fatty fish) due to the oils aiding in controlling food and environmental allergens in the body.
It’s not just fatty fish that have health benefits, however. Milder fish such as tilapia, halibut, and cod as well as shellfish also contain moderate levels of Omega-3s and are also packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals. Lobster and shrimp both contain less than a gram of fat per serving which is wonderful for those watching their weight and are both also relatively low in cholesterol.
Oysters are a particularly good source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and D and are also high in iron, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals. Other shellfish such as mussels, clams, scallops, crab, shrimp, and prawns are full of zinc, a key mineral that promotes the healing of wound and keeps your immune system healthy.
So what’s the recommend serving amounts for you and your family? Healthy teenagers and adults should aim for eating at least 8 ounces of fish or shellfish per week, that’s 4 ounces a serving size or roughly a portion the size of your palm. Pregnant or nursing women as well as children should eat 8-12 ounces of seafood per week (maximum 8oz for kids) and can consume up to 6 ounces of albacore tuna. Shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel should be avoided due to mercury levels as should raw or partially cook seafood and smoked fish.
When preparing your seafood, try to avoid overusing butter, cheeses, or oils and also keep in mind that pan-frying or deep-frying can destroy Omega-3s in the fish reducing the health benefits and adding unnecessary fat and calories. With basic and nutritious preparation, seafood is the best source of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals!