Is seafood healthy? It may be an age-old question, but it’s as much worth asking as it is answering with an emphatic—yes! It is often recommended for its healthy omega-3 fatty acids, including seafood in your diet, which will deliver numerous health benefits.
Many types of fish and shellfish are nutrient-rich, high-protein, and low in calories. As a food source, seafood tastes good but is low in total fat and saturated fat and high in vitamins and minerals. Notably, it has fat-soluble vitamin D, which is hard to get from any food source but is an essential vitamin for everyone’s health and diet. Studies have found that a seafood diet also decreases risks of heart attack, stroke, obesity, and hypertension, improves eyesight and increases brain function, and helps prevent degeneration. It is also an excellent source of essential nutrients for pregnant women, developing infants, and children.
There is no single food that can ensure a person remains one hundred percent healthy like any good thing. All would agree that a leading factor in maintaining one’s health is a healthy diet—good eating habits and a balanced diet based on moderation with a variety of vegetables, proteins, and carbs. One does not have to convert to a complete pescatarian diet, avoiding all and any meat for eating fish only. Not all fish are healthy. Consuming too much predatory fish in particular, such as swordfish, king mackerel, tropical tuna, or shark, can have detrimental health effects. Predatory fish carry higher levels of mercury than other species of fish, as they not only absorb mercury from the marine environment in which they live but retain the mercury from the fish that they eat.
Knowing what seafood to consume and how often is the key to getting the most from a seafood diet. Because we are all creatures of habit, when people think of having seafood for dinner, most will consider only having their favorite type of fish or fish chowder. However, the definition of seafood encompasses any type or form of food derived from water. It is not simply fish then, like haddock, hake, herring, salmon or trout, but shellfish like oysters, clams, scallops, and mussels in the mollusk and crabs, crayfish, lobster, and shrimp in the crustacean family. Even sea vegetables like seaweed and algae are considered seafood.
Having a serving of seafood at least twice a week is enough to receive the health benefits that it offers. However, two studies published in the NIH National Library of Medicine found that eating seafood servings three times per week can cut your risk of dying prematurely from any health-related causes.
The amount of seafood to consume depends on the choice of seafood first, combined with the serving size. The FDA makes a distinction between “Best Choices” and “Good Choices.” Best Choice seafood can be consumed two or three times a week, whereas Good Choice should be limited to once a week. Best choices include shellfish such as clams, oysters, scallops, lobster, shrimp, and crab, and such fishes as haddock, pollock, hake, flounder, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, herring, perch, trout, and salmon. Good Choice recommendations include mahi-mahi, grouper, halibut, monkfish, albacore tuna (fresh or canned), snapper, and striped bass. The FDA advises against consuming predatory fish, as mentioned, due to their high mercury levels. To view the complete list, visit the FDA’s “Advice about Eating Fish” web page here: . The site also includes information “For Women Who Are or Might Become Pregnant, Breastfeeding Mothers, and Young Children.”
After a choice of seafood has been selected, correct portions are just as important. Because serving sizes can vary for each adult, the FDA recommends using the palm of your hand as a “handy” guide to determine portions. That said, for adults, on average, a serving size is 4 ounces. For children, a serving would equal 1 ounce at age 2, with a gradual increase with age up to 4 ounces when they turn 11 years old.
Whether saltwater or freshwater fish, or shellfish, seafood is a nutrient-rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Seafood is best served baked, broiled, grilled, or poached rather than fried, which only adds unnecessary saturated fats and calories. Whatever recipe you choose, eating more seafood each week can help lead a healthy, long life.