Health Benefits of Seafood

The following content is provided by our Chief Dietician Melanie Jatsek, RD/LD. 

Did you know that human beings evolved on a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild fish and grass-fed animals? Today, due to our overwhelming reliance on processed food, we are consuming way fewer omega-3 fatty acids, while overdosing on omega-6 fatty acids.

What does this mean for your health?

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fats because your body can’t make them, which means you must get them through food or supplementation. Omega-3 fats—found in seafood and certain plants—have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, while omega-6 fats tend to be pro-inflammatory.

When eaten in the form of nuts, seeds, and eggs, omega-6 fats promote health. Omega-6 fatty acids are also found in cereal grains and refined vegetable oils, common ingredients in processed food. So, if you live on a steady diet of convenience food, you are unknowingly consuming way more omega-6 fats than you should.

Besides loading up on nutrient-dense Superfoods, there’s another powerful step you can take to reclaim control over your health: Eat more seafood!

Seafood is a superior source of various nutrients, such as protein, amino acids, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The real star player, however, is omega-3 fatty acids.

Forms of omega-3 fatty acids

There are three forms of omega-3 fatty acids in food:

  1. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  2. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  3. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

ALA:

ALA is found in plant-based foods like walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and leafy veggies. Because they can’t be fully converted into DHA and EPA, omega-3s from plants do not offer the same powerful benefits as those found in marine life. By all means, if you enjoy these plant sources of omega-3s, please continue adding them to your meals because they are in fact Superfoods and will benefit your health in many ways.

EPA & DHA:

The positive effects of seafood have primarily been attributed to EPA and DHA. These omega-3 fats can potentially benefit your health in the following ways:

  • Lower triglyceride levels: triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. High levels are a major risk factor for heart disease.
  • Raise HDL cholesterol: HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is also known as your “good” cholesterol because it removes other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream. Higher levels of HDL are linked with a lower risk of heart disease.
  • Lower risks of cancer.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Prevent blood clots.
  • Improve the health of your skin.
  • Reduce chronic inflammation.
  • A healthy brain: DHA is a component of every cell in your body, including your brain cells! It can improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and age-related mental decline.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels.

Although most fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, these particular fatty fish contain the highest amount of EPA & DHA:

  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Herring
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
For positive health benefits, aim for two to three, 4-ounce servings of fatty fish per week.

Mel’s favorites:

Two of my favorite omega-3 rich seafood options at Heinen’s are fresh Verlasso salmon baked in parchment paper and (when I’m in a rush) Wild Planet canned salmon mixed with mashed avocado and cooked lentils, served with a side of raw veggies. Simple, nutritious, and delicious!

 

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