Fish is a premium source of protein. It is ideal for people who want to lose weight as it is a low caloric food source. Fish has very little saturated fat compared to other meats that people usually consume as protein source. It also contains many essential nutrients that our body requires, such as vitamins A, B and D, iodine, selenium, and zinc. The iron present in fish is more readily absorbed by our body as compared to iron present in other food sources such as green vegetables.
How Much Fish Should We Consume?
A healthy adult should consume two portions (140 grams or 4.9 ounces, each) of fish in a week, of which one should be an oily fish. Women should not consume more than two portions of oily fish a week because of the presence of heavy metals, such as mercuryin it. When consumed in large quantities, mercury can be toxic, particularly for women who are pregnant because mercury can hinder a baby’s brain development.
Fish has many important nutrients that support children’s healthy growth and development. A healthy child should consume two portions of fish in a week, but the portions should be smaller than that of an adult’s. On average, one portion is about an ounce (28 grams) for children between 1-3 years, 2 ounces (57 grams) for children between 4-7 years, 3 ounces (85 grams) for children between 8-10 years, and 4 ounces (113 grams) for children 11 years and older.
There are numerous benefits that making fish a regular part of your menu has to offer, some of which are delineated below.
High Nutritional Value
Fish is loaded with many nutrients important to our health, including high-quality protein, iodine, magnesium, vitamin D and some essential fatty acids. Fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines and tuna are considered the healthiest because their meat is high in fat soluble nutrients. Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for optimal body and brain function. A normal adult should consume fatty fish at least once or twice a week if not more to meet their omega-3 requirements. Fish is a great source of high-quality protein and provides around 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving. Including fish in your diet can help you meet your protein needs in a nutrient-dense way.
Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
Many studies show that people who eat fish regularly have a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from cardiovascular diseases. Fatty fish are even more beneficial for heart health because of their high omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids can widen blood vessels and lower bad cholesterol levels. As a result, incorporating this essential amino acid into your regular diet can alleviate your risk of heart attack and stroke. According to the American Heart Association, protein plays a vital role in muscle growth, repair, and maintenance. It also aids in producing enzymes and hormones, balancing body fluids, and transporting oxygen through blood. This makes fish an ideal element of a healthy diet for maintaining heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Improved Brain Development and Growth
Omega-3 fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are essential for growth and development of your brain. For this reason, it is often recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women eat enough omega-3 fatty acids. However, some fish are high in mercury, which is linked to brain developmental problems. Therefore, pregnant women should only eat low-mercury fish, such as salmon, sardines, and trout, and no more than 340 grams per week. They should also avoid raw and uncooked fish because it may contain microorganisms that can harm the fetus.
Studies also show that people who eat fish every week have more gray matter (the brain’s major functional tissue) in the parts of the brain that regulate emotion and memory. Fish is also a source of phosphatidylserine, a phospholipid fatty substance that covers and protects the cells in the brain.
Improved Concentration and Memory
Omega-3 fatty acids are required for learning and memory and are used by the brain to develop brain and nerve cells. Omega-3s, in particular, improve the body’s synthesis of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that medications for attention deficit disorder increase. As you grow older, your brain health also starts to decline. Many observational studies show that people who eat more fish have slower rates of memory decline.
Good Dietary Source of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin present in your body. Fish are among the best dietary sources of vitamin D. Fatty fish like salmon and herring contain the highest amounts. A single serving of cooked salmon contains around 100% of the recommended intake of vitamin D. Some fish oils, such as cod liver oil, are also very high in vitamin D, providing more than 200% of the Daily Value (DV) in a single tablespoon. When we are low in vitamin D we can feel down or ‘off’. This is why the ‘winter blues’ can be linked to the limited vitamin D that we receive from the sun during these shorter days. Adding fish, which is rich in vitamin D, to our diet helps give us the nutritional boost we need to get through the darker days of winter.
Protects Vision in Old Age
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision impairment and blindness that mostly affects older adults. Some evidence suggests that fish and omega-3 fatty acids may protect against this disease. According to a report by National Library of Medicine, regular fish intake was linked to a 42% lower risk of AMD in women.
Depression is currently one of the world’s biggest health problems. Studies have found that people who eat fish regularly are much less likely to become depressed. Researches also reveal that omega-3 fatty acids may fight depression and significantly increase the effectiveness of antidepressant medications. Fish may also help other mental conditions, such as bipolar disorder.
Lowers Cancer Risk
According to a study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fish can even lower risk of certain cancers. The study showed that people who had a high consumption of fish actually had a lowered risk of digestive cancers, such as oral cavity, pharynx, colon and pancreas cancers, in comparison to those who ate lesser amounts of fish.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to fight inflammation. One of the ways omega-3s reduce inflammation is by controlling your body’s production of cytokines as these are signaling proteins that help control inflammation in your body. Omega-3s help in the healing processes of body and protect the body from various diseases.
Along with cytokine proteins, your body has other multiple biomarkers that serve as signals for areas of inflammation. For example, various research studies show that issues such as diabetes, high levels of cholesterol, and C-reactive proteins are all common inflammatory biomarkers. Regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids lead to lower levels of these biomarkers, especially in diabetic patients and those with cardiovascular diseases. According to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and trout contain the highest levels of omega-3s, with about 1-3.5 grams per serving.
Healthy Hair and Skin
Omega-3 fatty acids and protein are both important nutrients for a full head of hair. These nutrients can restore hair follicles and promote hair growth. This is why consuming fish can promote a healthy scalp and hair. A study published by BioMed Central noted that fish oil is beneficial to clearing skin for people with moderate to severe acne.