Seafood Your Health
A new study out of McGill University has shown that eating more fish may reduce the risk of dying from prostate cancer. But this is just one benefit from one type of seafood.
There is a wide variety of healthy seafood choices, and although many fish and shellfish are inherently high in cholesterol, eating seafood twice a week will not have an adverse effect on your blood cholesterol levels (barring any cheeseburger binges). Moreover, it will provide you with valuable trace minerals and the much sought-after omega-3 fatty acids.
Sardines are one of the most nutrient-rich foods; they contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which, according to the American Heart Association, help regulate and lower blood cholesterol and improve blood health. Sardines are also brain food — omega-3s are beneficial in brain function and memory. This healthy seafood is one of the few fish that is eaten whole. As a result, high levels of calcium, iron and vitamin D are found in each serving, which is good for your bones. Sardines also contain coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which helps improve cardiovascular health and physical energy. What sardines do not have a lot of is mercury or trace pesticides or chemicals. Due to their small size and short lifespan, they absorb a very small amount of contaminants. It’s best to eat sardines packed in water or tomato sauce as opposed to oil.
Mackerel is another small fish that packs a punch. It is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acid (twice as much as salmon) and an excellent source of selenium, which is good for the immune system. Selenium works with protein in the body to form antioxidant enzymes and can protect against the effects of mercury exposure. The flavor of this healthy seafood makes it popular cooked, grilled and raw (as sashimi). Avoid king mackerel because it is a larger fish and may contain more mercury. Northern Atlantic mackerel is recommended due to low mercury levels.
Tilapia is a very popular fish due to availability, price and versatile flavor. It is also a very healthy seafood choice. It contains low mercury levels because it grows fast and has a short lifespan. It is low in cholesterol compared to other seafood and is also low in sodium and saturated fat. Tilapia does contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that play an important role in heart health, maintaining blood pressure, brain development and mental function, and possibly reduces the risk of certain cancers. If at all possible, choose wild tilapia. Farmed tilapia has been found to have an unfavorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 is thought to have an inflammatory effect on the body.
If you’ve ever had fish and chips, you’ve most likely had haddock. It is a very popular fish with high levels of magnesium, vitamin B6 and niacin. It also contains phosphorus, which is a major component of bone and teeth. Phosphorus is a necessary part of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the body’s energy source, so it is found in the muscles and nerves and used in both aerobic and anaerobic activities. Phosphorus also helps the body use fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Haddock is a low-calorie alternative to beef, yet provides comparable amounts of protein. Per ounce, haddock has 18% protein and only 22 calories, while beef has 80 calories. It’s best if you avoid the deep fryer and go for low-fat preparations, like baking or poaching.
You’ve probably seen this added to shakes and smoothies as a “boost” and that’s precisely the effect that seaweed has on the body. Seaweed is a rich plant source of vitamin C, zinc and iodine. Red dulse seaweed, found primarily in the North Atlantic, provides a 100% daily value of vitamin B6, iron and fluoride, a mineral important for strong teeth. Calcium, as we know, is important for bone health, but also for muscle contraction, and seaweed is a good source. As for the other nutrients that seaweed provides, it is a good source of protein; there’s a better ratio of amino acids in seaweed than plants grown on land. Complex carbohydrates make up about 40% of the total weight of seaweed. That means you get the energy you need from carbs, but with a low glycemic index. The slow digestibility is also due to the high fiber content. Seaweed is thought to increase metabolism and treat impotence.
Luckily, much of the most common seafood is healthy. It is also easy on the wallet. Incorporate seafood into your diet two to three times a week and you will see it is fairly easy to reap health benefits from the sea.
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