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3 Science-Backed Benefits of Eating Fish

Grilled salmon

Ever heard that you’ll be better off health-wise if you can squeeze more fish into your diet? Fish provide very important nutrients to your diet, including lean protein and omega-3 fats. We’ll cover the recommendations for how much fish to eat and why you should enjoy more of this nutritious food.

How Much Fish Should I Eat?

Experts like the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend that you eat 3.5 ounces of cooked fish twice each week. This same recommendation is echoed in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Sound like a lot? It’s really not as much as you’d think.

A 3.5-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. If you’re cooking at home, start with a slice of fish that’s a little bigger than your palm to accommodate for cooking shrinkage. If you’re eating out, most restaurants will serve fish portions that are a few times bigger than what you need in one sitting. This pretty much guarantees you’ll meet the weekly recommendation for fish — just box up half your meal so you don’t have to eat it all in one go.

3 Reasons Why You Should Eat More Fish

Americans on the whole are not huge fans of fish and seafood. They eat about 15.5 pounds of fish and shellfish per year compared to 59.2 pounds of chicken and 51.7 pounds of beef. For us to move the needle on seafood consumption, we should ideally eat more fish and shellfish while eating less meat, especially red meat. Doing so would be beneficial to our health. Here are 3 science-backed reasons to include more fish and shellfish in your diet:

1. Eating fish can help support weight loss.

Lean protein is helpful for weight loss because it increases satiety and helps you stave off food cravings. If you’re also working out to lose weight then it’s helpful to have protein on board to build stronger, shapelier muscles. Each serving of seafood provides you with roughly 20 grams of protein. White fish such as cod, halibut and tilapia are truly lean protein sources as they contain very little total fat. But, even “fatty” fish like salmon, seabass and sardines contain good-for-you-fats. Seafood is generally low in total and saturated fat compared to other meat sources.

Seafood (serving size) Calories Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Protein (g)
Salmon (3 ounces) 133 4.7 0.8 22.5
Tuna (3 ounces) 156 5.3 1.4 25.4
Shrimp (3 ounces) 101 1.5 0.4 19.4
Lobster (3 ounces) 76 0.7 0.2 16.2

2. Fish is a heart-healthy choice.

Fish and seafood are a good source of omega-3 fats, which may help reduce your risk for heart disease in the long run. A JAMA review found that eating 1-2 servings of fish per week led to a 36% reduction in death by heart disease. This process may work because omega-3 fats can decrease inflammation, which helps preserve blood vessel health. Keep in mind that these findings were specific to fish high in omega-3 fats. You can whip up your favorite baked salmon and toss a handful of sardines into salad.

3. Eating fish may support brain development.

There are two different types of omega-3 fats: EPA and DHA. DHA plays a critical role in brain and nervous system development. A study of 12,000 pregnant women found children born to moms who ate less than two servings of fish weekly did not perform as well on tests of intelligence, behavior and development compared to children born to moms that did. Naturally, this recommendation has to be balanced with the dangers of consuming too much mercury. Still, pregnant women are advised by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) to eat two servings of fish weekly. They should try to avoid high mercury fish like shark, swordfish, king fish, mackerel, tilefish or tuna.

Of course, your brain doesn’t stop developing as an adult. The science is still young and emerging, but clinical trials have shown that older adults (think: 55 years or older) have improved cognition scores when given DHA supplements.

For delicious fish dishes you can cook at home, check out Zipongo’s Seafood Recipes category. 

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