Fish … such a polarizing food, am I right?! To some seafood is the smelly, mealy texture of food they’ll never eat. So, some just don’t like it, others avoid fish and seafood due to allergies. Still others such as pregnant and lactating woman, have previously been told to avoid fish for fear of mercury toxicity.
With all of that, fish are really swimming up creek without a paddle (silent giggle to myself).
However, I want to tell you why you should be consuming fish (assuming you don’t have any allergies or intolerances).
NUTRITION Since fish live in water, they absorb, and consume many different nutrients than our land animal protein sources. And variety is a good thing!
- Fish are some of your best sources of selenium, iodine, iron and Vitamin D.
- Fish is also a great source of protein, and if the fish you’re consuming is skin-on and bone-in, you also get a dose of calcium and vitamin A.
- If you’re selecting fatty fish, you’ll also get a dose of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA which have anti-inflammatory properties (these nutrients affect pathways of inflammation and oxidation, maybe even helping one live longer)!
Did you know? Fish are the best source of DHA and EPA! Plant sources of omega 3’s (ALA) can convert to DHA and EPA, but the conversion rate is rather inefficient. There are many factors that play a role, but this conversion is anywhere from 5-10% in most populations. The exception is in younger women who have a much greater capacity (up to 35%) because of the importance of long chain fatty acids in child development. Those at particular risk of for omega 3 deficiencies are those populations whose ancestors ate a lot of fish, for example if someone from Asia were to move to the states and their offspring consume a diet with less fish.
A number of studies aren’t able to substantiate the benefits of fish oil supplements long term. It seems the benefits really come from eating the fish itself.
With that said, for those who don’t consume fish, or who are vegan, a fish oil supplement may still be a good idea for you. Generally, a safe dose is 2 grams of fish oil per day, but you should always speak with your health care provider to see what’s right for you. A well sourced supplement is very important to ensure they aren’t adulterated or that they don’t contain metals and other toxicants. Due to fish oils high susceptibly to rancidity, high quality supplements that are properly stored is of utmost importance! I like Nordic Naturals, check out this link for 15% off: https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/cultivate-nutrition.
For those with thyroid conditions, fish is excellent because it provides nearly all of the nutrients required to improve thyroid function. Namely, selenium, iodine, iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids. Each of these nutrients assists in the thyroid’s ability to produce the active form of thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine.
Omega 3 fatty acids alone may improve a host of mood conditions such as depression and anxiety. Although this one is not conclusive yet, studies look promising, and no doubt nutrition has a role in mood disorders. Therefore, there’s no harm in suggesting someone increase their fish intake to see how it works for that individual.
One of the omega 3 fatty acids in particular, DHA, is a well-known nutrient required for brain development of fetus and young children. New recommendations come from FDA for pregnant women; it is recommended that this population consume at least 8 – 12 ounces of fish weekly.
New research suggests that DHA is not only protective in young, but may be protective in neurological conditions that develop in adults, such as dementia and multiple sclerosis. These fats help to cushion and protect our nerves, myelin sheath and synapses. (Remember the phone cords that allow different body systems to “talk” to each other)? Those are better supported with omega 3’s.
Fish are some of the best sources of Vitamin D; cod, trout, salmon and sardines top the list! There is no lack of research when it comes to Vitamin D’s benefits. Having adequate vitamin D is shown to reduce your risk of cancer, including breast and colon, improve your body’s insulin sensitivity and improve our microbiome. Remember the microbiome is home to over 70% of your immune system!
HOW TO SHOP
Now I know you’re asking, what about mercury and PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls, highly toxic industrial compounds), right? Well two things. First, mercury is highest in the fish who live the longest, and who are the largest, so choose wisely.
Although diversity is always a good thing, you should opt for these five fish the most. These are the richest in omega 3 fatty acids with the least amount of toxins; Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring. More often larger fish, and bottom feeders have more PCB’s, opting for Wild Caught is best whenever possible. Which is also a more sustainable approach (did you know that if we continue at the rate we’re going with farmed fish that by 2050 we may be all fished out!). SEAFOOD WATCH is a great resource to use, you can go online, or load the app.
CULINARY A couple ways to try fish:
• An easy lunch option is tuna + sardine salad. Mixing these two boosts the omega 3’s with sardines but makes the taste more tolerable with the milder tuna. Just mash together with avocado, or mayonnaise, celery, onions, lots of dill, garlic and some salt & pepper!
• We love fish tacos- BONOS it’s a great way to introduce your kids to fish because tacos are a familiar food. Try this rendition: https://www.livingplate.org/recipes/white-fish-lime-tacos/