How much fish have you reeled into your diet lately?
The fish in the sea everyone’s been telling you about is no cliché—metaphorically and literally, there are in fact plenty of fish to go around the world. But out of all fishy specimen both edible and delectable, how much are we eating– or even supposed to eat?
Well, as it turns out, the American Heart Association recommends two 3.5-ounce servings of fish a week, (1) while the ODPHP (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion) recommends two 4-ounce servings—that’s a total of 23-26 pounds of fish a year! And how do we measure up to that?
Not too well, actually. A 2015 survey conducted by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) shows that Americans are only eating an average of 15.5 pounds of fish annually, which amounts to about one 5-ounce serving a week, or about half the recommended consumption. (3) This means that many of us are missing out on the vast array of health benefits of eating fish, especially when there’s so much more to fish than just another source of daily protein. And just to prove it, we’ve compiled five more reasons why you should add that second helping of salmon to your plate:
- Omega-3s for a Healthy Heart
You’ve probably heard that fish is high in Omega-3s… and that Omegas-3s help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. but what is it exactly that Omega-3s do to keep your heart happy? According to the American Heart Association, the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA found in fish may decrease risk of irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) and lower triglyceride levels and blood pressure. These fatty acids may also slow down the growth rate of the plaque build-up in your arteries that occur in atherosclerosis. (1)
- A Better Brain
In addition to helping out your heart, the high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in fish are also instrumental in maintaining a healthy human brain. DHA is a vital component of the human brain, while increased intake of DHA and EPA both help with cognitive decline. (4) Fish oil has also been linked to easing symptoms of ADHD, (5) while an increased consumption of fish may be associated with improved cognitive performance. (6)
- Relief for Arthritis
Recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may play yet another role in relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. A 2017 double-blind trial observed that consuming omega-3 fatty acids have a significant effect on reducing the number of painful joints in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers as well as pain severity, overall reducing the degree of inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. (7)
- Improve Cholesterol Levels
With all that said, omega-3 is not the only thing you can gain from eating fish. Fish is also an excellent source of dietary cholesterol, which your body needs to produce important hormones such as aldosterone and cortisol, which help maintain blood pressure, stress, and energy consumption.
- Metabolism, Metabolism, Metabolism
Finally, fish provides countless minerals and vitamins essential to body functions, including zinc, iron, selenium, vitamins B12 and D, and especially iodine. (2) Iodine is used by the thyroid to make thyroid hormones, which affect every cell in the body and are central to our metabolism, from blood pressure and bone growth to body temperature and resting metabolic rate. This in turn may help with obesity and maintaining a healthy level of body fat.
All in all, the wealth of nutrients found in fish makes it a worthy addition to our diet, but don’t go overboard! If you stick to the recommended intake of fish (3.5 to 4 ounces twice a week), you can make the most of all that fish can offer for you. Head to the seafood section in your supermarket, and grab that extra pack of salmon, trout, or tilapia today!
(1) American Heart Association. (2017). Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. [online] Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/HealthyDietGoals/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids_UCM_303248_Article.jsp#.WdVvfGhSyUk.
(2) Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2017). 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. [online] Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
(3) NOAA Office of Science and Technology. (2017). Fisheries of the United States, 2015. [online] Available at: http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/Assets/commercial/fus/fus15/documents/FUS2015.pdf.
(4) Bradbury, J. (2011). Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): An Ancient Nutrient for the Modern Human Brain. Nutrients, [online] 3(12), pp.529-554.
(5) Bloch, M. and Qawasmi, A. (2011). Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for the Treatment of Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptomatology: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 50(10), pp.991-1000.
(6)de Groot RHM, Ouwehand C, Jolles J. Eating the right amount of fish: Inverted U-shape association between fish consumption and cognitive performance and academic achievement in Dutch adolescents. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fat Acids. 2012;86:113–7.
(7) Veselinovic, M., Vasiljevic, D., Vucic, V., Arsic, A., Petrovic, S., Tomic-Lucic, A., Savic, M., Zivanovic, S., Stojic, V. and Jakovljevic, V. (2017). Clinical Benefits of n-3 PUFA and ɤ-Linolenic Acid in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Nutrients, [online] 9(4), p.325. Available at: http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/4/325/htm.