Five Facts about Fish That Might Surprise You

Jennifer McGuire, MS, RD

There is no better time to include seafood in your diet than now. As families learn more about the health risks of a traditional low-seafood, high meat American diet, they are looking for healthy proteins to prepare. Fish, from fresh filets to convenient canned tuna, is making a real resurgence as a smart-eating staple. The following information separates fish fact from fiction:

  1. The Concern is Eating Too Little Seafood, Not Too Much

    For the general population there are no types of commercial or store-bought seafood to limit or avoid. According to the FDA, the dietary goal is to eat a variety of seafood 2-3 times a week, and is this rarely met. On average, Americans eat about one serving of seafood a week or less.

  2. Dietary Supplements Only Provide Partial Health Benefits

    Fish oil supplements are not an equal substitute to eating fish as a whole food. A variety of seafood will give your body omega-3s, lean protein, vitamins including B and D, iron, calcium, and more whereas a fish-oil pill stops at omega-3s. Oily fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines are some of the top omega-3 sources.

  3. Developing Babies Need Nutrients Found in Fish

    The 2004 FDA recommendation for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children states, "Fish and shellfish contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids. A well balanced diet that includes a variety of fish can contribute to heart health and children's proper growth and development. So, women and young children in particular should include fish or shellfish in their diets due to the many nutritional benefits…" There are just four rarely eaten fish this target audience should avoid as they aim for 2-3 seafood meals a week: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.

  4. Marine Foods Are the Only Naturally Rich Food Sources of Omega-3s

    The type of omega-3s linked to heart and brain health (DHA and EPA) are only found in marine foods like fish. The omega-3s in plant foods like walnuts, canola oil and flaxseed are healthful, but less powerful than the type in seafood. The body has a hard time converting plant-based omega-3s to DHA and EPA, so there isn't really a substitute for seafood.

  5. Canned Seafood Counts

    Fish in all forms, as long as it is prepared in a healthy way, counts toward the 2-3 servings per week goal. I eat a lot of canned and pouch tuna, salmon, and sardines along with frozen and fresh fish.

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