One powerhouse of nutrients is fish. It is the staple of the Mediterranean diet and should be a go-to meal option at your house. Fish are high in healthy fats, protein, and many micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Health Benefits of Fish
Oily cold-water fish like trout and salmon offer some fantastic health benefits, including lowering the risk of heart attack, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. The healthy omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, abundant in these types of fish, have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, protect against some cancers (including breast cancer), increase insulin sensitivity (decreasing diabetes and PCOS) and improve endothelial function. The high selenium content of these fish can also help protect against some cancers, enhance bone health, maintain thyroid health, reduce the risk of infection, assist in DNA production, and protect the body from free radical damage. Salmon (along with any other fish with a similar salmon-pink or orange color) also contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which helps reduce LDL oxidation, boosts HDL levels, and protects against skin damage from the sun (decreases pre-mature aging of the skin).
The Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish and shellfish are our dominant dietary sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. EPA and DHA are essential because they block multiple inflammation pathways in our cells. Deficiencies in these anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats have been linked to dyslexia, violence, depression, anxiety, memory problems, Alzheimer’s disease, weight gain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, eczema, allergies, asthma, inflammatory diseases, arthritis, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and many others. Study after study has shown that daily consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids reduces our risk of developing chronic diseases and lowers our chances of having chronic disease risk factors, like high triglycerides and insulin resistance.
The Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio
The ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats (another essential healthy fat) is important because these two types of fat compete for many of the same functions in the body. An ideal ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is somewhere between 1:1 and 1:4. However, typical Western diets fall into a range between 1:10 and 1:25! The higher levels of Omega-6 fatty acids are primarily thanks to processed vegetable oils, grains, and the Omega-6 present in meat and dairy from grain-fed animals. Boosting your Omega-3 intake through fish is a great way to correct this ratio imbalance. When diets contain predominantly Omega-6 fatty acids, it leads to more inflammation and other adverse effects, like increased pain and thrombosis (clots forming in blood vessels). This can lead to deep vein thrombosis, stroke, and ischemic heart disease, constricted blood vessels, and increased blood pressure. This is why Omega-3 fish oil supplements have proven effective at reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors and reducing pain from diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
A Great Source of Protein
Along with Omega-3s, fish is high in protein, and research shows that the amino acids in fish are more bioavailable (that is, our bodies can absorb and use them more readily) than those in beef, pork, or chicken. Fish also has balanced quantities of all the essential amino acids, making them a high-quality protein and something to consume more of if your TRIAD or Metabolomix tests show that you’re low in amino acids. They are also easier to digest than the tougher meat fibers from beef and pork, so they tend to produce less digestive distress like bloating, gas, and nausea.
Fish are not only nutrient-dense sources of highly digestible complete protein; they’re also a great source of many vital nutrients. Fish contain vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, B12, and E, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, potassium, and selenium. Oily cold-water fish also provide substantial amounts of vitamin A and vitamin D. Fish with bones remaining, such as canned salmon and sardines, are excellent sources of dietary sources of calcium. And marine fish are an excellent dietary source of iodine.
Try expanding your go-to protein choices to include more fish, especially wold caught varieties. Baked, broiled, or grill grilled, fish, and seafood make a light and healthy choice. Check out our Recipes section for our favorite seafood ideas.