When you research just about any diet or healthy eating plan, you’ll find they all have one thing in common. Eat more seafood or replace at least two of your weekly protein sources with healthy seafood dishes.
That being said, there are also several articles that state certain types of seafood are unhealthy and perhaps even unhealthy for you. So, where does that leave you and your eating plan?
This article examines a few of the more common types of seafood and their health benefits or lack thereof. We’ll also highlight correct portion sizes and look at the effects of various preparation methods. Is seafood good for you? Let’s find out.
Is Seafood Healthy?
The most accurate answer to this question is ‘yes, but only certain types and in moderation’. Often when people hear or read that they need to eat more seafood they don’t bother to do additional research and end up going off on a tangent. They buy and eat any fish and prepare it in any manner because, ‘hey, it’s seafood so it’s healthy right’? Wrong.
Is Seafood Bad For You?
As we mentioned before, it’s all about quantity and balance. Eating seafood in moderation and using the correct preparation methods are key. There are however three main reasons why certain seafood can be considered unhealthy. Let’s examine these reasons.
Some seafood contains high levels of mercury. This is because they live and eat in murky waterways where mercury accumulates in their systems. Since they’re unable to expel the mercury from their bodies, it builds up in their tissue.
When seafood is consumed, the mercury is transferred to humans. Mercury poisoning in humans can result in numerous health conditions. Seafood with the highest levels of mercury include:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Ahi tuna
- Bigeye tuna
With continued water pollution, fish ingesting microplastics is becoming more common. The chemical toxicity in these microplastics may pose a serious health risk to humans. Excessive consumption of seafood meat containing microplastics can cause damage to human cells.
Another way in which certain seafood can be bad for your health is their purine levels. Some seafood have higher levels of purine than others. When people consume these high-purine seafood types, the human body metabolize purine to uric acid.
Too much uric acid in your system can lead to inflammation around the joints, commonly known as gout. Seafood with high purine levels are:
- Tuna in oil
The Health Benefits of Eating Seafood
It’s important to note that it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to fish. Not all seafood contains mercury, microplastics and high levels of purine. The health benefits of eating seafood far outweigh the negatives. The most prominent reasons why seafood is healthy are listed below.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Seafood is filled with omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential nutrients that keep your heart and brain healthy. Since our bodies can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids, we need to absorb them through the food we eat.
The good news is that omega-3 fatty acids are found in all types of seafood but levels are higher in fatty fish. The most popular choices include salmon, canned light tuna, oysters, trout, canned mackerel and herring. The benefits of eating seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids are:
- Prevents inflammation and reduces the potential risk of arthritis
- Aids healthy brain function and infant development of vision and nerves during pregnancy
- Helps maintain a healthy heart by lowering blood pressure thereby reducing the risk of sudden death, strokes, heart attack and abnormal heart rhythms
Great Source of Minerals
Some of the minerals found in seafood are zinc, iron, magnesium and potassium. These minerals are important for the following reasons:
- Iron: Your body needs iron to produce hemoglobin which carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. Iron is needed to produce numerous hormones.
- Zinc: As a trace mineral, zinc is necessary for about 100 different enzymes to carry out necessary chemical reactions. Zinc is important in DNA creation, building proteins and the growth of cells.
- Magnesium and potassium: These two minerals go hand-in-hand in regulating blood pressure. Magnesium is crucial for managing nerve and muscle function.
Vitamins D and B2
Your body’s energy supply comes from its ability to break down protein, carbohydrates and fats. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) converts the carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which produces the energy your body needs.
Vitamin D helps your body build and maintain healthy bones. The primary component of calcium is vitamin D and your body successfully absorbs this from food and the sun.
Also Read: Can You Eat Seafood Every Day?
What Seafood is Healthiest?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it’s recommended for adults to eat at least 8 oz of seafood per week based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This equates to 2 servings. To avoid consuming too much mercury or purines, avoid eating more than 12 oz. Children should eat slightly less. The healthiest seafood to focus on is listed below.
- Salmon: One of the most versatile seafood types is salmon. Since salmon is high in protein, a mere 200 g provides about 44 g of protein. Canned salmon is a great alternative to fresh salmon while experts believe the smoked variations aren’t as healthy.
- Sardines: Oily fish such as sardines can be bought canned, frozen or fresh. Canned sardines have been soaked in brine or oil making the bones soft. In this instance, they dissolve when eaten making this option higher in calcium than fresh sardines.
- Mackerel: A good reason to eat mackerel is that it’s high in protein, selenium and healthy fats necessary to boost a healthy immune system.
- Trout: A popular fish that can be bought both from the wild and on farms, trout is a popular and healthy choice. Trout is rich in vitamin D and B12 which are both needed for a healthy immune system.
- Cod: One of the healthiest white fish options is cod. Since it’s high in protein, a good source of vitamin B12 and low in fat cod provides the nutrients necessary for energy and a healthy nervous system.
- Haddock: Similar to cod, haddock is low in fat, a good source of vitamins and equally high in protein. With its mild taste, it’s the perfect addition to a variety of dishes. It’s easy to prepare in a variety of cooking methods.
- Tuna: As one of the most commonly consumed fish, tuna is popular for a wide variety of dishes. Since tuna has a great source of protein it’s a great addition to any balanced diet.
- Smaller shellfish: While shellfish don’t have as much omega-3 as salmon and tuna, shrimp, crab, oysters, mussels and shrimp feature high levels. Shellfish also boast some varying amounts of other hard-to-get micronutrients.
- Lobsters and crabs: These two leggy sea creatures are equally healthy as they contain a high number of vitamins A, C, and B. Lobster meat is well known for strengthening the immune system as well as arteries and blood vessels.
- Squid (calamari): A little known fact is that squid is a great source of protein, vitamin C, calcium, iron and protein. Squid is also known for its benefits regarding pregnancy and heart health. Adding squid to your diet can also reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Prawns: It’s easy to see why prawn dishes are a firm favorite among seafood lovers. Aside from their exquisite taste, it provides many of the important nutrients that are needed in a healthy diet. The good news is, they’re low in calories and cholesterol.
How Does Seafood Compare to Other Proteins?
It’s estimated that only 1 in 10 consumers, adults and children alike, eat the recommended amount of seafood servings per week. To understand how adding seafood to your diet stacks up against other proteins, consider these few comparisons:
- A fillet of cod features MORE protein and fewer grams of fat than a boneless, skinless chicken breast
- A tuna steak has as much iron as a steak which is well known for being an iron source
- Seafood such as salmon, tuna and shellfish are higher in omega-3 fats which aren’t found in the other animal products consumed daily
Is Seafood Fattening?
If you’re counting calories as part of your healthy eating plan, you might be wondering if seafood is fattening. For the most part, seafood won’t lead to excessive weight gain. The seafood with the most calories is wild Alaskan Salmon which carries as much as 200 calories in a 3 oz serving.
Similarly, a 3 oz serving of Mackerel has 190 calories. Steamed mussels, on the other hand, have about 150 calories in a 3 oz serving. The seafood with the lowest levels of mercury and calories are hake, flounder, hake, shrimp and crab. Since prawns are low in calories, they’re allowed in a low calorie diet.
Is Seafood Boil Healthy?
A seafood boil is a combination of lobster, crab, shrimp, clams, corn, potatoes and sausage. These ingredients are boiled in a seasoned broth and then tossed in a little butter. You can add a bit of garlic, parsley and lemon wedges.
The unhealthiest part of this combination is the high level of sodium. A single serving can easily exceed the recommended dose of sodium for a blood-pressure sufferer. Health experts recommend adjusting your season’s levels accordingly.
Read More: Why is Sushi Safe to Eat?
With the information we’ve provided, it’s easy to see that the benefits of eating seafood easily outweigh the negatives. It’s not only safe but necessary to add at least two servings of low-purine seafood types to your weekly food plan. Take advantage of the omega-3s and additional vitamins to improve your overall health.