You’ve heard fish is part of a healthy diet, but are you eating it regularly? What’s stopping you? The smell? The taste? Bad experiences with poorly prepared fish? Or do you just ‘think’ you don’t like it and haven’t really tried different varieties? Maybe you love canned tuna? Or only salmon. Great! Eat what you like! It all counts.
February is heart month, and including fish in your diet is heart-healthy, but it’s also brain-healthy.
Here are some quick fish facts:
- Seafood high in omega-3 are good sources of DHA and EPA. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
- The Dietary Guidelines suggest a supplement of 250-500 mg of omega-3s (DHA+EPA) per day, or a variety of seafood twice a week.
- In fact, studies have shown that people who eat fish every week have more grey matter in their brain (the part that regulates emotion and memory). Stay sharp, eat fish!
- Salmon, anchovies, sardines, trout (>1000mg omega 3s per 4 ounces cooked) albacore tuna, mussels, squid, sea bass, and walleye (500-1000 mg) are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Other fish and shellfish also provide some omega-3s, just smaller amounts per serving (shrimp, mahi-mahi, lobster, scallops, tilapia, cod, all offer <250 mg omega 3s per 4 ounce serving)
- Shellfish are very low in saturated fat.
- Ounce for ounce, fish provides as much protein as beef, pork or poultry.
- Fish is a good source of Vitamin D.
- If you’re worried about mercury content in fish, keep in mind that a recent joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the health benefits of eating seafood outweigh the risks. Pregnant women should avoid high mercury fish (tilefish, shark, swordfish) but there any many other varieties of fish that are perfectly safe for pregnant women to consume. In fact, since EPA and DHA are so important to brain development, it’s highly recommended that pregnant women consume fish 2-3 times per week.
- Eating fish may even help with depression.
Here are some easy ways to incorporate fish twice a week into your diet:
- Add cooked shrimp to your salad or use cooked frozen shimp for a quick meal. Saute freshly cut bell peppers, broccoli, and snow peas in 1-2 TB olive oil until cooked crisp-tender. Add the shrimp to heat. Toss over whole grain rice or pasta.
- Pair fish with fruit. Try grilled salmon with pineapple chunks over a salad or rice. Or try adding chopped apples into a tuna salad.
- Purchase convenient tuna pouches to incorporate into a quick snack or lunch.
- Add smoked salmon to your bagel or eggs for breakfast.
- Make fish tacos for Taco Tuesday. Use frozen cod or tilapia. Place fish in glass baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, and add 1/4 tsp chipotle powder and a shake of salt. Bake the fish for 15-20 minutes. Flake and add to whole grain tortillas. Add chopped veggies, sour cream, mango salsa, and shredded cheese.
- The Seafood Nutrition Partnership has lots of easy recipes that even the “non-fish-lover” may like! Try more fish – it’s good for you!
The jury is still out on fish oil supplements, but if you really don’t think it’s realistic for you to consume fish twice a week, then consider an omega-3 fatty acid that provides 500 milligrams of EPA+DHA.
- Look for a supplement that contains both EPA and DHA.
- Check the nutrition facts for the amount of EPA and DHA. The front of the label may say “1000mg of fish oil” but it’s the amount of EPA-DHA that you want to know about. You are looking to supplement 250-500mg EPA-DHA per day (check with your health professional, and consider the EPA and DHA you are also getting from food in your diet).
- Check the expiration date, as fish oil supplements can go rancid.
- Good choices should have the GOED seal (Global Organization for EPA and DHA) which ensures both quality ingredients that are sourced in an environmentally responsible way. For more information check out GOED.