Americans may be missing out on robust health benefits of fish
What do you do when you want to improve your health? The answer for most Americans is to hit the gym, count calories, or cut down on carbohydrates. Eating more seafood isn’t a standard answer, but it is an easy lifestyle change that can greatly impact your health.
National organizations, like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and international organizations, like the World Health Organization (WHO), have been sounding the alarm that Americans need to eat more seafood. Not eating enough seafood results in 84,000 preventable deaths in the U.S. per year, according to a 2009 study. (In contrast, only 58,000 preventable deaths are caused by low intake of vegetables and fruit.) A more recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of Washington found that adults who eat high levels of seafood live more than two years longer than their peers.
Fish and shellfish are a valuable source of many essential nutrients, from heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and high-quality protein to vitamin D, selenium, and B vitamins. Swallowing omega-3 supplements doesn’t have as many benefits as eating fish twice a week. Research suggests that the combination of minerals, vitamins, and fats in seafood increases its many health benefits.
Why Don’t Americans Eat Enough Fish?
If eating seafood has so many benefits, why don’t most Americans eat two servings a week? This answer varies for every person, but there are three main reasons that people in the U.S. don’t eat enough seafood.
#1. Safety Concerns
Many people know that fish can be high in mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin that can harm your nervous system and brain function. Concern about mercury levels in fish deters many people who strive to eat “clean.” Numerous studies have shown that the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risk of consuming trace amounts of mercury. Pregnant women and children should avoid fish that tend to have high mercury levels, like Grouper, King Mackerel, Swordfish, and Ahi Tuna.
Check out NRDC’s Seafood Mercury Chart to find a long list of seafood with low mercury levels. (Their index is based on data from the USDA’s tests on seafood mercury levels and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines on safe mercury levels for pregnant women and children.)
#2. Sustainability Concerns
Concern about ethical fishing practices is growing around the world. A recent Netflix documentary has drawn more attention to the issue. You don’t have to give up eating seafood to protect our oceans. There are hundreds of delicious, sustainable species in U.S. waters. One of the reasons that some fish populations are growing dangerously small is that when Americans eat seafood, we only eat a small variety: shrimp, salmon, canned tuna, tilapia, and Pollock. Eating a wider variety of seafood is one way that you can prevent overfishing. Another way is by learning more about sustainable fishing practices. Seafood Watch’s website is a great resource. Be sure to check out their list of Sustainable Seafood to find tasty, environmentally responsible seafood options to try out!
#3. Cooking Concerns
Many Americans are reluctant to buy seafood because they don’t know how to prepare it at home. Trying out new recipes with new ingredients can make anyone anxious. Cooking fish and shellfish well takes a little practice. Learning how to master the art of cooking seafood is worth it! Not only for the health benefits. Seafood is perfect for busy professionals and chaotic families because it cooks quickly. Once you learn how to make it, it won’t be hard to enjoy fish twice a week. Our blog is full of recipes and cooking tips
to help you.
You don’t have to subtract food from your diet to improve your health. You can gain robust health benefits by adding more seafood. Fish and shellfish are low in calories, high in protein and rich in a wide variety of essential nutrients. Eating seafood twice a week can reduce your risk of heart disease, decrease inflammation, and improve your mental health. You will find the best quality seafood at local fish markets that support sustainable fishing, like City Fish Market.